Formerly the Citroen DS3, DS is now its own standalone brand and the DS3 is the smallest car it offers. Sharing underpinnings with the Citroen C3, C4 Cactus and the 208 from sister brand Peugeot, it's been a very well-received car - even winning Top Gear magazine's car of the year in 2010.
You'll get wildly different first impressions of the two cars. Both have names that hark back to the 1950s, but while the MINI bears more than a passing resemblance to its forebear, visually there's nothing to link together the DS3 and its famed ancestor, the Citroen DS. So while the retro styling of the MINI will prompt fond memories, the DS3 doesn't - and indeed the staid modern looks might make you wonder why Citroen chose to resurrect the badge but not the design ethos that made the first DS such a beautiful car...
There are few cars in this class that can match the MINI's combination of exterior size and interior room, but the DS3 is one of them. The cars are just about level-pegging when it comes to occupant space, but the DS3 has an advantage in terms of boot space, by 74 litres. You can match this with the new 5-door hatch model of the MINI, of course - an option not available to DS3 buyers.
While the interior space might be similar between the two cars, the interior quality is not. The DS3 shares an interior with the more ordinary Citroen C3 and though it has been brought upmarket to match the aesthetic ideal of the new brand, you'll find lower-quality materials without having to hunt too hard. The MINI's equipment levels are far higher too, including DAB even at entry-level cars.
One place where the DS3 scores some serious points is the driving manners. It's an excellent little car on back roads and will bring a grin to the face of those who like an enthusiastic drive every now and then. It's perfectly at home on the motorway too and, as you'd expect in a class of urban vehicles, unfazed by city driving. However good the DS3 is though, it's not quite the benchmark in the class - it plays second fiddle to none other than the MINI!
The MINI's high level of standard kit contributes to it being better value for money too - specifying the DS3 to like-for-like levels of equipment will make it around £500 more expensive. Though it outperforms traditional Citroen models in terms of depreciation, the MINI certainly has the edge there too, keeping nearly 60% of its value after 3 years compared to 50% for the DS3.
It's certainly the case that the DS3 is one of the MINI's closest rivals, but the MINI still reigns supreme!