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DS 4 review - French luxury hatch sets its sights on prestige rivals
A jaunty cross between a coupé, hatchback and SUV, the DS 4 – no longer badged as a Citroen – is a car like no other. It straddles a line between the regular Citroen range of vehicles and the likes of German premium brands above; think of it almost as a French Audi A3.
While there is no doubting it has masses of aesthetic appeal, both inside and out, and the addition of new, EU6-compliant engines improved the range’s competitiveness during 2015, the DS4 has a confused personality that leaves it between two stools: its engines are healthy in output but performance breaks no new ground, and the undoubted quality of its materials mask an otherwise uninspiring driving environment.
If the Gallic firm is serious about making DS stand on its own two feet as a brand in the UK then the products need to be more clearly defined than this oddball crossover.
DS did the kindest thing and put the old 1.6-litre VTi engine out of its misery when the range lost its Citroen badging, so you're now presented an all-turbocharged range of petrol and diesel models. Our natural inclination is to tick the box marked 'THP 210' to receive the top-end petrol engine in pursuit of quirky hot hatch-like thrills, but performance feels tepid.
Better, we think, to accept that the DS 4 is not a hot hatch in a fancy frock and opt for one of the brawny diesels - Citroen has always been good at those - or explore the pleasing thrum of the 128bhp, 3-cylinder PureTech models. Neither performs like the range-topping THP, but both options suit the DS 4's character better.
'One of the biggest complaints about the original (Citroën) DS4 was its poor ride, something that has been answered with this latest model. It’s still not liquid-smooth, but on French back-roads it absorbs undulations with reasonable aplomb, although strangely the apparently smooth tarmac of the autoroute finds it fidgeting around like a toddler with a full bladder' Stuart Gallagher, evo Managing Editor (evo 216)
Performance and 0-60mph time > Hot hatch power outputs don't translate to hot hatch performance. Diesels are strong though and the PureTech 3-pot punches above its weight.
Engine and gearbox > Turbocharged petrol four-pots have promise but lack urge. The 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol is most compelling; it's smooth and punchy.
Ride and handling > Uninspiring. Ride quality has improved recently but it's still no magic carpet, while the handling is safe but forgettable.
MPG and running costs > Petrol models are frugal and diesels impressively so. Up to 74mpg available in the 1.6-litre BlueHDi models.
Prices, specs and rivals > DS can't yet compete with some of its German foes on driver appeal, but the DS 4 is competitively priced and well-specified.
Interior and tech > Interior architecture is nothing special, but trim quality easily matches that of any German rival you'd care to mention.
Design > An acquired taste, but fits in well with the wider DS range and in the right colour and trim combinations, has just the right boutique vibe.