DS 3 e-Tense: a new mechanism for a new life?

At the very top of the ex-PSA pyramid, DS Automobiles has plenty of time to inaugurate a new electric powertrain with the DS 3 e-Tense.

The race towards total electrification is not new within Stellantis ex-PSA. In 2019 the French group began to realize its noble ambitions by presenting the DS 3 Crossback e-Tense. It then inaugurated the e-CMP platform and the powertrain consisting of a 46 kWh battery (useful capacity) and a 136 hp motor, shared with all the group’s electric vehicles (Peugeot e-208 , Opel Mokka-e, Citroën ëC4, …) . But the mechanical tandem has never been a model of efficiency, especially on the highway. The grievances have been properly fixed in a recent technical update. But that’s not enough to continue down the road to electrification, and Stellantis has lifted the veil on a new powertrain that pushes the potentiometers even further.

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Style evolutions through small touches

Since history is only an eternal beginning, DS Automobiles is responsible for putting small plates on big plates. Or rather the opposite, since the new battery takes place only inside the restyled DS 3. Its size is the same (4.12 m long) and only trained eyes will probably appreciate a slight blush of the crossover, which includes a slightly retouched look, sharper mouth and two ramps. LEDs, standard on all levels , mimicking those of the DS 7 e-Tense.

The set is more elegant, more mature, but does not only serve the starlets on the Champs Elysées: these changes also serve the aerodynamics, with an improvement of 7.6% of the SCx. If the value is abstract for most mortals, the gains will be significant according to the manufacturer, the aero participates up to 10% in the gains in terms of autonomy.

But for that, it will be necessary to be reasonable with the options and choose certain rims of 17” or 18”, only the two will benefit from a plate lowered by 10 mm due to their smaller size. And to get the maximum autonomy, it will be necessary to choose Toulouse rims more precisely, profiled, symmetrical (must remember) and narrower with 195/55R18 tires against 215/55R18 with less desirable rims. In other words, a small visible part of the iceberg, which hides most of the new things that lie beneath the surface.

An unprecedented Made in France machine

On the floor takes place a 51 kWh battery (54 kWh gross), supplied by CATL but assembled in France. Like the Renault Zoé during its major restyling in 2019, the compartment, the supports under the chassis and the box are completely similar, and only the content changes. It consists of 17 modules, containing 102 prismatic cells with NMC 811 chemistry, compared to the previous NMC 622 (nickel content increased from 60 to 80%).

It powered an all-new electric machine specially developed for the French platform and discontinued the old Continental block. Going by the code name M3, it was designed in partnership with eMotors and manufactured, like the rest of the car, in France. This mechanism makes it possible to deliver a maximum power of 156 hp (115 kW) for a constant torque of 260 Nm (nominal power 84 hp/62 kW). Its evolutions are many, whether to promote efficiency among the specifications (multi-strand winding, six-pole technology), or reliability (one-piece housing without seals in the cooling circuit).

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All these improvements allow the DS 3 e-Tense (stop calling it Crossback), to get a maximum of 84 km of autonomy compared to the first version of the urban SUV. That’s a gain of just over 26% to stay in the pack. It should be noted in passing that the DS 3 retains recent improvements and is automatically supplied with a heat pump integrated with a humidity sensor, a modified reduction gear ratio and A+ tires. But this last point depends on the size of the rims, because the Goodyear Efficient Grip Performance 2 mounted on our test model is in category B in terms of energy consumption…

A new interface on board

Regulars of the model will not be out of place from the first laps of the DS 3 e-Tense. The SUV is almost identical to the model we know so far, except for minor cosmetic details. So we find there everything that makes the salt of this model with, on the part of the battery, an original style and an impressive manufacturing quality, despite the presence of hard plastics in the lower part. On the front side, we also discover a spartan interior, seats that are not very suitable for large sizes, perfect peripheral vision and complex ergonomics, including central touch keys with no real haptic feedback. One detail.

But that’s where the generalist devil hides in vehicles with premium claims. However, this is what the “little” DS cultivates, with real stylistic research from the Colors and Materials department. We’ll quickly turn a blind eye to the old head-up display in this universe, and instead appreciate the arrival of a new central touch screen, bigger and brighter. It is based on the DS Iris System device that was introduced with the DS 4 and offers wireless smartphone connectivity. The only problem: it still doesn’t have a route planner. It will be necessary to wait a little more before seeing it arrive in a mobile application (which will be sent to the car’s navigation then), before having a real system that works directly from the cabin.

A bit more responsive, but softness comes first

We rediscovered on the road a particularly well-soundproofed SUV that reduces the occupants of the outdoor environment in the city. This is not so much the case on the road or highway, where the aerodynamic noise around the pillars is combined with the loudest rolling noise generated by the not-so-specific tires. But this is where it proves to be the most comfortable with damping that is more flexible, unlike in town, where the rear axle hits speed bumps hard, even when approaching reasonable speeds.

At the speed regulation, it is difficult to give the new engine more driving pleasure. As with the previous generation, the standard engine will have different typings and maps depending on the manufacturer. On the DS, softness is dominant and you have to press hard, even hard on the kickdown notch to get the 156 hp out. But to no avail, the DS 3 prefers to pamper its passengers. Certainly, the gain of 1.1 s announced by the DS at 80-120 km / h is attractive, and it is thanks to 25 kg more on the scale compared to the previous generation. But the time of 6.7 s we recorded did not stick to the seat. A Peugeot e-208 with a less favorable weight/power ratio (1,455 kg for 136 hp) and also equipped with a new gear ratio that prolongs performance is capable of completing the exercise in 5.8 s at a level equivalent to loaded (80%) .

Still uncomfortable on the highway

Therefore, it remains to mention the consumption, where this new kinematic chain should prove itself. Under an ideal average temperature of 20°C, we recorded a combined consumption of 16.9 kWh/100 km by varying the routes. This allows the new DS 3 e-Tense to demonstrate a total autonomy of 302 km in the real world. On the highway, consumption is still cold. Although it is greatly improved compared to the previous version, it is still high: at a fixed speed of 130 km/h measured in the same direction, we recorded an average of 26.7 kWh/100 km, or 191 km of total autonomy! Certainly, the side wind is not related to this result, but according to our estimates, we can best consider, conditionally, the consumption of 25.5 kWh / 100 km. Which hardly helps the balance with an average autonomy of 210 km on a motorway trip.

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So we have to wait for it to pass through our Supertest test bench to more accurately measure the consumption and autonomy of this new version. In any event, it is still confined to urban or peri-urban use, and will taste a bit of motorway escapades: in the current state of our readings and estimates, it will need to go through the recharge box every…140 150km away. Either a very short shooting window. It remains to know its behavior in front of fast charging stations, a test we have not been able to do so far. But despite an unchanged peak of 100 kW and increased capacity, this new battery can still be fully charged (10-80%) in 30 min thanks to a slight improvement in average recharge power. Still in the charging chapter, the SUV is automatically powered to all levels with an 11 kW on-board charger (0-100% at 5:45 am) and an ample Mode 3 32A three-phase cable.

One of the lowest price/versatility ratios

The DS 3 e-Tense has the heavy task of inaugurating a new mechanical tandem that is particularly important for the manufacturer, but also for the entire Stellantis. Designed and developed in France, this traction chain will equip all of the group’s electric vehicles. However, if the case is increased in beauty, the mechanical part changes a little. Good driving pleasure is still there, but it takes a lot to feel the gains. What users do not do in the city, where the SUV is most comfortable. Because of the highway, it still suffers from a particularly high consumption. The gains in autonomy are there, but not enough to catch up with the competition.

All that’s left is for the DS 3 e-Tense to appeal to city dwellers looking for true refinement in a manageable size. But in more pragmatic standards, it is difficult to digest the note: the SUV is shown from 41,700 € and can go up to 48,800 € in the high-end version. That’s more than the Smart #1, its closest competitor at the moment, which claims a check of €47,490 on Brabus’ top-of-the-range version.

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