What is it like to drive?
The DS 4 offers suspension with a road-scanning stereo camera that spots bumps, softening each damper in turn as that wheel hits the perturbation. If you want this technology but don't want a DS, you have to shell out for a Mercedes S-Class or Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Now the system, called Active Scan, works only in limited circs - you have to be below about 60mph, and obviously it can get confused by puddles and odd lighting conditions. And you have to be in 'comfort' drive mode or it just reverts to a conventional adaptive damping setup with normal and sports modes.
Whatever, the DS 4 rides rather beautifully in 'comfort'. It's more consistent and fluent than in the DS 7 and 9. Also, the 4's stiff bodyshell avoids transmitting much in the way of unnerving clonks or tyre noise.
The sports mode jiggles and jostles, and because the steering and handling are unengaging you won't gain much by using it. We haven't driven one with a passive chassis yet, mind.
Even though it's a bit of a softie, the steering is accurate and body roll and understeer are both well-controlled. But it's not the sort of car where you play with the cornering on the throttle.
AND THE POWER?
Exact acceleration is tricky to administer because of an autobox with strange ratio gaps and unpredictable shift timing. This is a pretty much universal fault with cars out of what we used to call the PSA Group. We drove a 225bhp non-hybrid DS 4 which does at least have shift paddles and a manual mode, but the hybrid version quickly defaults back to auto. Another issue with the autobox is that it doesn't neatly release drive when you come to rest, so there's usually a jerk. Irritating in town.
Still, the engines themselves are fine. They're the Group's usual 130bhp three-cylinder petrol, and four-cylinder 1.2 in 180 and 225bhp tune.
Also a 130 diesel for those of you who do intergalactic daily mileages. Does anyone these days?
We tested the 225bhp, and it's brisk (7.9sec to 62) rather than hot-hatch fast. Looking at their performance figures, it's hard to see how it's worth the extra money over the 180bhp. Until you realise this engine is a gateway to the active suspension option.
WHAT ABOUT THE PLUG-IN HYBRID?
The PHEV version, called E-Tense, sandwiches an electric motor between the 180bhp engine and the transmission. As usual you can spend your 12.4kWh of battery-stored energy all at once on journeys of up to 35 miles, or spread it out over a longer trip to get pretty satisfying economy. In our case almost 100mpg over 50 miles. In electric-only mode, it'll easily keep up with suburban traffic.
It's a sprightly thing at full bore, but you do have to give it a bit of notice when a spurt of acceleration is needed, so it can wake the engine, summon some boost, and probably shift down a gear or two as well. Again, nothing unusual for a PHEV, but this one is merely average at doing that juggle. Still, if you can drive with anticipation it's smooth and quiet.
The E-Tense's braking progression, which mixes regen with friction when it needs to, isn't perfect. But it's by no means the worst hybrid out there.
Yup, you can spec matrix headlights, all-round parking cameras, and from February 2022, highly assisted cruise control. Night vision is another tech you can't get elsewhere in the class.