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The Top Gear car review:DS 4
For:Splendidly different, innovative and entertaining
Against:You can't open the rear windows? Vraiment?
1.6 BlueHDi DStyle Nav 5dr
What we say:
Like a C4 but cool and desirable. So not really like a C4, then. More like a DS 3. Good
What is it?
Good question. Now that Citroen’s posh offshoot has become its own, standalone brand (albeit one that still shares platforms, engines, and many other components with its parent company) it’s started de-Citroen-ing all its cars. Formerly known as the Citroen DS4, the facelifted ‘DS[Space]4’ has gone the way of the DS 5. Expunged of Citroen badges and endowed with the new corporate grille, the new DS 4 is, like its predecessor, something a bit different.
It’s still a five-door hatchback, but it has the profile of a coupe and the ride height of a compact SUV. A bit bonkers, then, and not entirely removed from the ridiculous twit magnet BMW X6, but somehow this has panache whereas the Beemer is resolutely vulgar. And then there’s the new DS 4 Crossback, which has a 30mm bump in ride-height and some new trim. It’s all rather confusing.
Simplistic rear torsion bar and front MacPherson struts notwithstanding, the DS 4 handles well. Far better than it probably should, given its size and ride height. The hydraulically assisted steering is sharp and accurate and provides a surprising amount of feedback, while that lofty body is impressively free from roll in faster corners. The suspension stiffness required to achieve this does mean the DS 4 rides slightly less well than the standard C4, but it’s so much more fun to drive that the compromise seems infinitesimal. The Crossback is a bit more tilty, but not excessively so, and the ride less settled as a consequence.
The engines on offer are the usual solid, frugal diesels and a couple of petrols, one the 1.6-litre turbo from the Peugeot 208 GTi. These will give the DS 4 the best chance of living up to its rakish coupe styling, but the reality is that the diesels will sell strongest in the UK with their excellent fuel returns, very low CO2 emissions and a decent level of overall refinement.
On the inside
There’s a bit more flash than functionality inside the DS 4, bearing in mind that its status as an crossovery-hatchback thing suggests a degree of practicality. Where we can forgive the DS 3 a cramped and less accessible rear, it’s odd to face this in a family-orientated larger car. There is space enough back there, but it’s more claustrophobic than the C4, a problem compounded by fixed rear windows. Yes indeed.
Still, it’s all gravy up-front, with a reasonable driving position, lots of toys and a windscreen that goes right over your head. Although this does blind you when the sun pops out.
The DS 4 is all about you. (And not your rear passengers, obviously.) It’s daringly different and promises to reward you on a daily basis for that. As for housekeeping, there are tax-efficient diesel engine options aplenty here, and comparatively sporty petrol ones that still make a degree of economic sense. This is a great alternative to the popular but poor Mini Countryman. And Britain needs more of them.