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Citroen’s luxury offshoot presents a comfy, quirky take on the premium hatchback

What is it?

There’s not much wrong with a BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class or Audi A3. If you’re after a posh VW Golf-sized hatchback, there’s every chance one of those will fit your needs. But when they litter every residential street – the A-Class has been Britain’s tenth best selling car so far in 2022 – you’d be forgiven for wanting something a bit different, something like the DS 4.

With a focus on being French, comfortable and slightly alternative, the DS 4 fills a very clear theoretical gap in the market. Time will tell whether that will translate to actual sales but to do that, the DS4 will also need to simply be a competitive product.

Mechanically there are few surprises. The DS 4 rides on the EMP2 platform, just like the majority of the larger ex-PSA Stellantis cars including the Peugeot 308Peugeot 508, Vauxhall AstraVauxhall Grandland X and the larger DS 9.

That means the DS 4 gets the usual selection of petrol, and plug-in hybrid powertrains, as well as a diesel option. Depending on which trim level you go for, there are 178 and 221bhp versions of the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol, a 129bhp 1.2-litre triple and a 1.5-litre diesel with 129bhp. All come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

DS is heavily pushing electrification, so the current range-topper is the E-Tense 225, which uses the familiar combination of a 178bhp 1.6 (the same unit as in the PureTech 180) and an electric motor. In 2024, a pure-electric version will join the range.

What's it like?

We drove the plug-in hybrid, whose powertrain is as smooth and powerful as it is in other applications, and at an official 35 miles (or about mid-20s in the real world) its pure-electric range is on par with the competition.

There is plenty else to like about the DS4. It plays the comfort card well – mostly. Our test car had adaptive dampers with three settings. Comfort modes offers one of the softest long-wave rides you’ll find in a hatchback and even sport is still very pliant indeed. Being a modern car with big alloy wheels, though, it still can’t perfectly cocoon you from pothole impacts, despite the supposed ability of the 'ActiveScan' suspension to prime the suspension for upcoming potholes.

The latest generation of DSs are defiantly unsporty, with lots of body roll and light steering, but given the ride comfort stacks up, that’s absolutely fine.

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The DS4’s cabin is also nicely hushed on the motorway and the materials feel at least up to par with the Germans. The design and lay-out make the DS4 a more special place to be than the sometimes-austere Germans, though it could do with a dash of colour, as most trims are very dark.

The problem with the DS4 is that in some ways it feels like a late development prototype with a few kinks still to be worked out. But when you’re asking the same money as the Germans, that attention to detail really matters.

The seats themselves are relatively comfortable, but the base is a bit too flat and can’t be tilted, which makes for a very poor driving position for the longer of leg.

The infotainment has its own style, can be customised to your own taste, and works relatively logically once you get used to it, but it’s not the quickest and when you step into a BMW with iDrive, the DS’s affectations all seem a bit silly and contrived.

The little annoyances continue to stack up: the brake pedal on the plug-in hybrid is soft and inconsistent, the adaptive cruise control is dim-witted, there are a few fittings in the interior that don’t quite feel built for the ages, and the car treats presses on the shift paddles as suggestions rather than commands, rendering them all but redundant.

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Should I buy one?

Prices start from £26,860 for the 129bhp 1.2 Puretech, £34,660 for the 1.6 Puretech 180 in Performance Line + trim, while the E-Tense 225 plug-in hybrid costs at least £36,100 in Performance Line spec. Those prices are in line with premium rivals, though the hybrid can get very expensive when optioned up.

The DS4 can’t hide behind an attractive price tag, then. It’s an original take on the premium hatchback and likeable for it too. It does some things well, but can’t quite make the landing stick in the way that this new brand perhaps should in the face of stiff competition.

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Comments
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Bishop 8 June 2022
Both the new Astra and 308 share the same EMP2 platform as the DS4; they are not on the CMP platform as suggested here.
Illya Verpraet 9 June 2022

You're right. I've amended that paragraph. Thanks.

xxxx 8 June 2022

Emm 1.6 performance line is only a 1k cheaper than the 128ti, and I've a feeling the BMW would run rings round it on the sporty front.  Might be interesting at the cheaper end of the range with a discount but not at the 32k+ end.

shiftright 8 June 2022

Not everyone wants a sporty drive and a stiff suspension. This DS focuses on comfort in the way the French aer so good at. Very glad to see an alternatiev to the ubiquitous German fare. 

xxxx 9 June 2022

If you are not interested in a sporty drive you wouldn't be looking at the 128ti then or the DS4 1.6 turbo Performance line. But if you were then the baely more expensive BMW wins it IMHO.

Andrew1 8 June 2022
I've just seen one in France. Absolutely beautiful. Only Brits will keep comparing these with their beloved Germans.
Marc 8 June 2022
Was the driver wearing a béret and carrying a string of oignons?
Andrew1 9 June 2022
No, but he had a beautiful French wife.
Marc 9 June 2022
Comment sais-tu qu'elle était française?
shiftright 8 June 2022

The German spin machine is strong.

Marc 8 June 2022
So is the force
xxxx 9 June 2022

Unlike DS sales outside france