There's never a Mini around when you need one.
Here i was, behind a leathered and aluminiumed wheel, in a car sufficiently bestickered to make a WRC-fan do a double-take, ensconced in frame-hugging alcantara, but with nary a Mini in sight to put the frighteners on.
Hmm... i thought to myself, looks like this A1-provocateur, this Mini-nemesis, would have to content itself with taking the fight to another day.
In retrospect, not having any of the Citroën DS3's natural rivals around worked to my benefit, for it helped me concentrate on the car itself.
Having stepped straight into it from my beloved C5, the biggest contrast that struck me was the sheer skittishness of the DS3.
The DS3 was like a terrier to the C5's St Bernard.
if 'skittish' is the word that endures in my mind when i think of the DS3, the equivalent reaction from my C5 would be 'creamy'.
Mind, while this may be my lasting (and, by no means, negative) impression of the DS3, it was not my first. This was my third time driving a DS3, so i knew what to expect. i knew about the lightness of its steering at low speeds. I knew that its glovebox lid plumbs the depths of frangibility. i knew about the secure, hefty weight of the doors. And i knew well about the fundamental sortedness of its chassis.
So, my attention turned to other things - the kind of things one tends to miss on a test-drive. Such as how the sound-insulation - lauded by the British motoring press - does indeed do an admirable job in keeping road-noise out (i'm looking at you, Mini). Alas, the exhaust note on this naturally-aspirated version was unrelentingly deadpan and made tootling around town bordering on choredom, as if the DS3 was trying to communicate that it really wanted to be let loose and blasted down a winding country lane.
And then, there's that skittishness. I am tempted to prefix- but ultimately am refraining from prefixing - the word 'unmistakeable' to 'skittishness', because - in all fairness to the DS3, the C5 does set rather a high bar with regards its sheer ability to isolate.
i didn't notice it was skittish at first. What i did notice was the accuracy of the steering, the way you could point-and-shoot into a corner, the wheel's perfect weighting at speed and as forces build up - leading you in, but never fighting against you.
Then i started noticing bumps and surface imperfections on roads, which i had not known were there before. These were the same roads that i travel every day, several times a day, in my C5. Well... duh... :-P
Then, at certain road crests, i noticed more vertical movement than i would normally be accustomed to.
And that is when the word 'skittish' popped into my head.
The DS3 is like a modern fly-by-wire jet-fighter. It's nimble, and almost inherently unstable (by design).
Like its big brother the C5, the DS3 loves to engage its driver in conversation.
But my goodness is the nature of the conversations different!
In the C5, the conversations one has are all philosophical and about the nature of existentialism. The driver is given the space to contemplate and reflect, cocooned in silence and perfectly isolated from everything the outside world can throw at him.
In the DS3, the chat is more frenetic. Do you remember the opening scene of the film The Social Network? Driving the DS3 is like that :-)
Which is not a bad thing, because the conversation can potentially be just as philosophical as in the C5, but in a much more rapid-fire environment.
So, these were my thoughts and conclusions as i approached the dying minutes of my half-day tenureship of the DS3.
And then... and then... literally mere metres before my turning into the Citroën showroom to regretfully return the car, i saw it.
It was a fiery red Alfa Romeo MiTo, on a test-drive.
He was approaching me from the opposite direction of the road.
Instinctively, i knew what i had to do.
I nudged that lovely leather wheel one last time, such that my direction of travel was not entirely parallel with the road.
i knew that at this angle, the MiTo test-driver could not fail to notice me, as my LED DRLs would be directly lined up with his field-of-vision.
I tapped the accelerator, the car barked forward, and then i turned sharply into the showroom.
Mission accomplished :-)
My sincere gratitude to the good folks at Cycle and Carriage for their trust, and for so kindly and magnanimously facilitating this excursion. Thank you, Bryan Tan, for seeing to the paperwork.