In-depth reviews

DS 4 hatchback review

“The DS 4 is an upmarket hatchback to rival the Mercedes A-Class and is the brand’s most convincing model yet"

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Pros

  • Smart styling
  • Luxurious interior
  • Impressive hybrid model

Cons

  • Rear seat space a little tight
  • AEB not standard
  • Slow diesel model

The reborn DS brand has been around since 2015 but has so far failed to make much of an impact on customers. That may change with the new DS 4, a posh hatchback that’s aimed squarely at the Mercedes A-Class, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, as well as the related Peugeot 308. As evidenced by the A-Class’ regular appearances in our top 10 best-selling cars list, the DS 4 is entering a competitive part of the market and, this time around, it may have the look and feel to succeed.

The previous DS 4 Crossback was given quirky styling to make it stand out but the new one has smart looks and high-quality materials and represents a different take on luxury when compared with its German rivals. DS is also keen to stress that customer service, both before and after you buy, will be top notch too. That’s not always been the case and previously, sharing dealerships with Citroen diluted the DS brand.

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The DS 4 is an interesting car to look at even in entry-level form, with eye-catching daytime running lights and an intricate tail-light design. You can add Performance Line or Cross styling packs if you’d like more sportiness or ruggedness respectively. The Cross is a little jacked up and is trying to be a crossover like the BMW X2, Lexus UX and Cupra Formentor.

The DS 4 and DS 4 Cross can be configured in one of three trim levels: Bastille+, Trocadero and Rivoli, with the Cross only available in the latter two. Performance Line cars can either be ordered in standard form or Performance Line + guise, which features extra equipment. Prices start at around £25,500, which compares well with its rivals, although you’ll be paying nearly £44,000 for the top-spec model with the plug-in hybrid engine.

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The DS 4 E-Tense is available with a range of powertrains that consist of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options. However, DS is set to become an electric-only brand by 2024, so it’s likely the combustion engines will slowly be phased out in favour of electrified units.

In typical DS fashion, the interior looks fantastic. The tall dashboard sweeps uninterrupted over two crisp screens, while the chrome beltline makes the car feel wider and helps to hide the air vents. A third screen in front of the shrunken gear selector can be configured to control your most used functions. The materials used feel very upmarket and we like that it feels quite different to its German rivals. Practicality is decent too, with a bigger boot than the A-Class and Volkswagen Golf.

MPG, running costs & CO2

DS 4 has economical petrol and diesel engines but the E-Tense plug-in hybrid offers the potential for the lowest running costs

A range of familiar engines means the DS 4 shouldn’t be expensive to run. The cheapest engine, a 1.2-litre petrol, will manage up to 48.6mpg, while the 1.6-litre petrols are far more powerful and return up to 43mpg. Drivers who cover far more miles than average will be drawn to the 1.5-litre diesel; it’s more expensive than the similarly powered petrol but offers up to 61mpg.

A DS 4 E-Tense plug-in hybrid model is available from launch and will be the cheapest to run if you regularly plug it in. This has an electric range of up to 38 miles – slightly less than the 44 miles promised by the equivalent Mercedes A 250e. Like all plug-in hybrids, it’s rather expensive and will make the most sense as a company car, due to its 27-35g/km CO2 output - meaning a far lower Benefit-in-Kind tax bracket than petrol and diesel models.

A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is a pretty standard offering, although the Mercedes A-Class does get cover for unlimited mileage in three years. The E-Tense’s battery gets an eight-year warranty, which covers you if the battery drops below 70% charging capacity in that time.

Engines, drive & performance

The DS 4 aims to be calm rather than sporty and there’s a wide choice of engines

Five engines make up the DS 4 lineup, with petrol and plug-in hybrid range-toppers. Both have 222bhp, while the petrol engine is also available with 178bhp. The remaining 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines have 128bhp each, and the diesel is likely to be a niche choice - not only because it’s more expensive but also because it’s not very quick, with 0-62mph taking almost 11 seconds.

