New 2021 DS 3 Crossback E-Tense review

Nick Francis

08 Sep 2021

1/8
Being both electric and a crossover the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense couldn’t be any more on-trend, but how does it stack up next to rivals like the Hyundai Kona Electric and Peugeot e-2008?

PROS:

+ Peaceful cabin

+ Comfortable to drive

+ Unique design 


CONS:

- Rivals are more practical…

- …and have bigger ranges

- Fiddly infotainment 


Verdict: The DS 3 Crossback E-Tense is a characterful and stylish alternative to more sensible-looking electric crossovers like the Kia e-Niro and Peugeot e-2008, but it isn’t as practical as those cars and you will have to be into the whole ‘avant-garde’ thing to enjoy its flamboyance. 


2021 DS 3 Crossback E-Tense: the five-minute read


One of the common criticisms levelled at electric cars is the fact they all drive the same, that they behave like a Kenwood kitchen appliance: they’re either on or off and they get their power from a plug. 


While that’s a basic, not to mention incorrect, way of looking at EVs some brands are certainly going to great efforts to stand apart from the crowd in areas other than performance.


The DS 3 Crossback E-Tense offers something unique-looking in the market, which places it as a left-field alternative to a wide range of cars.


On the one hand, as a small electric crossover it’s up against cars like the Kia e-Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric and the Peugeot e-2008 – an EV with which it shares much of its components. But it sells itself on quirky style and design, so you might consider it alongside urbanite fashion accessory EVs like the Mini Electric and Honda E. 


The E-Tense neither looks retro-cool like the Honda E or cute and dinky like the Mini. It’s incredibly eye-catching though, with flush door handles that pop out automatically, a sleek raked rear windscreen, plus small spoiler adding a dash of sportiness. The Peugeot e-2008 is probably equally handsome but has less French flair about it. 


Moving inside, DS has achieved a premium-feeling interior through a combination of that same stylish design and generous amounts of plush materials: it’s a big departure from the smart-but-sensible layout of something from Hyundai or Kia. You will have to be into the whole ‘avant-garde’ thing to dig it, but if you are you’ll enjoy the flamboyance of the diamond-shaped switchgear and watchstrap-inspired seats.

The infotainment screen’s resolution is okay, and it’s placed well in the driver’s eyeline, but there are too few shortcut buttons, and the ones that are there are touch-sensitive and can be slow to respond.


Legroom in the backseats is cramped which makes the E-Tense more suited to singles or couples who don’t carry many passengers, the Hyundai and Kia are more family-friendly in this regard. 


When it comes to EVs the world of batteries, ranges and charging times can bamboozle even the most committed car fan, which is why it’s refreshing that DS has opted for simplicity: the E-Tense comes with a 50kW battery which powers a 135hp motor on the front wheels. And that’s it.


The E-Tense covers off 0-62mph in 8.7-seconds, and while that’s slower than some rivals, including the Mini Electric, it’s plenty fast enough for this sort of car.


If you can track down a 100kWh charger you’ll drive away in half an hour with 80% of the E-Tense’s 200-mile range (WLTP figure) replenished, but on a home wallbox charger you’ll need to leave it plugged in all night for a full top-up. 

In the real world expect the range from a full charge to be more like 150-160 miles, which isn’t bad but is, again, beaten by the Hyundai and Kia. It’s much better than the Mini Electric and Honda E though, so if you live in a town or city and have limited access to a charger the E-Tense might be the smarter bet. 


Around town the E-Tense is nimble and nippy, you don’t want for more power. A regen mode doesn’t quite turn it onto a one-pedal car like a Nissan Leaf, but it does recoup some energy and stretch out the range. 


The seats are supremely comfortable, and thanks to plenty of sound insulation as well as generally agreeable ride quality the E-Tense is one of the most relaxing EVs to drive. It really does feel like you’re sitting in a posh living room. 


There are plenty of reasons to buy the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense, and at £34,000 it’s a competitive price. 


It’s more practical than the other fashion-forward EVs out there, although those are cheaper, and it falls short of the usefulness of the more sensible electric crossovers from Korea. But if interior space and battery range aren’t as important to you as standing out on the road, then get along to a DS dealership. 


For a great deal on a DS 3 Crossback click here 


Extended read…

2021 DS 3 Crossback interior and infotainment

Whether or not you like how the cabin of E-Tense looks depends entirely on your taste, but if you’re someone who wants something a bit more flamboyant and fashion-forward, then you’ll be pleased to know DS has executed that look perfectly.


From the diamond-shaped panels of switchgear to the watchstrap-inspired seats, there’s no cabin we can think of which looks similar at the £34,000 price point. Speaking of those seats, they’re incredibly comfortable and supportive, perhaps Citroen’s influence shining through here. 


