By Alisdair Suttie 20 June 2012
Citroen has just announced it will be building two new versions of its DS4. The C4 Elysee and C4 L are both saloons and neither will be offered in the UK, which is a shame as this is just the sort of distinct model differentiation the DS4 needs.
In its five-door hatch form, the DS4 simply looks too much like the C4 it’s based on, yet it has a higher price and less to commend it. For those seeking a more individual Citroen, the DS3 is a sweet handling and fun small car and the newly launched DS5 is a swish looking machine. The DS4 falls down the crack between this pair.
Aside from its dumpy looks, which should be one of the DS4’s main selling points but most certainly are not, this DS model only appears to offer a compromised prospect instead of something more stylish.
The driving position offers a slightly raised seat, which is at odds with the coupe-like styling of the car. It also only fits where it touches the driver’s frame, so comfort is not on the agenda, which again is at odds with the idea of a Citroen bearing the ‘DS’ badge.
It gets worse in the rear seats, once you’ve negotiated the perilously sharp rear windows that caught out the upper arm on more than one occasion with a whimperingly painful jolt. There’s little head- or legroom in the back seats and, incredibly, the rear windows don’t open. For a car potentially used by families, this is just a no-no.
Compounding the DS4’s misery in the practicality stakes, the decent sized boot was greatly reduced in capacity by the optional Denon hi-fi jutting into the luggage bay.
Oh dear, let’s hope the driving experience redeems the DS4 as our hopes were high after the fun of the DS3 impressed us so much at its launch.
Sadly, it was not to be, even though our test car was fitted with a 161bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel that should have made the small hatch DS4 quite a charger.
From rest to 62mph in 9.3 seconds is reasonable on paper, but the car didn’t feel as brisk on the road and any hard acceleration or overtaking was accompanied by too much noise. There’s enough flexibility in the engine, thanks to 251lb.ft of shove, to leave the car in the upper gears and that is the best way to drive the DS4 as it keeps the engine’s chatter at a further distance.
As for the gearbox itself, the lever’s action misses the sweet and precise feel of those in the DS3. It’s the same for the DS4’s handling, which is merely adequate where a DS3’s is nimble and engaging.
The DS4 is further hampered by a ride that is much too harsh for the UK’s hole-punched roads. It never takes a break from jiggling and jolting the car’s occupants and is completely at odds with anything that DS badge may once have stood for.
Does the DS4 pull it back on economy and emissions, allowing us to overlook some of its shortcomings? No, it doesn’t and 134g/km of carbon dioxide output in a small hatch in this day and age is just not good enough, especially one costing £22,950 before you add any of the options fitted to this test car.
With combined fuel economy of 55.4mpg, the DS4 HDi 160 is on a par with rivals for efficiency. However, in every other respect, the DS4 is found badly wanting and leaves us badly wanting Citroen to do something to rectify the situation. So, how about, Citroen, give us the C4 Elysee and C4 L for a bit of fun and variety?