“What’s that flash car you are driving?” This was the third time in as many days I had been asked the question by friends and neighbours, so the eye-catching design was clearly working.

“It’s a DS 3 Crossback.” And, for the third time, I was met by: “A what? Who makes it?”

So no one needs to ask again, there is a short explanation at the end of this piece about the French car maker DS Automobiles and what it has planned for the future.

The here and now of DS – part of the Peugeot-Citroën group – is embodied in the cleanly-styled, broad-shouldered DS 3 Crossback, a clear rival for the Mini Countryman.

Like the Countryman, its size makes it ideal for use around town, while being equally at home on long-distance trips.

Its combination of refined interior, high levels of safety equipment and driver assistance systems and distinctive Gallic style, is aimed at someone looking for a stylish, high-tech, comfortable and dynamic compact car.

Some of its technology is clearly visible with a set of glitzy headlights, flush door handles that deploy automatically and a fully-digital driving display.

Distinctive diamond shapes are visible throughout the cabin from the LED interior lights and switches, to the air vents.

Attention to detail is paramount, with banks of toggle switches, electrically-operated handbrake, smartphone charging pad with a pair of USB connectors and an array of storage compartments, including cupholders and a deep central console box.

The dashboard is dominated by a ten-inch touchscreen, that runs everything from satellite navigation and telephone link, to the eight-speaker DAB digital radio. It also links to smartphones through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

What is only evident once you get moving, is the level of comfort offered. Large body-hugging driver and passenger seats are matched by excellent isolation from the outside world.

DS says it concentrated on improving soundproofing, with a thicker specification of metal for the door panels and thicker glass windows and windscreen.

Its efforts certainly worked, as the car, though it delivers less feedback than a Mini on twisting country roads, delivers the ride of a much larger car.

Power on the test car came from a 1.2-litre turbocharged, three-cylinder engine which is a little gem, smoothly delivering its 130 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, to make this car both zippy around town and effortlessly soaking up motorway work.

Now, as promised, a little about the young French brand DS Automobiles, which was launched in 2015 and says it aims to ‘perpetuate the values of innovation and distinction inherited from the first DS, launched in 1955, and open a new territory in the premium automotive market’.

The first model of the second-generation DS range was the DS 7 Crossback SUV, followed by the DS 3 Crossback with a 100% electric version of the DS 3 called the E-Tense.

The cars are built in a factory, located in the heart of Yvelines, close to Paris, which has been operating since the 1930s. Now employing 4,000 people, it has been renovated thanks to a €100m investment.

DS says its cars are designed for people ‘looking for a means to express themselves as individuals’ and its cars ‘stand apart through their avant-garde design, refinement in every detail, advanced technologies and dynamic serenity’.

The DS 7 and DS 3 Crossbacks are just the start, with a string of new models due in the next few years.

Auto facts

Model: DS 3 Crossback Prestige Pure Tech 130 auto

Price: £28,505 as tested

Insurance group: 20E

Fuel consumption (combined): 47.1mpg

Top speed: 124mph

Length: 411.8cm/161.7in

Width: 198.8cm/78.0in

Luggage capacity: 350 litres/12.35 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.6 gallons/44 litres

CO2 emissions: 109g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles