DS 4 review
The sleek DS 4 promises to mix desirable coupe style, family hatch practicality and premium cabin quality
There’s no denying the DS4 makes a bold style statement. With its blend of coupe styling, high-riding suspension and family car proportions, the French machine almost sits in a class of one. A combination of practicality and a strong driving performance means it edges the Citroen C4 on which it is based.
A recent facelift has added some new LED headlamps but the bigger changes come beneath the surface with a new 208bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo being made available for the first time in the DS 4. As well as the facelift DS also introdcued the DS 4 Crossback, which get s faux SUV makeover with black body cladding, raised ride height and new alloy wheels.
Further boosting the car’s appeal is a classy cabin and strong line-up of petrol and diesel engines. It comes in three different specs - DSign, DStyle and DSport, and all models get LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, air-con, a multifunction steering wheel and cruise control.
It’s not without faults, though, as a cramped cabin and fixed rear side windows damage its family friendly credentials. But, it's lower price is definitely a deciding factor when choosing between premium rivals like the BMW 1 Series and Audi A4.
Our choice: DS4 1.2 THP DStyle
Engines, performance and drive
Underneath the DS 4’s bold exterior are Citroen C4 underpinnings. However, thanks to uprated suspension, the DS 4 offers a sharper feel and is more agile from behind the wheel. DSport and DStyle trims get an integrated automatic electric parking brake, while all models get Hill Start Assist to hold you securely in place on steep inclines.
The entry-level 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol is a sluggish performer, while the punchy 154bhp turbo version is hobbled by the firm’s clunky six-speed EGS semi-automatic gearbox. At the top of the performance tree is the 208bhp 1.6-litre petrol in the range-topping model. Shared with the scorching DS3 Racing, it’ll blast the DS 4 from 0-62mph in only 8.5 seconds.
The new 130bhp 1.2-litre turbo has immediately become the pick of the bunch. It's punchy but smooth with its power delivery yet is still capable of over 54mpg.
It should be noted though that the payoff for the DS 4's racier responses is a firm, low speed ride. Yet for most buyers the smooth and eager 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre HDi diesels will provide the best blend of performance and economy.
Another new addition is the 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is urgent and efficient but is rather unrefined. The gearbox automatic gearbox is also a bit slow and clunky, but we'd recommend sticking with the diesel models over the petrol variants.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
While it’s the fastest and most fun to drive, the 210 THP isn't great in terms of finance – although its claimed fuel returns of 47mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km are barely any worse than the underpowered 1.6-litre petrol.
Pick of the bunch for low motoring bills is the 1.6-litre e-HDi diesel, which promises a 64.2mpg return at the pumps and impressively low CO2 emissions of 114g/km. However, it’s fitted with Citroen’s slow-witted EGS semi-auto gearbox.
Servicing costs should be no more expensive than the C4 hatchback, while all models should hold on to around 40 per cent of their value after three years. In terms of the DS 4's insurance group, base models start at group 14 while higher specs rise to insurance group 31.
Interior, design and technology
If you’re looking to attract attention, then the DS 4 is just the ticket. Flowing lines, a coupe-like profile and a jacked-up ride height help the Citroen stand out from traditional hatchback rivals such as the Audi A3 Sportback and BMW 1 Series.
Buyers can choose from three trims – DSign, DStyle and DSport – and all get alloy wheels and distinctive LED headlamps. Inside, the DS 4 impresses with the quality of its fixtures and fittings, which are a match for more expensive premium rivals. What’s more, there’s also a decent amount of kit, with all models getting air-conditioning, cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel.
There's a wide array of accessories too, including front and rear mud flaps, alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a body cover, tow bars and roof bars.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Despite its five-door hatchback layout, the DS 4 fails to match traditional family car rivals for practicality. Its biggest failing are the rear doors, which provide a narrow and awkward opening to the slightly cramped rear seats.
What’s more, the rear windows are fixed in place, meaning occupants in the back can’t let in any fresh air. And while the cabin is littered with useful storage, the glovebox is tiny. Due to an unusual combination of a coupe-like shape and a raised ride height, the dimensions are affected and boot capacity is smaller than the original C4, at 385-litres. But, a split/fold rear bench is standard.
Reliability and Safety
All DS 4 models get six airbags, electronic stability control and Isofix child seat mounting points. As a result, the Citroen scored top marks in the tough Euro NCAP crash tests. Citroen managed to improve its ranking in the annual Auto Express Driver Power reliability and customer satisfaction survey, climbing to 22 in 2012.
And while it didn't place in the 2013 survey, the C4, on which it is based, achieved a 79.64 per cent customer rating. And that’s not all, because DStyle and DSport versions get Citroen’s eTouch Emergency and Assistance system, which automatically calls emergency services if the car is involved in a crash.
The DS 4 feels solidly built, suggesting that reliability concerns should be few and far between. The dealer network is also on the up finishing 9th in our 2015 Driver Power satisfaction survey. The previous year Citroen ranked 24th in Auto Express' Best Manufacturer of 2013, achieving an 80.18 per cent customer rating.