“Quirky yet practical, the Citroen DS4 brings additional style and a sporty feel to an already impressive family car.”
Citroen took the DS range upmarket when it re-launched the DS brand it in 2010 as special versions of existing models designed to give buyers a little something extra. The stylish DS4 hatchback offers a combination of style, practicality and a sportier driving experience than the C4 model on which it's based, with lots of luxuries thrown in for good measure. There are five engines to choose from – three petrol and two diesels – and the car has comfortable, high-riding suspension. Standard equipment levels are generous, accompanied by a series of sophisticated touches in the interior to maintain that premium feel. It comes in three specs – DSign, DStyle and DSport - with all models coming equipped with LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, air-con, multifunction steering wheel and cruise control. It may not be as responsive to drive as rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and it is a little cramped inside (the fixed rear side windows not helping its family-car credibility either) but there's no denying its style helps its stand out against the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 Sportback.
Family buyers who find that the Citroen C4 just isn’t sporty enough, should look at the DS4 instead. As it's based around the C4, the upgraded suspension and sharper steering manage to deliver a more exhilarating driving experience without having to sacrifice the original family car's practicality. The sportiest model is the 197bhp 1.6-litre petrol DSport 200 THP, which will do 0-62 in only 8.5 seconds. Of the rest of the engines available, the 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol is the one to avoid, while the 154bhp turbocharged version may be better but is hampered by being paired with an awkward six-speed semi-automatic gearbox. The best balance of performance and economy, however, come from the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre HDi diesel engines, which will have enough power and decent mpg for most buyers.
Even though the new DS4's suspension is more stiffly sprung that the C4 on which it's based, comfort hasn’t been sacrificed in a foolhardy quest for driving thrills. So, the good news for family buyers is that the DS4's ride is smooth and comfortable. Bad news for those seeking a really sporty car is that it can fall between stalls, even though the DS4 is much sharper and agile than the C4.
There's no denying that Citroen doesn’t have the best reputation for reliable cars. However, the company did manage to improve its ranking in the annual Auto Express Driver Power reliability and customer satisfaction survey, climbing to 22 in 2012, which bodes well for the performance of the latest DS4. It certainly feels solidly built and all models are equipped with electronic stability control, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and six airbags as standard – which helped it secure a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. And if you opt for either a DStyle or DSport spec you’ll also get Citroen's eTouch emergency assistance system, which contacts the emergency services for you automatically if you’re involved in a crash.
The DS4's eye-catching style comes with its own set of pros and cons. The unusual combination of a coupe-like shape (complete with ‘hidden’ rear doors) and a raised ride height means that while the driver does have a great view of the road, the boot capacity is smaller that the original C4, the back doors are difficult to get in and out of, the rear seats are a bit cramped, and you can’t open the rear windows at all. Admittedly, the boot is still roomier than many rivals at 385 litres, with split/fold back seats as standard, and because the DS4 is taller, wider and shorter than the C4, there is room inside for five adults. Inside you also get a cooled centre console storage bin, large door cubbies and storage drawers under the front seats as standard. The glovebox, however, is pretty small. Overall, the DS4 falls down on practicality compared to more traditional family car rivals.
Value for money
LED lights and some extra trim on the body make the DS4 look that little bit more exclusive, its lower price trying to tempt buyers away from premium rivals like the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. The interior is comfortable but also has an upmarket feel thanks to exclusive materials and quality finishes. There are loads of DS logos dotted about and you can choose from a selection of themes that make you feel like you’re driving something special. Safety equipment includes intelligent traction control to keep the car under control in any weather conditions the UK may throw at you. Plus, all models should have strong used value when it comes time to sell in a few years.
With efficiency increasingly crucial, the DS4's engine line-up offers a decent mix of economy and performance, with reasonable running costs and low road tax bills. The most efficient engine is the 1.6 HDi diesel, which returns 64.2mpg while emitting 114g/km of CO2, but it comes fitted with a frankly clunky semi-automatic gearbox that removes a lot of driver enjoyment. At the other end of the scale, the 200 THP is the fastest and most expensive, even though it's 44.1mpg economy and 149g/km emissions are not far off the 1.6-litre petrol that offers a lot less performance. Servicing costs should be comparable to the C4.