From £16,980
To our eyes, the DS4 isn’t distinctive or stylish enough to justify its place in the world

Our Verdict

Citroën DS4
Citroën describes the DS4 as a hybrid of saloon, coupé and compact 4x4

The Citroen DS4 is a high-riding hatchback, but for all its maker's claims to the contrary, its too much like the standard C4

What is it?

Citroen’s second model from its DS premium brand. Following the popular and highly rated DS3 supermini, the DS4 is the new upmarket cousin of the C4 five-door hatchback, and goes on sale in the UK at the beginning of July.

Despite the fact that it shares most of its engines and underbody mechanicals with the ordinary C4, the DS4 isn’t exactly a conventional family hatch. Marketed as a non-conformist’s alternative and described by Citroen as a hybrid of saloon, coupe and compact 4x4, it’s effectively a high-riding five-door hatch with the kind of profile silhouette you’d expect from a two-door two-plus-two.

Whether it’s a revelation or just different for difference’s own sake is what we’re looking to establish here, in our first proper UK drive in a range-topping 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol DSport version of the car.

What’s it like?

In the raw, not as distinctive as you might expect. While the DS3 looks special enough to seem like a model in its own right, the DS4’s resemblance to a standard C4 is too close for comfort from some angles. Particularly from the front, where headlights and a bonnet borrowed wholesale from the lesser car do nothing to distinguish.

Moving around the car you begin to see points of difference; can’t miss the raised ride height, plunging roofline and more dramatic surfacing, in fact. But you’re left wondering if the cumulative aesthetic effect is quite special enough.

There’s a little bit more uniqueness inside the car – at least there was in our highly-equipped test car. The pleated ‘habana’ brown leather and patterned console and door-handle trims look rich and expensive.

An extra-long windscreen extends backwards over the driver’s head, removing the header rail from limiting your forward visibility, and there are various interior lighting flourishes like a strip of LEDs along the base of the windscreen, and instruments whose backlight colour you can change at your whim. Still, it does all seem rather like window dressing on a cabin that’s mainly inherited from a C4.

The DS4’s driving position is improved by the car’s higher-than-normal driver’s seat, but don’t expect SUV-like practicality elsewhere. The rear seats offer limited knee-and headroom, and there’s no more boot space than in a regular hatch.

So does the driving experience make more sense? Well, unlike the cabin fittings, it’s a far cry from the one you’ll find in a cooking C4. In pursuit of more driver involvement, Citroen has substituted the regular car’s electric power steering system for an electro-hydraulic system which is much heavier in weight and quicker in terms of pace.

Making a higher-riding car with a more dynamic drive wasn’t an easy brief, and it will surprise few that Citroen has had limited success in its mission. The DS4 has decent body control and a low-frequency lope to its primary ride quality over longer wave crests and undulations that makes it pretty comfortable and pleasant over smooth surfaces. Performance is as strong as you’d want it to be, and gearshift quality is good.

Over rougher surfaces, however, the DS4’s performance is anything but. Hit a short sharp bump and the relative crudity of the DS4’s rear suspension (a torsion beam) makes itself felt as the chassis thumps noisily. At higher speeds, the same kind of rough roads upset the DS4’s vertical body composure, and can cause the wheels to part company with the tarmac entirely.

Our test car’s 19in wheels with 40-profile tyres must have been of little help to its rolling refinement, and lower-spec examples may ride better. We expect none of them will have the kind of dynamic polish we were led to expect, however, based on the start made with the much more finely honed DS3.

Should I buy one?

If you like the novelty that the DS4 represents, and don’t much care about how it handles or how comfortable your friends are in the back seats, perhaps. But if, like us, you’re more interested in buying a car that has simple, objectively measurable talents, you’ll struggle to see the point.

To our eyes, the DS4 isn’t distinctive or stylish enough to justify its place in the world, and is too short on practicality, refinement and dynamic deportment to deserve recommendation for other reasons. It’s different, sure; but that’s not quite enough.

