THE Citroën DS remains one of the coolest cars of all time. Launched in 1955, it came to define Citroën and became a cultural icon for France thanks to its groundbreaking styling and technological innovation.
The French manufacturer is hoping that some of that former glory rubs off on its new DS4 – the second model in its emerging DS line after the much-lauded DS3. Sadly, the DS range only shares the DS name, and has none of the groundbreaking technology or elegant looks of Citroën’s most iconic car. These days, DS is a brand that takes Citroën’s more ordinary, predictable models – in this case the C4 hatchback – and reworks them for a younger, trendier and wealthier audience. This car is essentially the same car as the C4 saloon, albeit with a more exciting character and some performance tweaks.
However, that is not to say that it isn’t any good. Looks-wise it resembles a stylish – if quirky – crossover, a blend of compact 4x4, coupe and five-door hatchback. Its front end is more SUV than what follows behind. At the rear the roof tapers down coupe style. This fastback look is enhanced by the visual trick of integrating the rear door handles into the rear window frame.
The only complaint is that the shape of the rear window bears so little relation to the door below it, it’s impossible for the window to wind into the door. And it doesn’t. Citroën just decided to make non-opening rear windows. The effect in the back seat, despite plenty of head and legroom, is a sense of confinement.
Inside the car is a step forward in terms of quality. The design of the interior is so cool, the instrumentation is illuminated in blue with red pointers to indicate speed. It’s unusual and quite beautiful. But it’s also quite tricky to read at first, though you do get used to it.
The seats are stylish and comfortable. Our seats had a leather weave design, which somehow managed to combine the comfortable warmth and familiarity of an old favourite leather chair with a contemporary style that’s so “on trend”, it’s sharp. The result is an interior that has an expensive lounge feel about it, an ambience not lost on Citroën’s marketing people who call it their Habana “Club” option.
On the road this 200hp 1.6-litre petrol-engined version certainly has some attitude. Capable of 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds, the DS4 feels fast and the engine makes a beefy note, which is pleasing, though artificial. Fuel consumption, even on this sportiest of models, is good, 44mpg is possible on a combined cycle. It’s a very good engine.
The driving position is higher than a regular saloon yet it doesn’t feel like a SUV. The handling is also surprisingly good. The six-speed manual gearbox is sporty and quick. It’s an exciting enough drive and feels far sportier than you’d think from the exterior or design. The ride can be too harsh and a bit jarring, though.
So the DS4 is a C4 transformed and remarkably different from the original car it’s based on. Whether it’s style over substance is a matter of conjecture and depends on the value you put on standing out from the crowd. Vive la différence!
THE FACTS: CITROEN DS4 DSPORT
TOP SPEED: 146mph
CO2 G/KM: 149g/km
MPG COMBINED: 44.1mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY