The most obvious part of this facelift is clearly where we should begin its description, slapped across the front of the car about as conspicuously as Carla Bruni’s latest pair of anti-paparazzi sunglasses.

The 3’s new chrome grille seems less a styling tweak and more an attempt to reverse dwindling visibility.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The idea of hybrid xenon/LED headlights sounds like a half-measure, but they’re actually very good

Having originally offered a more refined, understated aspect than the ‘single-frame’ stare of an Audi A1 six years ago, the 3 has now swung to the opposite end of the can’t-beat-’em-join-’em scale and set out to upstage its German rival with a grille of even bigger, bolder, pointier and shinier presence.

The extensions at its edges, reaching out to connect the headlights and foglights, are ‘double wings’, say DS’s stylists – there for added impact. There’s certainly plenty of that.

But however impactful, the car’s new look is at odds with the effortless pizzazz of what went before it and we’re not convinced that owners of the outgoing car will approve. For what it’s worth, more of our testers reacted against that grille than were in favour of it, which may be bad news for DS because this grille will be introduced to other models later on.

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Mercifully, most of the rest of the 3’s styling has been left well enough alone. Its two-tone colour scheme survives, as does its distinctive ‘shark fin’ B-pillar, which conspires with the ‘floating’ roof above to make the car look more coupé-like (and, by association, a good deal more desirable) than the average three-door hatchback.

The 3’s engine range now includes only one naturally aspirated choice: an 81bhp 1.2-litre petrol unit at its very base. Turbocharged petrols of 1.2 and 1.6 litres and 1.6-litre diesels fill out the pricier options.

All are mated to manual gearboxes of either five or six speeds, with the exception of the 109bhp 1.2 turbo PureTech, which is offered with an alternative six-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox.

The 118bhp 1.6 BlueHDi engine in our test car is DS’s range-topping diesel, and although it isn’t the most powerful or the most frugal oil-burner on offer in a current supermini, it is particularly interesting in a post-Dieselgate sense.

Like all of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group’s new-gen BlueHDi diesels, it uses oxidation catalysis, selective catalytic reduction (via urea injection) and a particulate trap to ensure that what comes out of the exhaust pipe meets statutory emissions limits.

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