DS, the standalone premium brand under the parentage of Citroen, introduced their latest DS 4 range with two distinct and stylish five door body styles, the DS 4 Hatchback and the DS Crossback and all are front wheel drive.
The latter version in terms of styling and a 30mm higher riding height leans towards the now popular Urban Crossover sales sector. DS say Crossovers now account for 30% of the premium compact hatchback market and also premium car brands account for 30% of sales in the family hatch/crossover C-segment of the new car market.
In Europe the DS brand currently has the DS 3 chic sporty supermini sized three door Hatchback and Cabriolet models, the new DS 4 five door Hatchback and Crossback versions and the DS 5 Hatchback which is a sleekly styled executive spec large five door Hatchback.
In the UK the DS 3 models account for 18,000 annual sales and the DS 5 around 1,000 units. Next year’s annual UK DS sales will be in the region of 24,000 registrations. Notably the UK is the largest market in the world for DS 3 sales and this country is in the top three for global DS sales after China and France.
The new DS 4 range of five door Hatchback and Crossback versions feature the new ‘DS Wings’ family face first introduced earlier this year with the larger DS 5 models. The side profile of the car retains the four passenger door coupe shape with a rising waistline and a roof line which lowers towards the rear.
The rear passenger doors are narrow and are really designed for occasional use as are the rear seat leg and headroom. As with the previous DS 4 windows of the rear doors do not open, a nod to its coupe layout. Care needs to be taken opening the rear doors because their oddball pointed shape in the top rear corner, which houses the concealed door handles, can clash with the person opening the door or another vehicle parked alongside.
A key buying feature for some customers will be the personalisation options and these include two-tone paintwork with a choice of four colours for the roof and rear spoiler and the door mirrors. There are nine body colours and up to 38 colour combinations are available. The Crossback differs from the Hatchback – slightly by having alternative styled front and rear spoilers finished in black and grey roof rails.
They also have black door mirrors and door sills, wheelarch trims and a 30mm increase in ride height. Even with these changes it is difficult to differentiate the two versions at a mere glance. There is not enough to justify the extra £1,000 it costs to buy the Crossback over the similarly equipped Hatchback with Prestige specification.
Inside the styling is more or less the same for both versions and certainly stylish and of seemingly good quality. Most noticeable is the large panoramic windscreen which gives great visibility and there are individual sliding rigid blinds and folding sun shields.
A new 7.0-inch colour touch-screen takes centre stage of the fascia. This provides access to all vehicle functions from navigation to infotainment requiring 12 fewer buttons on the centre console.
It can also control functions such as Mirror Link that duplicates Android or iOS smartphone content to the touchscreen. DS Connect Box is also included and this includes SOS and Assistance Pack, Monitoring Pack for car functions, Mapping Pack which can send an email if the vehicles leaves a given area and a Tracking Pack in case of theft. Also available is Apple CarPlay, the first DS model to get this function. All models have electrically operated front windows, air con, on-board computer, cruise control and other items as standard or as an option including push-button start/stop, keyless entry, reversing camera and blind spot monitoring.
With softer suspension settings than the previous DS 4 the road imperfections are absorbed to a greater extent and the ride quality has improved although deeper potholes still send shudders through the bodyshell. The Hatchback sits lower on the road so it hugs the ground giving good cornering grip with little body roll.
The Crossback though with its higher ground clearance is less surefooted and the ride felt firmer. The steering response for both versions had a tendency for strong self-centring which needed care during higher cornering speeds but generally it was precise although with no great feedback.
Overall the new DS 4 models are certainly improved and different to what is on offer from mainstream premium brands.
They are quirky and should appeal because of their distinctive differences to competitor models.
I’m not convinced the more costly Crossback offers much advantage over the Hatchback because it is not different enough in terms of styling and interior layout to carry its Crossover label.
DS 4 Hatchback Prestige, PureTech THP 130hp petrol, manual £20,745.
Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder THP turbocharged direct injection petrol, stop/start, 130hp, 230Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual.
Performance: 123mph, 0-62mph 9.9-seconds, 54.3mpg Combined Cycle, (39.1mpg on test), CO2 120g/km, VED road tax £0/£30, BIK company car tax 19%. Insurance group: 19E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,284mm, W 1,810mm, H 1,497mm, boot/load space 385 to 1,021-litres.
For: More equipment, more personalisation options, more on-board techno gadgets, plush interior, wide range of engines, potentially low running costs, very impressive 1.2-petrol engine, distinctive styling.
Against: Too little difference in exterior styling between the Hatchback and Crossback versions, 4-door coupe body design restricts rear access and rear seat space, fixed side rear windows, smallish boot with no height adjustable load floor, improved comfort but still prone to a lumpy ride.
© David Miles