What is it?
In the 10 months since the DS brand was launched as a standalone entity, a lot has happened. New models have been unveiled, including the Chinese market DS6 WR SUV, while updated versions of the existing range have been released. Now it’s the turn of the DS4, the facelifted version of which is aimed at further differentiating the upmarket hatch from the Citroën C4 on which it is based.
The key changes are the adoption of the DS-specific front end, with a distinctive grille and new headlights. There’s also new equipment, including a 7.0in touchscreen sat-nav and media system that features Apple CarPlay.
Two trim levels are offered, called Elegance and Prestige. Both are well equipped, offering the likes of sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth, climate and cruise control as standard, while a range of upgrades, trim and paint finishes are also available.
Engine options include several familiar petrol and diesel engines from PSA Peugeot-Citroën, but the notable addition is the THP 210 tested here. This 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit makes its debut in the DS4, in which it offers up 208bhp and 210lb ft.
What's it like?
Previously, the DS4 was not held in high regard. The most prominent problems, barring its visual similarity to the less expensive C4, were its sub-standard ride quality and limited rear room, a factor made even more annoying due to poor rear access.
The facelifted DS4 sets out to tackle the lumpen ride issues with revised suspension, consisting of a lowered ride height and new dampers and springs. On smooth roads it's fine but the body still moves around a lot in corners and the suspension thuds and crashes over sharp bumps. Rarely does it feel truly settled or composed.
The steering strikes a similarly unhappy balance, proving quite heavy at low speeds yet lacking in additional weighting in high-speed corners. This doesn’t inspire much confidence, despite the DS4 having a decent amount of front-end grip. There's also little in the way of feedback, and noticeable vibration through the steering column at higher speeds.
DS’s new THP 210 engine provides adequate motive power, with a linear response and a suitably rorty note. There’s a pronounced shunt as you tip in on or off the throttle, however, which is annoying for a supposedly finely detailed product. The six-speed gearbox has a pleasant shift action, though, and the front axle rarely struggles for traction. Braking power is adequate and the initial response isn't too aggressive.
Up front it's not particularly roomy, although It’s easy to find a decent driving position. The seats, however, are not supportive enough. Quality is hit and miss; the leather on the seats is plush and neatly trimmed, but the materials elsewhere in the cabin are easily marked. Both wind and road noise can be intrusive, further detracting from the cabin's appeal. On the plus side, the media and navigation system works well.
Alas, the situation in the rear has not improved. The pronounced trailing edge of the doors is still always further back than you expect, routinely interfacing with either yourself or adjacent solid objects, while getting into the cramped rear seats requires considerable contortion. You still can't wind down the rear windows, either, which will frustrate some. The easily accessed boot is of a good size, though, and the rear seats split and fold.
A 13-gallon fuel tank should grant a useful range of over 600 miles if you average the claimed economy. Our test car returned a lesser 33mpg following a mixed test route, however, which would result in a range of around 420 miles.
Should I buy one?
If you're not sold solely on the looks and detailing, it's tricky to make a case for the DS4. Ultimately there’s still too much amiss for it to be a serious contender. That said, it does represent quite good value for money, offering a more powerful engine, better equipment levels and more options than rivals which cost thousands of pounds more.
Depreciation could make any saving on that front a moot point in short order, but the forecast values are quite competitive at the moment. Time will tell. For now, we would still prefer to opt for a less well-specified alternative that offers better dynamic qualities and practicality.
DS does appear to be listening to feedback, however, which bodes well for the fledgling brand.
2015 DS4 THP 210 S&S Prestige 6-speed manual
Location Chinon, France; On sale Now; Price £22,995; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 208bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 210lb ft at 1750rpm; Kerb weight 1430kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 47.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 138g/km, 22%