DS remains a quirky, niche French brand that emerged from under Citroën’s wing a few years ago, but shares parts and engines. So far it has spawned both a small city hatchback and large family SUV, but this family hatchback, the updated DS4, feels the best resolved yet. The proportions suit the styling very well, it fills the parental shoes nicely and couldn’t be further away from its clumsy predecessor. There are three basic trim levels – DS, Performance Line and Cross – within which additional versions are available and basically mix and match style and tech packs. Depending on which you go for you can choose from three petrol engines, one diesel and a plug-in hybrid.
“If you drive fewer than 30 miles a day, you might never need to use the petrol engine by running on much cheaper electricity if you can charge at home”
Some dismiss the DS range as dressed-up Citroëns but, for others seeking a more luxurious cabin in a small car, or a touch of flair in the design, the extra money is worth it. The plug-in hybrid version of the DS4 is the most expensive (about another £5,000) but you’ll claw back nearly all the extra money over the 225 petrol version if you’re a top-rate tax payer, by saving about £400 a month as a business user. And, if you drive fewer than 30 miles a day, you might never need to use the petrol engine, running on much cheaper electricity if you can charge at home and benefit from cheaper off-peak tariffs. Otherwise, go for one of the petrol engines, and probably the middle Performance Line version for the kind of kit you need.
Expert rating: 3/5
Reliability of a DS AUTOMOBILES DS 4
“The DS4 shares nearly everything with Citroëns and Peugeots, so its hybrid system is well tested in other models”
All DS models come with a three-year warranty, as well as three years of DS Assistance. That’s about the industry average. The DS4 shares nearly everything with Citroëns and Peugeots, so its hybrid system is well tested in other models, as are its engines, automatic gearbox and tech. Peugeot, in particular, is performing strongly in reliability tests now, which should reflect well on the rest of the group. We’ve had minor issues in the past with Citroën windscreen wipers falling off, but nothing major from any of the other brands.
Expert rating: 3/5
Safety for a DS AUTOMOBILES DS 4
“You’ve got to stump for pricier models to get active cruise control, and the DS advanced emergency braking system”
Impressively, all DS4s get cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear parking sensors, rear curtain airbags, front and rear Isofix points, a driver attention alert and grip sensor in the steering wheel to make sure you’re still in control. Picking out which versions get which tech requires forensic analysis of the rather bewildering pricelist but it seems you’ve got to stump for pricier models to get active cruise control, and the DS advanced emergency braking system. The more expensive E-Tense hybrid versions seem, in general, to get most of the kit, whichever trim you go for.
Expert rating: 3/5
How comfortable is the DS AUTOMOBILES DS 4
“The seats look smart with their soft leather and neat stitching, but they don’t offer much support for your lower back”
Inside, the DS 4 has a sophisticated, minimalist vibe, with its large, glossy touchscreen and window switches high up on the driver door. The seats look smart with their soft leather and neat stitching, but they don’t offer much support for your lower back and those looking for firmer cushioning might need to go elsewhere. There’s plenty of legroom for four adults but headroom in the rear is reduced to accommodate that fashionable low roofline. The boot is disappointingly shallow, especially in the plug-in hybrid version, where it offers seemingly no more space than a city car. We do like the door handles popping out as you approach the car, which looks cool and is actually quite handy.
Expert rating: 4/5
Features of the DS AUTOMOBILES DS 4
“The newest toy is a secondary small screen by the gear selector, which works as a touchpad into which you can programme shortcuts”
Impressively, all versions of the DS 4 get the extended head-up display, which projects information including speed and directions into your line of sight. Wireless smartphone mirroring is standard across the range but, strangely, built-in sat-nav is an extra on the first two trim lines. We’d complain, except it’s a rubbish system, so you’re better off on your apps anyway. The clarity of the large screen has improved dramatically, however.
The newest toy is a secondary small screen by the gear selector, which works as a touchpad into which you can programme shortcuts for your favourite functions. Instead of constantly scrolling through the telephone directory to call your partner, for example, you can programme that action as a swipe upwards of your finger, which leaves a light trail on the touchpad as you do it. It looks fancy but we’re not sure over the longer term that we’d really be that bothered.
Expert rating: 3/5
Power for a DS AUTOMOBILES DS 4
“The E-Tense plug-in hybrid is our pick of the range, that electrified burst from a standstill making it feel quicker than the most powerful PureTech 225 petrol”
The DS 4 drives beautifully, with that traditionally French combination of wafty ride quality and precise handling. If you fancy your ride a little firmer, select sport mode and the active suspension (where fitted) will toughen up. The E-Tense plug-in hybrid is our pick of the range, that electrified burst from a standstill making it feel quicker than the most powerful PureTech 225 petrol version. You will also get up to 30 miles of electric-only driving, which may cover most of your daily trips if you use the DS4 mostly for local driving. All versions come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that has been criticised for being jerky between gear on the down changes. We didn’t notice that, however, and really enjoyed driving the DS 4 around town.