The dawning of the electric car age and the surge in demand for sport utility vehicles that offer something more than an advantageous ride height have combined to provoke the DS brand to enter what will surely be a burgeoning market.

The DS 3 Crossback E-Tense is the company’s first venture into the electric car market, and the decision to opt for this compact SUV to lead the charge comes as no surprise.

There’s an imposing elegance about the DS 3 Crossback that is very pleasing on the eye. There’s no doubt that the brand has matured since its divorce from Citroen into something to make the German premium brands look over their shoulders.

The exterior of the E-Tense is virtually identical to that of the petrol version of the car and is mightily impressive. The chunky grille, flush pop-out door handles, LED matrix lights and subtle creases combine beautifully.

And you won’t be disappointed when you step inside. There’s a preponderance of diamond-shaped buttons and tabs that take a little getting used to, a seven or ten-inch touchscreen depending on trim level and vital information on charging and range on the instrument panel.

In a word, it’s plush in there, particularly if the leather seats have the pearl stitching on higher specs. The seats are comfortable and rear seat passengers get at least an adequate amount of legroom.

Boot space is a little disappointing, particularly when compared with Kia’s e-Niro, and the 60/40 configuration rear seats are fixed.

But the electric version brings three questions to mind before we consider anything else: how much, how far will it go on a full charge and how long will it take to charge?

The range costs from £33,990 for the Performance Line version, and a couple of thousand more for the Ultra Prestige. The range-topping La Premiere comes in at just under £40,000.

Using a public rapid charging point, it takes30 minutes to achieve 80 per cent capacity for the lithium-ion battery. If you opt for a home charger, it will take seven hours and 30 minutes to achieve 100 per cent capacity.

The range will depend on a few factors. Officially it is between 191 and 206 miles. I found it to be more like 160 to 170 miles.

You can increase the range by selecting the eco drive mode, rather than normal or sport, and choosing the regenerative braking mode on the gear selector will add up to 20 per cent more range around town. You simply take your foot off the accelerator and slow up faster while the car harnesses kinetic energy back into the battery.

Driving style, driving speed, use of heating and air conditioning, acceleration or load will affect the range. The predicted range gauge uses recent driving history as well as remaining battery

charge and driving conditions to estimate the range available.

Out on the road, the 1.4-metre long E-Tense is hushed and composed, with only a touch of road and wind noise. Even at low speeds, there’s barely a whine.

You will need to use the sport mode for the kind of instant acceleration that has become such a welcome feature of electric cars. Otherwise, the normal mode will be just right, while the eco mode should really only be used as an aid to a longer range.

The distinctive looks, excellent standard equipment and comfortable, quiet ride are all plus points for the E-Tense. But load capacity, range and interior space leave it lagging behind the class leader.

Nevertheless, this is a welcome and different addition to the compact luxury motoring sector.

The lowdown:

DS 3 Crossback E-Tense Ultra Prestige Price: £35,990 Power: 50Kwh Lithium-ion battery producing 136hp Transmission: Automatic, driving front wheels Performance: 0 to 62mph in 8.7 seconds; top speed 93mph Range: 191 to 206 miles CO2 emissions: 0 g/km

Star ratings:

Performance: *** Economy: *** Ride/Handling: **** Space/Practicality: *** Equipment: **** Security/Safety: **** Value For Money: *** OVERALL: ***