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With 80,000 units of DS3
sold in the first year, Citroen must be celebrating the successful
launch of its DS line. However, as DS is a premium brand, I would say
the real test should be on the forthcoming DS4 and DS5. These cars are
larger and significantly more expensive than the DS3. They will compete
head on with the premium cars from Audi, BMW and Volkswagen as well.
That will be a tough test. Can Citroen convince customers to choose the
DS instead of the established premium marques ? We shall get an idea
after reviewing DS4.
The DS4 is derived from the platform and components pool of C4. That is
hardly a compromising basis. You know, the current C4 is famous for
being boring. I always suspect Citroen deliberately made the C4 boring
so to free up space for a more exciting alternative. That is the DS4,
Look at these pictures and you will need a while to understand what DS4
is. At first it appears to be a crossover between hatchback and SUV.
Turn your vision to the back, i.e. the coupe-like roof line, the sharp
rear windows and the "hidden" rear doors, you will find it is actually
a crossover between a coupe and the aforementioned crossover. Get it ?
If not, think about a smaller version of BMW X6.
But then the DS4 has neither the X6's firebreathing power and
all-weather 4-wheel drive. In essence it is still very much a family
hatchback. So what allows the car to command 20 percent more money than
the equivalent C4 is purely its unusual style and packaging. That is
the real problem.
Well, if you love its design that won't be much of a problem. The DS4's
face might not suit everyone's taste, but its side view is quite
handsome, and rear quarter is even more so. It has a stance that looks
sporty yet rock-steady, thanks to those Aston Martin-style pronounced
fenders, and a roof line like Opel Astra GTC. The hidden rear door
handle is no new invention – you might remember Alfa Romeo 147 as well
as the current Giulietta have the same thing – but the rear door looks
quite striking when opened, because the door opens together with the
pointy chrome window frame. The latter is so sharp that I suspect it
could be a genuine "suicide door".
But then the nonsense thing is, those rear windows cannot be winded
down ! This is because they are longer than the doors underneath.
Citroen said that's the price you pay for a stylish look.
Not just that, the rear passengers will find a very confined
environment to live with. Blame to that sloping roof line, headroom is
rather tight, absolutely not suitable to 6-footers for long journey.
Even more disappointing is rear seat legroom, which is tighter than
most C-segment family hatches. Theoretically, the DS4's elevated height
(some 34 mm higher than C4) and hip point (12 mm higher) should
liberate a bit interior space, but those huge wheel wells (to
accommodate up to 19-inch wheels necessary for good looks) and swoopy
line actually work against passenger space. Access to the rear seats is
equally difficult, blame to the small door aperture and steeply raked
Up front, the higher hip point improves forward visibility, but just.
Rear and rear quarter visibility is poor due to tiny windows. Facing
the driver is much the same dashboard and steering wheel on C4, save
some extra chrome. It's not as classy as that on Peugeot 3008, let
alone the high standard of Audi. Fortunately, you can order stitched
leather trim covering the dashboard, but even so will not hide some of
cheap plastics used at the lower half of the dash. You want the endless
customization of DS3 ? sorry, it's not offered on the larger car,
ridiculously. The only thing we adore is the optional leather seats
with massaging function. With them and the leather dash trim fitted,
the DS4's cabin feels adequately luxury in French way. Unfortunately,
this will stretch the price too high, even for a French premium brand.
Its shortcomings in quality, space and convenience might be compensated
with good dynamics, but as we said, this car is essentially a family
hatch, so any hopes for a 4 or 5-star rating are out of the question.
The front-drive DS4 still rides on cheap torsion-beam rear suspension,
with neither the adaptive damping on Opel Astra nor the active
anti-roll device on Peugeot 3008. Therefore it can only rely on very
stiff springs, dampers and anti-roll bars to keep its higher center of
gravity in check. The tuning is stiff enough to deliver significantly
better body control than the C4, but the downside – also due to
good-looking low-profile tires – is a rather uncompromising ride. It's
okay on smooth roads, but once hit a bump or pothole a shock is sent to
the cabin. Yes, its fine damping keeps the chassis free from bouncing,
but the fact that it rides like a hardcore German machine and lacks the
ride supremacy of traditional French luxury cars is disappointing.
Apart from ride, driving refinement is also let down by moderate wind
noise at speed.
The steering has been retuned for more weight and directness, but it
still feels rather artificial. Overall, the handling is fine rather
than sparkling. The driving experience is secured without engaging.
Just like most other Citroens, the DS4 is powered by either BMW's
1.6-liter petrol engine (naturally aspirated or turbocharged) or PSA's
own turbo diesel. The most powerful one is the direct-injected 1.6 THP
turbo, similar to the one employed by DS3 Racing. It produces 200
horsepower and 203 pound-foot of torque, capable of pushing the car
from rest to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and top 146 mph. Despite of its high
specific output, the small motor is flexible and willing, if not as
outstanding as the larger 2.0 TFSI engine from Volkswagen group. The
only drawback is an excessive exhaust note, which spoils refinement on
Further down the range, you will find the familiar 163hp 2.0HDi
(refined, fast enough but nose-heavy), 155hp version of 1.6 THP, 120hp
1.6 VTi and 110hp 1.6HDi. The DS4 is no heavier than a Ford Focus –
after all, its SUV look is misleading – therefore it does not command
large engines for reasonable performance.
As seen, the second act of DS line is not as impressive as DS3. Owing
to its SUV-Coupe crossover pretension, its ride, handling, interior
space and practicality are all compromised. Consequently, the DS4 can
excel only on the ground of style. It does look great in many people's
eyes, and it has the flamboyance associated with nowadays' Citroen
luxury. Nevertheless, that is not enough to match the more
sophisticated, higher quality and broadly appealing premium cars it
intends to compete with.