DS is the premium brand of the PSA Group & is making inroads into a sector long dominated by Audi, BMW & Mercedes-Benz. They launched two models in 2019, one of which, the DS3 Crossback, now comes with an electric drivetrain. The DS3 Crossback E-Tense is an all-electric B-segment SUV, which is offered with the same electric set-up, as our current Small EV Car of the Year, the Peugeot e-208.
The PSA Group are deadly serious about EV’s. They have long been a sponsor within Formula E, Formula1’s all-electric series. In 2019, the PSA-derived powertrain technology, became the eventual winners of the series in the guise of the DS Techeetah team.
The electric drivetrain of DS 3 CROSSBACK E-Tense is made up of a 100kW (136hp) electric motor with 260Nm of torque, linked to a 50kWh Lithium-ion battery & a system for recovering energy during deceleration & braking. The potential range is 200 miles on the WLTP drive cycle.
Three driving modes are offered: ECO to maximise range, NORMAL & SPORT with extra torque. These are complemented by two energy recovery options, inherited from Formula E, which can be controlled by the driver: NORMAL to simulate the behaviour of an internal combustion engine & BRAKE which decelerates at 1.2 m/s.
E-Tense customer’s can choose from pretty much the same specs as offered on petrol & diesel versions. Performance Line, Prestige, Ultra Prestige & La Premiere are the four versions available from launch, with prices starting at £30,990, for Performance Line, rising to £36,490 for La Premiere, both including the government grant.
At first glance, the E Tense looks just like standard DS3 Crossback, but if you look a little closer, you’ll notice that’ it’s subtly different. E-Tense features a Pearl Crystal paint finish, satin-chrome finishes, E-Tense signature emblems & a special rear bumper, which is missing an exhaust pipe. It also comes with pop out door handles, when the car is unlocked & LED matrix headlights
The interior mirrors that found in the standard model. There’s diamond shaped control buttons & air vents & in the centre of the dash, a centrally located dashboard starter button, two more square air-vents this time located in the doors. The 10″ landscape touchscreen is also a highlight & the angular electric window switches set in the centre binnacle are also refreshingly different.
The top & front of the dashboard are nicely finished in quality plastics, but lower down, on the glovebox, centre storage arm rest & door pockets, the quality isn’t as high. Equipment wise, the E-Tense comes fully loaded, with an electronic parking brake, electrically adjustable & folding door mirrors, keyless start, Hill Start Assist, automatic air conditioning & a Head Up Display.
Safety is to the fore. Driver & front passenger lateral & curtain airbags with rear lateral & curtain airbags, City park, ESP & on our Prestige model, an advanced safety pack featuring adaptive cruise control & autonomous driving are all offered.
Connectivity wise, there’s Mirror Screen with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, DS Connect with 3D SatNav, DAB radio & for your mobile, Bluetooth & two front USB connections. The touchscreen works well, but we still find it frustrating that you need to adjust the climate controls by touching the screen, rather than manually.
On-board storage comes in the form of front & rear door pockets, a front central armrest, a charging space for your phone & keys & a rear parcel shelf. The boot on the E Tense is identical in size to petrol & diesel versions, so you get 300 litres of space which, when you fold down the rear seats, increases to 1050 litres. Opening the hatch comes courtesy of a button located under the rear bumper.
Front passengers get decent head & legroom, but the DS’s design, cocoons you somewhat almost wrapping itself around you if you’re sat up front. Rear passengers don’t fare quite as well. Two adults will fit in nicely, but if you have a tall person sat in front of you, legroom is tight. Furthermore DS’s design detail of the shark fin windows in the back, do look different but also reduce light, so the rear seat area does feel quite dark to sit in.
The E-Tense rides on the same underpinnings as petrol & diesel versions of the DS 3 Crossback. In the EV version though, the 50kWh battery is mounted under the floor, sending drive to the front axle. With 260Nm torque; 0-62mph takes nine seconds & the top speed is 93mph.
If you can find a suitable charging station, the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense can be recharged at 100kW & will go from from zero to 80% full in 30 minutes. If like us, you have a 7.2kWh home charger, then this will take a little longer, around 5 hours. The single phase 7kW on board charger will be the standard offering for the UK market. Additionally the car can be charged from a standard domestic socket, but it’s very, very slow & not recommended.
One advantage of the EV version of the DS3, is that you can, via the MyDS smartphone app, remotely programme or activate recharging if the vehicle is plugged in & pre-condition the cabin temperature, based on the outside weather.
We took the E-Tense out for a couple of hours to see how it drives. Our route took in city centre driving, 36 miles of motorway & some country lanes & B roads. The first thing you’ll notice is that it does feel heavy compared to it’s fossil-fuel brethren. But, as with the e-208, the extra 300kg of battery weight is in the floor of the car, so it doesn’t feel unbalanced. Indeed, someone new to EV’s may very well not even notice this. And, similarly to the Peugeot EV, although it rides well on good & average surfaces, that extra weight means it tends to sink lower into ruts in the road & struggles over poor surfaces, which in turn send a few shudders into the cabin.
Despite this grumble, the E-Tense is fitted with what is currently, one of the best electric powertrains out there. In our first hour, we drove in Eco mode, which offers just 80bhp, but even on the motorway, this level offered decent motorway cruising. At an average of 70mph, the range does go down faster than if you were driving in town, so do bear that in mind.
We headed out of the city & at motorway speeds, the E-Tense is remarkably quiet even for an EV. DS has introduced thicker door panels, thicker glass & has added an acoustic windscreen, none of which come with the fossil-fuel version. All you can hear is a little outside wind noise, courtesy of the large wing mirrors.
On our return, we had a play around with the Drive Selector, switching from Eco to Normal, which increases the power to 107bhp. Things do feel slightly different & there’s a bit more get up & go. Switch up to Sport mode & the full 134bhp is released & the car get’s noticeably quicker & feels more agreeable as well. By shifting the gear selector backwards or forwards on the move, you can harness brake regeneration, which is also a useful addition.
Most people reading this, will want to know how we got on with range. When we collected the E-Tense, the mileage charge shown. was 141 miles. We drove 47 miles & returned with a reading of 88 miles, pretty good considering 36 miles of our journey, was on the motorway.
For fleet managers & company car driver’s alike, the really good news is the huge discounts running an electric car will bring. The DS3 Crossback E-Tense comes with a 2020/21 BIK of just 0% on all of the range. You also get the government grant, currently £3,000, off the car’s asking price, as the E-Tense qualifies in Category one for the subsidy. As a price comparison, we reckon that an electric car is 25% of the cost of a petrol car & 20% of the cost of a diesel car when it comes to cost per mile, or distance covered. To charge the E-Tense to full, on a 7kWh charger from zero takes 8 hours. We would recommend always charging to 80% only, which take 5 hours & is better for the battery life as well.
If this is tickling your fancy, we’d strongly suggest that you get at least a 7kWh home charger, so you can top up at your leisure. We have a Rolec 7kWh charger at the office & it really takes the hassle out of owning an electric vehicle. Drive, return, plug-in, repeat. And, DS are offering a free six-month subscription to Polar Plus, so you can plug-in for free when you’re out & about.
As an exercise in style, the DS3 Crossback really does stand out, even from the ever-so-pretty Peugeot 208. Adding an electric version makes perfect sense, especially for fleet customers. The E-Tense range of 200 miles, means that you won’t suffer too much from range anxiety, although if you want an EV that runs closer to the 300 mile point, you’ll have to look elsewhere at Korean EV rivals the KIA Soul & Hyundai Kona. For now anyway, the DS3 Crossback E-Tense is a great addition to the burgeoning electric car market.