There are three flavours of DS4, called DSign, DStyle and DSport, with 17-inch alloys, Hill Start Assist, air-con, daytime-running LEDs, fog lights, cruise control and a six-speaker audio system as standard. DStyle adds 18-inch alloy wheels, auto windscreen wipers and headlamps, front sports seats with lumbar adjustment and massage function, part-leather upholstery, climate control, rear parking sensors and eTouch. DSport models get heated front seats, leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, front parking sensors which can measure a parking space, blind-spot monitoring and a body styling kit.
The introduction of an upmarket DS model line-up has been a big success for Citroen, with the supermini-sized DS3 being its best-selling car of 2012 bar none. The Citroen DS4 is a Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 rival, and it takes a new approach to the popular small family car. The DS4 has a taller roofline, but it’s also curved, to give it a coupe-like profile. Key design cues include the Citroen chevrons incorporated into two grille bars, chrome trim around the windows and side sills and LED rear lights.
Citroen wants the DS4 to be seen as a premium contender, so there are lots of soft touch plastics and piano black pieces of plastic trim in the cabin. Hidden beneath what you can see, there’s also lots of carefully placed soundproofing, to make the interior ambience as relaxing as possible on the move. Where in Citroens of old the dials were purely functional, here they are more ornate and playful, with a selection of colours for the graphics and chrome cowling surrounding them. There’s also a stretched windscreen, which extends above your head, with blinds for when the sun is strong. It’s a dramatic step up for Citroen, but the latest Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf are even better, oozing more class with less effort and fewer buttons for a cleaner layout.
The diesel offerings are a 1.6-litre 110 HDi and a 2.0-litre 160 HDi, so you can either have a sensible shopper or something more suited to devouring motorways. Petrol choices include a 1.6-litre with 120, 155 or 200bhp depending on its state of tune and the depth of your wallet. The 160 HDi reaches 62mph in 9.3 seconds, while the 200bhp petrol dispatches it in 8.5. We tested the 2.0-litre diesel, which was quiet and surprisingly keen to rev for a diesel, and it proved to be the highlight of the car.
The taller roof doesn’t translate to a feeling of greater interior space, with rear passengers likely to complain of limited knee room. They might also moan about the fact the rear windows don’t open, due to the complex shape of the rear door, which also has a worryingly sharp point when open. The boot is pretty decent, however, with a volume of 385 litres if you count the under floor storage area. The Ford Focus makes do with 316-litres, while the Audi A3 has 365 litres.
The DS4 shares its underpinnings with the Citroen C4, so its technology is used in a huge number of vehicles and has been through rigorous testing and development.
Ride and handling
Despite being higher off the ground, the DS4 is actually sportier to drive than the Citroen C4 which it’s based on. The suspension has been revised, so there’s less body roll and not as much slack in the steering. It’s fun to drive, up to a point, but this is by no means a sports car and the DS4 is likely to be overlooked by driving enthusiasts in favour of the athletic BMW 1 Series. It’s at its best cruising at a decent lick on smooth roads, and starts to lose its composure if the tarmac is scarred or potholed.
Citroen has one of cleanest car parcs of any manufacturer, and the DS4 won’t put it in jeopardy. The 110 HDi should average 60.1mpg and emit 122g/km of CO2, with the Airdream automatic model hitting 64.2mpg and 118g/km. Even the 200bhp model manages 44.1mpg and 149g/km of CO2. It’s not best-in-class however; the lighter SEAT Leon can manage 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2.
The DS4 has been awarded a five-star sore in Euro NCAP crash testing and it features six airbags, two ISOFIX child seat mounting points, blind-spot monitoring and cornering lights. It’s also fitted with a system called eTouch Emergency and Assistance, which automatically makes emergency or assistance calls using a built-in SIM card, for rapid intervention in the event of an accident.
The DS range has given Citroen a spring in its step, taking it back to a time when it was recognised as a trend-setting brand. With original styling the DS4 is a new take on the premium small car, but in pursuit of being unique, compromises have been made, particularly in rear-seat practicality.