DS hasn’t provided a 0-62mph time for the entry-level petrol but the 178bhp and 222bhp versions take 8.0 and 7.9 seconds respectively - so unless the trim level you want is only available with the 222bhp engine, we’d say save some money and get the mid-range petrol. The plug-in hybrid E-Tense version takes 7.7 seconds, although it doesn’t feel quite as quick as the range-topping petrol we tried.

Of the two, the hybrid is a better fit for the DS 4. The 1.6-litre PureTech petrol engine can feel a little frantic at times, while the hybrid remains sophisticated, which better suits the car’s relaxed nature. While it does prioritise comfort, the driving experience isn’t bad; the steering is accurate and it’s entertaining at times.

Interior & comfort

A luxurious interior awaits DS 4 buyers

DS has combined its latest technology with high-quality materials to great effect and the resulting interior is good enough to compete with that of a Mercedes or an Audi. A seven-inch digital instrument cluster is joined by a widescreen 10-inch touchscreen, while there’s also a smaller screen above the gear selector, which can be used as a shortcut to regularly used functions. The touchscreen itself is bright and responsive, however the operating system isn’t quite as slick as those seen on German rivals such as the BMW 1 Series.

The gear selector is almost hidden out of view, as are the air vents, to make the interior look cleaner and more minimalist. All the switches feel good to touch and the effect is that the DS DS 4 feels more expensive than it is. You can also choose ‘watchstrap’ leather upholstery, while the Performance Line packs add large swathes of Alcantara suede.

All cars get LED headlights, keyless start and that high-definition touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Moving up from Bastille+ to Trocadero adds bigger alloy wheels, a reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking, sat nav and keyless entry. Rivoli brings leather seats, upgraded headlights, laminated glass and extra driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. There are also two Performance Line versions, with sportier trimmings, plus Cross versions of the Trocadero and Rivoli trim levels.

Options include wireless phone charging and a Focal stereo system, and you can add some of the luxuries from higher trim levels onto cheaper models. Cross models are available with an advanced traction control system to give better grip on wet ground (in the absence of proper four-wheel drive), while DS’ night vision package, that also includes extra safety features, is an option across all but the base model. Bear in mind that options range in price depending on trim level; the night vision ranges between £1,900 and £3,300.

Practicality & boot space

Slightly more practical than its closest rivals, although rear seat space could be better

The DS 4 offers plenty of space for those in the front but legroom is a little tight for those in the rear. Our main issue is that there’s not a lot of space to put your feet under the front seats, even if headroom is generous. If you regularly drive tall adults around, you might be better off in the larger DS 7 Crossback.

Boot space is better, as the DS 4’s 430-litre luggage compartment is 50 litres bigger than the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. It’s on a par with the Cupra Formentor and bigger than the Lexus UX but the BMW X2 is more practical still. Choosing the plug-in hybrid doesn’t sacrifice space too much, with the 390-litre boot only around 10% smaller. A plug-in hybrid Mercedes A 250 e has noticeably less space at 310 litres.

Reliability and safety

No safety data is available yet, while DS customer satisfaction seems to be improving

Euro NCAP awarded the DS 4 four out of five stars in crash safety testing, however this increases to the full five-star rating with the Safety Plus Pack fitted. The Peugeot 508, DS 7 Crossback and Vauxhall Grandland all share a platform with the DS 4 and all got the maximum score. DS has made a lot of safety kit available, including Level 2 semi-autonomous driving (with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist).

There are two optional safety packs to choose from: Advanced Safety and DS Drive Assist. The former includes adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and blind spot monitoring. Cars fitted with the more comprehensive DS Drive pack also benefit from lane keeping assist. The aforementioned night vision system is also available, albeit at a fairly hefty price.

DS didn’t feature in our 2021 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey but its 22nd place finish (out of 30) in 2020 was a six-place rise on the year before. Its ties with Citroen are still a little too obvious but DS assures us that customer service will be second to none, both in the presale and aftersale areas.

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