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"
- Smart styling
- Luxurious interior
- Impressive hybrid model
- 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.
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.
Four trim levels make up the range: Bastille+, Trocadero, Rivoli and the first-edition La Premiere, but these are separate to the packs mentioned above. 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.
The DS 4 E-Tense plug-in hybrid is one of two engines available at launch. Both are based on a 1.6-litre petrol engine and have 222bhp but the hybrid adds a rechargeable battery to enable up to 38 miles of pure electric range. In time, the other engines fitted to most Vauxhalls, Peugeots and Citroens will be available, namely 128 and 178bhp ‘PureTech’ petrol engines and a 128bhp ‘BlueHDi’ diesel engine. All get an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
By 2024, DS is set to become an electric-only brand, so the DS 4 looks set to lose its conventional engines in a couple of years’ time.
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
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. An electric range of around 38 miles is enough to cover the average person’s daily commute. Like all plug-in hybrids, it’ll 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
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
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 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 £1,000 and £3,300.
Practicality & boot space
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 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
Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the new DS 4 yet but we’d expect a five-star score if it does get tested. 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 also plied its new model with a lot of safety kit, including level 2 semi-autonomous driving (including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist).
The La Premiere range-topper also gets rear traffic monitoring and blind-spot assistance, while a night vision system is optional. This is a system that you’ll struggle to find on its competitors and uses an infrared camera in the grille to spot pedestrians and animals up to 200m away.
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.