As it tries to establish the DS brand as a separate entity, Citroen has renamed ts mid-size upmarket VW Golf rival the DS 4. However, most people are still likely to call it the Citroen DS 4, not least because it's sold in Citroen dealerships. The company's point is that the DS 4 is quite different from standard Citroens and harks back to the legendary Citroen DS model line, famous for its soft suspension, striking looks and advanced technology. In truth, today's DS 4 doesn't quite live up to DS models of old, but it does look and feel quite distinctive.
For example, a raised ride height means that, although it looks like a hatchback, the DS 4 doesn't quite fit the established mould. In fact, it has a little of the compact SUV about it, pitting it against cars such as the Nissan Qashqai as well as conventional hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf and more upmarket models like the BMW 1 Series. Unfortunately, such a broad spread of targets means the DS fails to beat any of them comprehensively.
There are three petrol and three diesel engines to choose from. Inevitably, the diesels are more efficient, but the cheapest petrol – the PureTech 130 – is not only the cheapest DS 4 in the range, it's also quite frugal. Despite being able to take the car from 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds, it returns 54.3 mpg and costs just £30 a year to tax. The quickest petrol, with a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds, is the 200 THP, although economy falls to 44.1mpg here.
Of the diesels, the BlueHDi 150 provides the best balance of strong performance and good economy, with an 8.8-second 0-62mph time, 57.6mpg fuel economy and £20 road tax. One interesting new engine is the e-HDi 115. It uses the energy that would normally be lost during braking to power a small electric motor. This supports the diesel engine and helps improve economy and reduce CO2 emissions. However, the more conventional BlueHDi 120 is the most economical engine, at 72.4mpg.
Unfortunately, the faster models betray the DS 4's modest ride and handling abilities. The raised ride height is the biggest culprit here, causing rather too much body lean in corners. Regardless of the engine, the suspension is a little too firm as well, meaning the car can be quite bouncy.
Inside, cabin quality isn't as good as a Golf's, while space – especially in the rear – is quite limited. The deep windscreen, which extends into the roofline, is a nice touch, though, that makes the cabin light and airy.
Trim levels are DSign, DStyle Nav and DSport. All have air-conditioning, alloy wheels and cruise control. The DS 4 is a safe car, having been awarded the full five stars in crash tests conducted by Euro NCAP. All versions have six airbags, ISOFIX child-seat mountings and traction control.