The second member of Citroen’s new dynasty has arrived! The high-riding DS4 is a more luxurious, grown-up model designed to build on the success of the MINI-rivalling DS3. And Auto Express has got behind the wheel for the first time.
Style is a huge part of the DS4’s appeal, and you’re instantly struck by the way it looks. In profile, it appears similar to the standard C4, but in fact it’s 60mm shorter, and 40mm taller. Up close, the curvy bodywork draws the eye, particularly at the back, and the permanent LEDs front and rear help it stand out.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Citroen DS4
The shapely roofline and hidden rear doors are meant to give the impression of a sleek coupé. But they contrast with the increased ride height, which provides a raised, if not quite commanding, view of the road.
Citroen claims the DS4 can straddle several segments, and deliver a sporty, involving driving experience without compromising on practicality. To help it achieve this, and boost the handling, it has a number of suspension tweaks.
The overall layout remains unchanged from the C4, but the DS model features firmer springs and shock absorbers, plus stiffer anti-roll bars, as standard. The electro-hydraulic power-steering has also been given an overhaul, and the flagship diesel model we drove gets its own unique, sportier set-up. On the move, the steering does offer better feedback through corners, but still feels over-assisted.
Under the bonnet is the familiar 2.0-litre diesel from the C4, now with an extra 10bhp, but that’s no bad thing. It has a narrow powerband, but mixes gutsy in-gear acceleration with 55.4mpg fuel economy. It’s also refined, while road noise is well suppressed, making for relaxing progress.
Despite the stiffer springs, the DS4’s set-up feels more focused on comfort than driving thrills; the ride is smooth, although standardl 19-inch wheels fitted to our car mean it occasionally bangs over bumps. The body leans into bends, though, and it lacks the precision of a dedicated coupé such as the Volkswagen Scirocco.
The interior is swathed in leather, while black headlining gives it a cocooned, luxurious feel. The door handles, side sills and centre console are all etched with DS logos, but some of the plastics lower down the dashboard aren’t of the quality you’d expect in a car costing £20,000-plus.
The DS4 is aimed at a different set of buyers to the DS3, so there’s less scope for personalisation in the cabin, although there are four different leather options for the ‘watch bracelet’-style seats. The styling also demands a number of sacrifices to practicality.
The boot offers 21 litres less luggage space than the C4’s, at 359 litres, but that's still bigger than most family hatches. Passengers in the back get a decent amount of room, too, although amazingly the aggressive C-pillar means you can’t open the rear windows to let air in.
At launch, there will be a choice of five engines, including the firm’s new 1.6-litre 110bhp e-HDi stop-start diesel. However, bosses predict this powerful oil-burner, and the 120bhp petrol model, will be the best sellers.
Rival: Alfa Romeo Giulietta
It doesn’t have a raised ride height, but Golf-sized Alfa hatch pulls off the same trick, blending coupé-like kerbside appeal and a roomy interior, for a similar price.
* Price: £23,000 (est)
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
* Power/torque: 161bhp/340Nm
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-60/top spd: 8.6 secs/132mph
* Econ/CO2: 55.4mpg/134g/km
* Equipment: Cruise control, auto lights and wipers, LED running lamps, heated leather massage seats, multifunction steering wheel, Denon sound system, 19-inch alloys
* On sale: June