The recent past has not been particularly rosy for Citroën and its parent company, PSA.

Only last year, Europe’s second-largest car maker had to be bailed out of dire financial straits by the French government and its Chinese partner, Dongfeng Motors.

Tepid demand in Europe for new cars was blamed, although the group’s equally tepid product line-up could be rightfully identified as doing it no favours.

One remedy to the patent lack of elan was the formation of DS Automobiles, a large-scale rebranding exercise intended to inject some Parisian-style flair.

The exercise kicked off in 2009 with the very well-received DS 3 supermini and continued with the very good-looking (albeit slightly less well-received) DS 5 crossover.

In between the two, in 2010, we got the first DS 4. Based on the Citroën C4, it provided the DS project with the family-sized hatchback normally required to generate sustainable volume in Europe.

Despite its utterly conventional platform, Citroën insisted the car wasn’t conventional at all and described it as a hybrid of a saloon, a coupé and a compact 4x4 – in other words, just the kind of avant-garde amalgamation it had conceived the DS badge to deliver in the first place.

Unfortunately, the most unorthodox thing about the 4 was the decision to nail the rear windows shut. Otherwise, it was a modestly raised C4 under a modestly prettier body.

The imprudence of Citroën’s attempt to sell this variant as more ‘sporting’ than its lower-to-the-ground sibling is reflected in the decision to split its facelifted replacement into two entities: the 4 (a standard hatch) and this, the 4 Crossback, a higher-riding variant for those interested in ‘urban adventure’.

That niche, you’ll hardly need reminding, is spoilt for choice, with a multitude of compact crossovers jostling for attention. We tested the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120 to discover the 4 Crossback’s proper place among them.

Top 5 Crossovers

  • Nissan Qashqai
    The Nissan Qashqai gets a new look and more functionality in an effort to attract a new generation of buyers

    Nissan Qashqai

    1
  • Ford Kuga
    Ford's targeting a class above with its bigger Kuga

    Ford Kuga

    2
  • The second generation BMW X1

    BMW X1

    3
  • Skoda Yeti
    The Yeti is a crossover that's available with both two- and four-wheel drive

    Skoda Yeti

    4
  • Mazda CX-5
    CX-5's exterior has been shaped using Mazda's 'Kodo - soul of motion' design

    Mazda CX-5

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the DS range

  • DS 4 Crossback

Driven this week