From £16,980
A jack of all trades but not class leading

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

5 May 2011

What is it?

The second offering from Citroen’s premium DS sub-brand. And after the DS3, which even Citroen admits is far more popular than it anticipated, it has a hard act to follow.

The bad news is that it’s based on the overwhelmingly underwhelming C4 which itself is based on the old C4. Then again Citroen worked wonders turning the distinctly average C3 into the positively sparky DS3, so perhaps it can pull it off again.

What’s it like?

And you can’t fault the effort that’s gone into it. Not only does the DS4 share barely a body panel with the C4 (only the bonnet and front headlights are common to both), this is no nip and tuck operation. The car has been raised by 32mm and the driver’s hip point sits 15mm higher, apparently to give an SUV-like driving position. Underneath the skin the suspension has been completely retuned at both ends and the steering recalibrated too, to fit the sporting image of the DS brand.

Inside the changes are more superficial, feel applied rather than fundamental and depend very much on which of the three grades you buy and how much you’re prepared to spend on expensive extras like leather dash tops and stitched leather seats.

Three BMW developed petrol engines and two PSA diesels will be available from launch, the more powerful 2-litre version of which is in the car you see here.

Given the unprepossessing nature of the raw material, it’s surprisingly good. No, the DS4 isn’t going to send the Germans scuttling back to their drawing boards but nor is there any of the sense of depressing underachievement that pervades the C4 driving experience. The DS4 is genuinely and significantly different. In this regard at least it adds to the good work of the DS3.

Before you’re out of the car park you know good work has been done on the steering, the insipid overly light feel of the C4 has been entirely exorcised. It still feels artificial in a way we know electric systems no longer need to, but it’s no longer a bar to driving pleasure.

Bumble through town and you’ll notice next how firm the suspension feels. Although the spring rate has actually been reduced, this is more than offset by a substantial increase in roll bar diameter and much more damper control. Most of the time the ride is perfectly acceptable, but occasionally you can drop a wheel in a rut and feel a thud you just know a car with a properly independent rear end – take your pick from the Alfa Giulietta to the Mini Countryman – would have dispatched with far greater ease.

Accelerating onto the motorway you’ll find performance adequate, but the powerband of the 2-litre motor narrow even by diesel standards and not well suited to its wide-spread gear ratios. But once at a cruise the ride settles down leaving you alone with an impression of uncanny refinement. This must be one of the quietest four cylinder diesels on earth.

You expect it all to turn to mush once you reach the hills because, after all, there’s the bare bones of C4 under here. But it doesn’t. The DS4 is not a fine handling car by any stretch, but it is perfectly competent, mildly engaging and not at all annoying. None of which we’d feel tempted to say about the C4 in the same environment.

Interestingly for a car that’ll sell so much on showroom appeal, its static qualities are what lets it down. While the outside looks classy and distinct, the interior appears like a mildly warmed over C4. Moreover there’s only just enough room in the back and, amazingly, the rear side windows are fixed. If you can think of another four door, five seat car on sale that won’t let those in the back open the windows even a crack, perhaps you’d let us know.

Should I buy one?

Citroen says the DS4 comprises the style of a coupe with the practicality of a saloon and the driving position of an SUV. The unintended consequence of such a description is to suggest very strongly that the car is a jack of all trades. And it is. Unless you happen to like the way it looks or set particular store by cabin noise levels, it is a car with no world beating attributes.

But that alone should not condemn it. The art of modern motor manufacture is defined by the art of the compromise and those settled upon by Citroen in creating the DS4 are notably well judged, some might say miraculously so given its origins.

So don’t expect the DS4 to change the world or even rewrite its class rules. But if you like what you see enough to buy one, the rest of the car is more than good enough not to make you regret your decision.

Giles Newton

Citroën DS4 2.0HDi DStyle

Price: £23,000 (est); 0-62mph: 9.3sec; Top Speed: 132mph; Economy: 55.3mpg; Co2: 134g/km; Kerb weight: 1320kg; Engine layout: 4 cyls in line, 1997cc; Installation: tranverse front, front-wheel drive; Power: 161bhp at 3750rpm; Torque: 251lb ft at 2000rpm; Power to weight: 122bhp per tonne; Gearbox: 6-sp manual

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Comments
28

6 May 2011

[quote Autocar]

amazingly, the rear side windows are fixed. If you can think of another four door, five seat car on sale that won’t let those in the back open the windows even a crack, perhaps you’d let us know.[/quote]

That really is a case of style over substance. Looking at the side profile, there is no where for the window to go as a one piece unit. Interesting but it will prevent a lot of young families from buying one I'd guess.

As for the rest of the car, the C4 has always had potential as the base hard ware isn't that bad. It was just Citroen decided that's how they wanted the car and that's how it was sold. In saying that, considering the "image" the DS3 has gained, I don't think this car continues that or is good enough.

Shame.

 

 

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

6 May 2011

Quite an achievement.

Any chance Ford could do something similar with the new Focus?

6 May 2011

"The car has been raised by 32mm and the driver’s hip point sits 15mm higher, apparently to give an SUV-like driving position"

Is this incorrect or a joke, 1.5cm. So if I put my cars diver seat to its highest setting i am suddenly in an SUV

6 May 2011

It would have served Citroen better to produce one competitive car with independent rear suspension and a bit of flair than a C4 and a DS4,as neither seems anywhere near class competitive.It would probably have cost them a lot less too.

6 May 2011

I must be one of the few people to think that the C4 looks better than the DS4. Perhaps it is the DS4's grill where the Citroen logo makes it look like an upturned snout.

DS4 mechanicals in a C4 package just might tempt me into a Citroen showroom. Might.


6 May 2011

i think it looks great - even the interior doesn't look as bad as the reviewer said. not too sure about the rear windows though - seems like a bit of a cock up that one! i can imagine the scene now in the Citroen design office...'ah, elle est magnifique, elle ressemble beaucoup une coupe de luxe. tres bien fait! je vais m'assoir dans l'arriere, mais, quoi, c'est quoi ca?? qui a oublie les fenetres ouvrantes? oh merde!!

6 May 2011

[quote TegTypeR]amazingly, the rear side windows are fixed. If you can think of another four door, five seat car on sale that won’t let those in the back open the windows even a crack, perhaps you’d let us know.[/quote]

This beggars belief. No serious car company should have done this and no designer who thinks it's OK should ever be allowed near a car company.

6 May 2011

[quote Chris576]

amazingly, the rear side windows are fixed. If you can think of another four door, five seat car on sale that won’t let those in the back open the windows even a crack, perhaps you’d let us know.

This beggars belief. No serious car company should have done this and no designer who thinks it's OK should ever be allowed near a car company.

[/quote]

I could 'almost' see the point if the side profile was coupe-like..but this doesn't fool anyone. Big Fail Citroen. Shame really as it's not a bad effort, far more interesting than an Astra for example. Looking forward to the DS5.

6 May 2011

I can see the point of having two distinct models, the 'comfortable' C4, and the more 'sporty' DS4, but maybe Citroen have spent too much time and effort making this distinction. Practically all the test of the C4 I have read say its no fun to drive, but yet Citroen used to be able to do fun and comfortable at the same time. Its almost like they've dumbed down the C4 to make the DS4 more appealing. And that rear side window business is just ridiculous.

6 May 2011

A friend of mine has a circa 1980 Plymouth Reliant, it's a 4 door saloon with fixed rear windows.

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