From £16,9806
Distinctive DS hatchback gets revamped styling and new options, but the facelift fails to address the previous version's major issues

Our Verdict

DS4

The DS 4 is a high-riding hatchback, but for all its maker's claims to the contrary, its too much like the standard C4

Matt Burt
13 October 2015

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%

Join the debate

Comments
14

13 October 2015
I liked it enough to take a test drive about 2 years ago, that was a 200hp 1.6 petrol THP, I so wanted to like it but various things bugged me. The article says “..due to poor rear access“ you’re not kidding you had to limbo into the back seats and even then you’d be stabbed in the chest by the door frame. Once in you’d have the kids looking for the rear window button as they were feeling car sick only to find this expensive 5 door has no wind down rear window, image that in a Seat Leon. It also had no DAB but they must have fixed that but I’d check first, and the engine felt a bit lifeless considering it has over 200 bhp, born out by the slow’ish 0-60 for a 210 hatchback. I was hoping to like it as much as the DS3 and C3 but it felt a bit of a jack-of-all trades etc.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

13 October 2015
xxxx wrote:

I liked it enough to take a test drive about 2 years ago, that was a 200hp 1.6 petrol THP, I so wanted to like it but various things bugged me. The article says “..due to poor rear access“ you’re not kidding you had to limbo into the back seats and even then you’d be stabbed in the chest by the door frame. Once in you’d have the kids looking for the rear window button as they were feeling car sick only to find this expensive 5 door has no wind down rear window, image that in a Seat Leon. It also had no DAB but they must have fixed that but I’d check first, and the engine felt a bit lifeless considering it has over 200 bhp, born out by the slow’ish 0-60 for a 210 hatchback. I was hoping to like it as much as the DS3 and C3 but it felt a bit of a jack-of-all trades etc.

And then you went off to buy a Vauxhall didn't you? Honestly, some people!

13 October 2015

Afternoon xxxx. Yes, the decision to never fit opening rear windows is a very curious one. Presumably the glass and mechanism would not fit within the door. The new DS4 does indeed come with DAB as standard, in either specification. You are right about the jack-of-all-trades feel; with this engine it furthermore appears like it's a semi-attempt at a warm hatchback with luxury trimmings, but would a buyer looking for an upmarket and comfortable hatch want a raucous, punchy 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine? I'm not so sure, myself. What did you go for in the end?

14 October 2015
xxxx wrote:

It also had no DAB but they must have fixed

They have, and it can be dealer fitted to existing cars as well

13 October 2015
To improve the ride, they lowered the ride height, precisely the opposite of what they did to the DS5 to address the same problem. I'm no expert, but this sounds counter-intuitive and, in any event, hasn't worked. So, we're left with a poorly riding, poorly steering, cramped hatchback that suffers from wind noise, a snatchy driveline and inconsistent quality cabin. Still, its got Apple CarPlay, so that must be what makes it "upmarket". I can think of any number of better ways to spend £23k, assuming, as it's now a fully-fledged "premium" brand, that any discounts will be minimal. Good luck with that...

13 October 2015

I think the company was trying to help stabilise the car by lowering it a little, as well as perhaps shifting its handling more towards the 'sporting' end of the spectrum. One official did tell me that they'd made no changes to the geometry, however, which may have resulted in some negative effects. The new DS4 Crossback, which I believe retains a similar ride height to the original, feels much more composed. I agree, I'd rather put my money elsewhere - but if someone does like the styling, or wants some of the high-end kit not available elsewhere (i.e. massaging seats), then fair play to them.

13 October 2015
There's a DS badge on the bonnet, and just a few centimetres away, another (but different) DS badge on the grille. I take it they couldn't decide which was best, so had both just in case, or the memo was not circulated.

13 October 2015

It's just a bit too much, isn't it, Adrian. I'd prefer it if they removed the one on the bonnet. Would you ever be tempted by a DS?

13 October 2015
No, Lewis, not tempted yet anyway. I think "DS" are trying too hard, and I am not convinced their designs will age very well. Generally, I prefer simpler designs with few embellishments. As a matter of interest, I sat in a C4 Cactus when I was looking around for a new car, but as I "nutted" my head against the sun visor/header rail (is that where they got their name?) when I tried to peer across the bonnet to see where the end of it was, I got straight out again. I don't know whether the DS suffers the same poor design.

13 October 2015
As the most half-baked model in the DS range I'd have hoped that Citroen could have done more to answer the criticisms with this overhaul. It seems like they haven't, and I'm sure the visually very similar C4 offers a much better value proposition

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