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

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

Stellantis’ foray into full electrification is not new within the former PSA. It was in 2019 that the French group began to realize its virtuous ambitions by presenting the DS 3 Crossback e-Tense model. It then unveiled the e-CMP platform and a powertrain consisting of a 46kWh battery (useful capacity) and a 136hp engine shared with all the group’s electric vehicles (Peugeot e-208, Opel Mokka-e, Citroën ëC4, …) . . But the manual tandem has never been a model of efficiency, especially on the highway. The complaints have been properly addressed with the latest technical update. But that’s not really enough to continue down the electrification path, and Stellantis is lifting the lid on a new powertrain that pushes the potentiometers even further.

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Stylistic evolutions with small touches

Since history is only the eternal beginning, it is DS Automobiles that is responsible for putting the small bowls into the big bowls. Rather the opposite, since the new battery is only available in the redesigned DS 3. The size is therefore similar (length 4.12 m) and probably only trained eyes can appreciate the slight blush of the crossover, which has a slightly revised appearance, a sharper mouth and two ramps. Light diodes are standard on all levels. , the DS 7 mimics the e-Tense.

The kit is sleeker, more mature, but not only serves to play the stars on the Elysée: these changes also serve the aerodynamics, with a 7.6% improvement of the SCx. If the value is abstract to the majority of mortals, the gains will be significant according to the manufacturer, with aero autonomy contributing up to 10% of the gains.

But for that you have to be reasonable with the options and choose 17” or 18” specific rims, only the two benefit from a 10mm lowered plate due to their smaller size. To get maximum autonomy, it is necessary to choose Toulouse wheels with a more precise profile, symmetrical (it should be noted) and narrower with 195/55R18 tires against less favorable tires 215/55R18. In short, the tip of the iceberg that hides much of the innovation that exists beneath the surface.

Unprecedented Made in France engine

On the floor is a 51kWh battery supplied by CATL but assembled in France. During the main restyling of 2019, the coupe, like the Renault Zoé, the supports under the chassis and the box are completely similar, and only the content changes. It consists of 17 modules of 102 prismatic cells with NMC 811 chemistry compared to the previous NMC 622 (nickel content increased from 60 to 80%).

It powers an all-new electric motor designed specifically for the French platform, ditching the old Continental unit. Codenamed M3, it was developed in collaboration with eMotors and, like the rest of the car, is manufactured in France. This mechanism makes it possible to deliver a maximum power of 156 hp (115 kW) for an unchanged 260 Nm (nominal power 84 hp/62 kW) of torque. Its evolutions are numerous, whether at the heart of the specifications to increase efficiency (multi-wire winding, six-pole technology) or reliability (one-piece housing without seals in the cooling circuit).

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All these improvements therefore allow DS 3 e-Tense (don’t call it Crossback anymore) to gain a maximum autonomy of 84 km compared to the first version of the urban SUV. That’s a gain of just over 26% to stay in the pack. Notably, the DS 3 retains the latest upgrades and comes with an automatic humidity sensor, a revised reduction gear ratio and a heat pump paired with A+ tires. But this last point depends on the size of the tires, because the Goodyear Efficient Grip Performance 2 installed on our test model is in category B in terms of energy consumption…

New interface on board

Regulars of the model will not be left out of the first laps of the DS 3 e-Tense. The SUV is substantially similar to the model we knew until then, except for minor cosmetic details. Therefore, despite the presence of hard plastics in the lower parts, on the battery side we find everything that guarantees the salt of this model, with an original style and a noticeable production quality. Up front, we also rediscover a spartan interior, oversized seats, excellent peripheral vision and sophisticated ergonomics, including central touch buttons with no real haptic feedback. A detail.

But this is where the generalist devil lurks in cars with premium claims. This is what the “little” DS has brought up with the real stylistic research of the Colors and Materials department. We’ll quickly turn a blind eye to the old head-up display in this universe and appreciate the arrival of a bigger and brighter new central touchscreen. It is based on the DS Iris System that was launched with the DS 4 and offers wireless smartphone connectivity. The only problem: it still doesn’t have a route planner. We’ll have to wait a little longer before we see it arrive in the mobile app (which will be sent to the car’s navigation) so that the actual system can be activated directly from the cabin.

A little more sensitive, but softness prevails

On the road, we reinvent the particularly soundproof SUV that keeps passengers out of the city’s outer environment. It’s less so on the road or highway, where the aerodynamic noise around the pillars is combined with the loudest rolling noise produced by the not-so-special tires. But it proves to be the most comfortable with more flexible damping, unlike in the city, where the rear axle hits speed bumps hard even when approaching at reasonable speeds.

It is difficult to give the new engine extra driving pleasure at throttle speeds. As with the previous generation, the common engine will have different inscriptions and maps depending on the manufacturer. Softness prevails in the DS, and you have to push the shock absorber hard, if not too hard, to release 156bhp. But nothing helps, the DS 3 prefers to pamper its passengers. Certainly the DS’s claimed 80-120km/h gain of 1.1 seconds is tempting, and that’s thanks to just 25kg more on the scale than the previous generation. But the 6.7 s time we mentioned does not stick to the chair. Equipped with a less favorable weight-to-power ratio (1,455 kg per 136 hp) and also a new gear ratio that extends performance, the Peugeot e-208 can complete the exercise at an equivalent load level (80%) in 5.8 seconds. .

Still not comfortable on the highway

Therefore, it remains to mention the consumption with which this new kinematic chain should prove itself. We recorded a combined consumption of 16.9kW/100km, switching routes under a perfectly average temperature of 20°C. This allows the new DS 3 e-Tense to deliver a total real-world range of 302 km. On the highway, on the contrary, the consumption is still cold in the rear. Although a significant improvement over the previous version, it is still high: at a constant speed of 130 km/h measured in both directions, we recorded an average of 26.7 kW/100 km or a total range of 191 km! Of course, the side wind has nothing to do with this result, but according to our calculations, we can consider a consumption of 25.5 kW / 100 km at best, conditionally. This hardly helps the balance sheet with an average of 210 km of autonomy in a single highway trip.

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Therefore, in order to more accurately measure the consumption and autonomy of this new version, we have to wait to pass it on our Supertest test bench. Either way, it’s still limited to city or suburban use, and will offer little relish for highway runs: at the current state of our readings and estimates, it’ll need to go through the stuffing box every…140 150km. Or a very short shooting window. It remains to know its behavior in front of fast charging stations, a test we cannot do at the moment. But despite the unchanged 100 kW power and increased capacity, this new battery can still be charged in 30 minutes (10-80%) thanks to a slight improvement in average charging power. Still in the charging department, the SUV comes automatic on all levels with an 11kW on-board charger (0-100% in 5:45) and an adequate Mode 3 32A three-phase cable.

One of the lowest price / versatility ratios

The DS 3 e-Tense has the heavy duty of unveiling an all-new mechanical tandem that is particularly important for the manufacturer, but also for the entire Stellantis. Designed and assembled in France, this traction chain will eventually power all of the group’s electric vehicles. However, while the body gains refinement, the mechanical component is underdeveloped. 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 feels most comfortable. Because it still suffers from particularly high consumption on the highway. There are gains in autonomy, but not enough to catch up to the competition.

All that remains is for the DS 3 e-Tense to appeal to city dwellers looking for real sophistication in measured size. But it is difficult to digest the note with more pragmatic criteria: the SUV starts at 41,700 € and can go up to 48,800 € in the high-end version. That’s more than its closest competitor, the Smart #1 at the moment, and it claims a €47,490 check in the top-of-the-line Brabus version.

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