DS has not scrimped on the quality of materials either, which all have interesting textures, and it all feels very well screwed together.


As with anything led by fashion, there are a few examples of style coming before substance. The angular bank of switches on the centre console glimmer attractively in the sunlight like a display case in a jeweller’s window, but why the controls for the car’s electric windows are placed there is a mystery. 


Probably just to have enough switches to fill the space, but it means you often take your eyes off the road to roll the window down.


Those diamond-shaped buttons we mentioned are touch-sensitive because, well, it looks cool when buttons are flat and glossy, but they can be slow to respond when pressed, and when jabbed at by someone with greasy fingers (read ‘kids’) they start to look decidedly less glossy. 


The driver gets a small digital display that offers a good range of information and lights up nicely with interesting graphics. Its quality isn’t quite matched by the infotainment system - 7-inches or 10-inches depending on the trim - which is a bit slow to respond to inputs. The graphics are okay but we don’t like the fact that common functions like the climate controls are accessed via the screen. Too fiddly. 


Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard, which helps. Even so, the latest infotainment system used by Hyundai and Kia is superior.


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2021 DS 3 Crossback E-Tense practicality and boot space


They say you have to suffer for fashion, and when it comes to the uber-fashionable DS it’s the passengers in the back who do the suffering. Legroom is tighter than it is on any of its crossover rivals. In fact it’s more on a par with the Mini Electric, which is a smaller car all-around and one which costs a lot less. 


The back seats can also feel a little dark and dingy due to the there-for-effect blob of door panel which eats into the glass space. Those same obscured back windows can make looking over your shoulder while reversing difficult though. Again, style over substance. 


Storage in the cabin is so-so. The door bins aren’t massive but they are big enough to be genuinely useful and there’s an acceptable amount of space for things like keys, phones and wallets in the centre console. 


With 350-litres of boot space it’s far from generous and falls short of the room offered by the Kia e-Niro and Peugeot e2008. The large lip on the boot gets in the way of lifting things in and out too. Even so, the boot is big enough for a couple to go away for a week, and more than plentiful for daily duties. 


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2021 DS 3 Crossback E-Tense battery, motor and range


When it comes to EVs the world of batteries, ranges and charging times can bamboozle even the most committed car fan, which is why it’s refreshing that DS has opted for simplicity: the E-Tense comes with a 50kW battery which powers a 135hp motor on the front wheels. And that’s it.


With a 0-62mph time of 8.7-seconds it’s slower than most of its rivals, save for the Peugeot e2008, which uses the same powertrain. But it in no way feels slow, the instantaneous torque that all EVs have means it’s responsive and nippy, especially around town. 


According to WLTP figures the E-Tense can cover 200-miles on a full charge, but we all know that translates into more like 150-160 miles in the real world, especially if you do a lot of fast road driving. Again, that’s not as good as the Korean alternatives but bang-on with the Peugeot. 


Using a 7kWh home charger it will take around eight hours to fully charge the E-Tense, but if you can find a 100kWh public charger you’ll be able to top up 80% of range in half an hour. Not bad, but finding 100kWh chargers in the wild can sometimes be tricky, depending on where you are. 

2021 DS 3 Crossback E-Tense driving 


The E-Tense does two things especially well: look good on the road and provide a serene driving experience. It has an outstandingly quiet cabin which is thanks to engineers adding extra insulation in the doors and fitting thickened glass. Even at high speeds and driving on the 18-inch wheels it feels very hushed, more so than any of its rivals.


The calming acoustics are matched by a generally agreeable ride. It can feel a little jolty over bigger potholes but it doesn’t thump up and down like some crossovers, and it deals with the smaller ripples in the road surface well. And remember, you’re sitting on those pillowy seats, so overall it has lounge-levels of comfort. 


There are two levels of regeneration modes – Normal and Brake. Brake mode doesn’t quite turn it into a one-pedal car as it does on something like the Nissan Leaf, but you can learn to harness its resistance while on the open road, coming off the accelerator ahead of bends to scrub off speed and recoup some of that energy. 


You have to be in Sport Mode to enjoy the E-Tense’s full 135hp, but be warned that eats the range. Normal mode offers a punchy-enough 100hp, while Economy gives you 80hp, which is fine for around-town stuff. 


Steering is light, which is a plus in an urban environment, and it is pretty responsive. This means the E-Tense is an enjoyable car to duck and dive around the city in. It’s not so at home on faster roads, where it can feel a bit floaty when changing direction, but it’s got enough guts to keep up with fast traffic and perform confident overtakes. 


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Nick Francis

08 Sep 2021