I’m still struggling to avoid adding a Citroën prefix to the ‘DS’ name, but regular readers, who might remember last year’s test of a DS5, will remember that the new DS cars are living without the Citroën moniker, so the newest model is simply a DS4.
What DS have done with this new car is to upgrade the existing DS4. whilst adding a new model to the range – the curiously named DS 4 Crossback. Readers used to naming conventions employed by car manufacturers might guess that this is a ‘crossover’ design, i.e. one that ‘crosses’ the practicality of an SUV (with its go-anywhere usefulness) and the normal efficiencies of a hatchback. If that’s your guess then DS will be pleased you think that way, though in truth the visual differences between the Crossback model and the ordinary DS4 are slight, especially if you’re looking at the ‘back’.
What you do get that’s different in the Crossback are a 30mm higher ride height, large black wheels, plus wheel arch trims and roof bars. At the front there’s a good deal more black finish to enhance the muscular appearance. It’s aimed, they say, at customers looking for ‘urban and extra-urban adventure’.
The DS4 is launched in the UK with six engines (three diesel and three petrol) emitting between 100 and 138g/km of CO2. The new DS4 Crossback launches with a lesser choice of one petrol and two diesels. Official fuel consumption figures range from 47.9 up to 74.3mpg.
I drove two examples of the car at opposite ends of the power scale – the least powerful petrol (1.2 litres) and most powerful diesel. The little 1.2 petrol is the increasingly familiar 3-cylinder engine that performs way above expectation, but if used hard does audibly make its presence felt. It will happily accelerate from low speeds, but only if the revs are kept above 1,500 or so; below that you’ll be frequently grasping the lever of the six-speed gearbox for a rapid change to a lower ratio.
The 180PS diesel is linked to a 6-speed auto transmission, so it’s even easier to drive than the other models. This is a quiet engine, with enough power to do everything you ask of it without fuss; at no time did it raise its voice above the general level of wind and tyre noise, which themselves are pretty unobtrusive. Perhaps even more important to potential owners is the fuel consumption, which has an official average figure of 64.2mpg.
Owners of aged Citroëns might expect any of their cars, whether DS or not, to feature the soft suspension for which they’ve been famed over the years. In fact, these DS cars are in the middle range of suspension….the Goldilocks principle – not too firm and not too soft. They do however notice, by feel and by sound, the small holes and bumps with which our roads are littered. Against that, the seats are brilliantly comfortable, with ample adjustment and good lateral support.
Interior space is good, though the lack of opening windows for rear seats will make that part of the car a less attractive option. Boot space however is pretty good and helpfully straight-sided, with 385 and 1,021 litres respectively for volume before and after folding the rear seats. Alas, the bit on which you sit – the seat cushion itself – doesn’t fold, so when the seat backs are folded the boot floor has a pronounced step in it and slopes up noticeably towards the front.
Loads of electronic wizardry are fitted to the DS4, most notable of it being the Connect Box, which is on most models as standard. Here’s what it does, much of it genuinely useful:
SOS & Assistance pack: an automatic call system used to locate the vehicle and obtain assistance in the event of an emergency or breakdown;
Monitoring pack: a virtual maintenance manual with automatic mileage monitoring, notification of upcoming service operations and eco-driving tips based on technical information provided by the car;
Mapping pack: locates the vehicle and sends an e-mail if the vehicle enters or leaves a given geographical area;
Tracking pack: provides the police with the vehicle’s geographical position in the event of theft.
Whatever you think of the DS4 styling, there’s no denying that it looks different to the mass of hatchbacks that crowd our roads, and that’s an important factor for many buyers. It goes well, has sensible running costs, and some intriguing technology.
DS 4 & DS 4 Crossback
Size: 4.28m x 1.81m
Price: from £19,495
Further info: www.citroen.co.uk
by Peter Cracknell