The DS 4 is a good-looking premium family car with strong, economical engines, decent personalisation options and good standard equipment. It just can’t match the quality of premium alternatives and it’s too harsh over poor roads
The DS 4 was originally a Citroen but it’s now its own model under the premium DS Automobiles brand. It’s available as a five-door hatchback and as a more suv-inspired DS 4 Crossback version, which we’ve reviewed separately. The DS 4 is a good alternative to the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series on price, but it’s slightly bigger than both.
The first thing you notice when you sit inside is the large panoramic windscreen that’s standard on all DS 4s. The dashboard design impresses with nice-looking materials, such as polished metal, and it’s more interesting to look at than the predictable fascia in a 1 Series. It’s not without its faults, though: material quality is below German alternatives and the buttons feel flimsy and cheap when pressed.
The standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment has sat-nav, Bluetooth phone connection and Apple CarPlay functionality. It’s easier to use than the touchscreen in a Peugeot 308, but falls short of the MMI in an Audi A3 Sportback with its intuitive rotary dial controller.
There’s a generous amount of room in the front of the DS 4, even if the steering wheel won’t adjust enough for some drivers. Move to the back, however, and things worsen. The main problem is the rear doors – their funky shape means they don’t open particularly wide and you can’t roll the windows down. This, combined with the dark upholstery, makes sitting in the back quite claustrophobic.
The DS 4’s boot is a decent size and comes with tethering hooks to help your luggage stay put. With the rear seats in place, the DS 4 has a 385-litre capacity, which is slightly more than a 1 Series and A3 Sportback have, if not by much. However, even though flipping the rear seats down opens up the space to 1,021 litres, that’s still around 200 litres behind the BMW and Audi’s seats-down figures.
If you’re set on a DS 4 then you’ll love its quirkiness, however, German alternatives are far better to drive
If you plan to do lots of motorway miles with your DS 4, go for one of the diesel engines. The 180hp diesel performs well, even with a car full of passengers, but the lower-powered 120hp diesel never feels underpowered and is more frugal making it the one to go for. The two petrols available are also good, with the 130hp 1.2-litre the better bet if you spend most of your time driving in town. The 165hp 1.6-litre feels much quicker, but it’ll prove thirsty in the long run.
Elsewhere the DS 4 is a bit of a mixed bag. It has very little body roll when going around corners but it’s also bumpy and unsettled over poor roads and the bigger the wheels you go for, the worse it gets. In short, a BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 are both more comfortable at all speeds.
So, the DS 4 is a slightly bigger and better-equipped alternative to the established premium family cars but it’s a shame that the driving experience is not on the level of German alternatives.