“Quirky yet practical, the Citroen DS4 brings additional style and a sporty feel to an already impressive family car.”
The 2010 re-launch of the DS range marked Citroen's drive to move it upmarket, offering special versions of existing models that were designed to give buyers that little something extra that they felt Citroens lack. The stylish DS4 hatchback therefore offers a mix of style, practicality and a sportier driving experience than the C4 model that it's based on, throwing in lots of luxuries and accessories for good measure. The range offers a choice of five engines – three petrol and two diesels – and the car has comfortable, high-riding suspension. You get a lot of equipment as standard, along with a series of sophisticated touches in the interior to boost that premium feel. It comes in three main specifications – entry-level DSign, mid-range DStyle and top-of-the-range DSport - with all models coming fitted with LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, air-con, a multifunction steering wheel and cruise control as standard. It may not be as responsive to drive as rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and it is a little cramped inside (the fixed rear side windows also don’t really help its family car credibility) but there's no denying it has some real style that helps it to stand out against the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 Sportback.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Even though efficiency is proving to be increasingly crucial in today's car market, the DS4's engine line-up offers a fairly average mix of economy and performance, with reasonable running costs and low-end road tax bills. The most efficient engine in the range is the 1.6-litre HDi diesel, which returns 65.7 in combined fuel economy, while emitting 114g/km of CO2 (tax band C, £30 a year), but it comes fitted with an annoyingly clunky semi-automatic gearbox that often robs you of any driver enjoyment. At the other end of the scale, the 200 THP is easily the fastest (and most expensive), even though its 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, so fairly affordable.
Interior & comfort
The good news for family buyers is that the DS4's ride is smooth and comfortable, even though the latest DS4's suspension is more firmly sprung that the C4 that it's based on. So, comfort hasn’t been sacrificed in a foolhardy quest for driving thrills and extra speed. The bad news for those customers who are seeking a really sporty car is that it can fall between stalls, even though the DS4 is undeniably much sharper and agile than the standard C4.
Practicality & boot space
Any car that comes along sporting the kind of eye-catching style that the DS4 does always comes with its own set of pros and cons. The unusual combining of a coupe-like shape (complete with ‘hidden’ rear doors) and a raised ride height means that, while the driver may have a great view of the road ahead, the boot space on offer is actually smaller than the original C4, the back doors are difficult to get in and out of, the rear seats are a somewhat cramped, and you can’t even open the rear windows at all. Admittedly, the boot's 385 litres is still roomier than many rivals, with split-fold back seats fitted as standard, and because the DS4 is taller, wider and shorter than the C4, there is easily enough room inside for five adults to sit comfortably. You also get a cooled centre console storage bin, deep door cubbies and storage drawers under the front seats included as standard. The glove compartment, however, is annoyingly small. Overall, the DS4 does fall down on practicality compared to its more traditional family car rivals.
Reliability & safety
In a disappointing example of reverting to form, Citroen, after managing to climb its way off the bottom of the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey to reach the heady heights of 22nd place (out of 30), and has managed to drop back two spots to 24th in the 2013 poll. This is hardly going to help Citroen's reputation for producing unreliable cars. The current DS4 doesn’t yet appear in the top 150 cars in the survey, but the DS3 managed a pretty impressive 36th in the list of the top 100 cars, which bodes well for the expected future performance of the DS4. It certainly feels solidly constructed, with all models fitted with electronic stability control (ESP), ISOFIX child seat anchor points and six airbags as standard – which helped it secure the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. And if you choose either a DStyle or DSport specification, you’ll also get Citroen's eTouch emergency assistance system, which automatically calls the emergency services for you if you’re involved in a crash.
Engines, drive & performance
Citroen is offering a simple equation with the DS4 – any family buyers who find that the Citroen C4 just isn’t sporty enough for them should look at the DS4 instead. Because it starts with the C4 as its basis, the DS4's upgraded suspension and sharper steering do offer a more exhilarating driving experience, but without resorting to sacrificing the original family car's practicality. It's by no means perfect, but it does achieve what it set out to do. The sportiest model is the 197bhp 1.6-litre petrol DSport 200 THP, which will accelerate from 0-62 in only 8.5 seconds. Of the rest of the engines available, we’d suggest giving the 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol a wide steer, and while the 154bhp turbocharged version may be superior, it's hamstrung by being paired with a clunky six-speed semi-automatic gearbox. The best combination of performance and economy, though, come from the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre HDi diesel engines, which will have enough power and decent economy to keep most buyers happy.
Price, value for money & options
The DS4's lower purchase price, LED daytime running lights and sexier trim on its body may well tempt some premium buyers away from key rivals such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, making it seem that little bit more exclusive than it probably really is. The interior is comfortable but also offers a more upmarket feel thanks to high-quality materials and top-notch finishes. There are lots of DS logos dotted about the place and you can choose from a selection of themes that are designed to make you feel like you’re driving something truly special. Safety equipment includes intelligent traction control to keep the car on the straight and narrow in any weather conditions that the squally UK may throw at you. Plus, all models should have strong resale value on the used car market when it comes time to sell it second-hand in a few years.