Citroen DS4 DSport 1.6 THP 200

Price: £23,650; 0-62mph: 8.5sec; Top speed: 146mph; Economy: 44.1mpg; CO2: 149g/km; Kerb weight: 1431kg; Engine layout: 4cyls in line, 1598cc, turbocharged petrol; Power: 197bhp at 5800rpm; Torque: 203lb ft at 1700rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
14

24 June 2011

Well that seems to have missed the mark by some margin then?

24 June 2011

I get the feeling Citroen have rushed the DS4 to market, whereas they really took time to consider the DS3. The interior of the Peugeot 3008 is far more appealing to look at (and sit in, by all accounts) and Citroen's decision to shape the rear windows so that they cannot be opened will be a big turn-off for a lot of people, particularly in a car of this size. Also, I really do take issue with the central transmission tunnel, which appears to take up quite a bit room in the back. Why have Citroen just left this space with two blank areas for rear passengers? Have they not heard of air vents? For a car of this price, I think it's a big omission to simply leave hollow bits in that area. As for the styling? Well, it's hardly offensive, but it's not as unusual as it could've been. The DS3 and DS5 have it licked in terms of design, then. It's a shame.

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

24 June 2011

Does seem compromised and perhaps pointless, but I read somewhere (and there are some hints if this in the article) that this was intended as a coupe a-la the Scirocco and Megane; however, Citroen found out that owners of said Scirocco's and Megane's buy 5-door cars when they replace them...so instead of making a direct rival to the Scirocco/Megane etc, they came up with this - a 'stylish', slightly more practical version of a 3-door coupe/hatch (or whatever the Scirocco and Megane are called...). Viewed from this perspective, it does seem to make more sense, but still not sure if it's enough to justify its compromises and price tag.

 

- Follow your own star -

24 June 2011

[quote Christian Galea]Citroen found out that owners of said Scirocco's and Megane's buy 5-door cars when they replace them...so instead of making a direct rival to the Scirocco/Megane etc, they came up with this - a 'stylish', slightly more practical version of a 3-door coupe/hatch[/quote]

I'm not sure they targeted the Scirocco / Megane, more looked at buyers of the DS3 and wondered what they would trade in to once their family or social circle grew.

I sort of see the point of this car but can't help thinking it would have been a better car for being a little more conventional. Misses the mark for me but there have been more unlikely hero's of the car world. I guess the market will decide.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

24 June 2011

[quote Christian Galea]I read somewhere (and there are some hints if this in the article) that this was intended as a coupe a-la the Scirocco and Megane; however, Citroen found out that owners of said Scirocco's and Megane's buy 5-door cars when they replace them[/quote]

reckon what your describing would have worked well.. just a pity they ruined it by jacking up the ride height and ruining the handling. the money they wasted on that could have paid for bespoke headlights/bonnet.

24 June 2011

I'd go for the standard C4. It's cheaper and more honest.

True, it's not the last word in cornering ability, but it's fine for day to day stuff and it's also got better ride comfort than the DS4.

jer

25 June 2011

I had high hopes for next years DS5 if this is any indicator maybe I need to rein them in. I'm not sure from the review if it is underdamped or overdamped, wheels loosing contact with the road on rough surfaces sounds a strange characteristic. I am also unsure if the engine/transmission, refinement is as good as elsewhere. Is the electro hydraulic steering satisfactory? Is the driving position anygood ? Unusually for Autocar there is subjective reference to the styling. I cannot see that it is any inferior to the alternatives so the words seem harsh. The interror is clearly desirable.

27 June 2011

Looks nice inside and out to me - in this spec at least. Would have liked to have heard more about the petrol engine and also the boot space seems compromised by a subwoofer (?) on the right hand side, is this a standard fitment? Nice though it is, I couldn't stomach a 5 door car where you can't wind down the rear windows though!

27 June 2011

I am waiting for the DS5 looks much better and more refined…so will the price probably :)

27 June 2011

seems like just not enough effort was put in to make it special enough to warrant the extra asking price - sales will ultimately dictate if it's a success but if not maybe Citroen will learn to try harder next time.

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