Citroen DS4 hatchback

£17,855 - £26,595

The Citroen DS4 is the mid-sized offering in Citroen's range of DS models, which also includes the DS3 and the DS5. The DS name comes from the classic Citroen DS that was sold from the 1950s to the 1970s – it's seen as one of Citroen's defining models thanks to its distinctive looks and sophisticated suspension that gave it an extremely comfortable ride.

A blend of classy looks, an upmarket interior and a raised ride height mean that (for the price) the DS4 has few direct rivals. Potential competitors cover a broad spectrum of talent that includes the Volkswagen Golf, BMW 1 Series and even the Nissan Qashqai. Subjectively at least, the DS4 doesn’t make a great case for itself – it falls behind all its rivals in key areas, but if you’d like a car that marks you out from the crowd, then keep reading…

The DS4 is available with a choice of three diesel and three petrol engines. The petrols can’t match the economy of the diesels, but the basic 1.2-litre petrol model is the cheapest version in the range, while the THP 200 is almost as quick as hot hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The diesels also deliver spritely performance and the mid-range HDI 135 mixes that with good economy. Yet the Airdream 1.6-litre diesel engine makes the most sense in the DS4, because it's by far the most efficient and cheapest to run.

Faster DS4 models make a less convincing case. Citroen has attempted to make the DS4 better to drive than the C4 hatchback on which it's based – often maligned for offering little feedback, the electric power-steering has been dropped for a more communicative electro-hydraulic system. But the car's raised ride height means it leans quite a bit in corners and can’t match the ‘magic carpet’ ride of the classic DS, which used Citroen's clever hydropneumatic suspension.

There are three trim levels to choose from in the DS4: DSign, DStyle, and DSport, but this is a well equipped car and even the most basic version comes with cruise control, alloy wheels, air-conditioning and electric windows.