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The DS4 is DS's answer to other premium C-sector rivals. Can its combination of stylish looks, technology and efficient hybrid powertrains put it in contention?
LED lights front and rear, seats trimmed in Tungsten Peruzzi cloth, 10in HD touchscreen, 7in digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, rear parking sensors, reversing camera with 180-degree vision.
Do you remember the last DS4? Well, DS would rather you didn't confuse that car with this one. Sold from 2015 to 2018, it was a rebadged Citroen. Now a model in its own right, it's this DS4's job to tempt customers away from the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Mercedes A-Class.
The new DS4 gets off to a good start in the looks department. There's the latest version of the large diamond mesh family grille, slim matrix LED headlights and sharp vertical LED running lights, giving a unique lighting signature. Crisp surface detailing sums up the sides of the DS4, with flush-fitting door handles (unique to this sector), plus a large 20in wheel option. The small rear screen, plus large, but slim rear light clusters, are the highlights at the rear of this DS.
Available in three distinctive trim levels, they all have a distinctly different look. DS4 is more of a traditional look, with a specific chrome grille, chrome window surrounds and gloss black rear diffuser. The Performance Line trim is more dynamic, with a black trim pack including the front grille and window surrounds, 19in Minneapolis alloy wheels, plus Alcantara interior trim with gold stitching. The Cross trim has a pseudo crossover-look. It consists of gloss black roof bars, tougher-looking door sill protectors, aluminium front and rear skid plates, plus specific 19in Sapporo and Lima alloy wheels.
Inside the DS4 again follows the expected level of attention to detail seen in other DS models, with high-quality leather, and wood and metal trims throughout. However, it moves the design on and, in our opinion, is their classiest and most cohesive yet. DS describe it as an uncluttered, serene space and, with no gear knob, integrated door grab handles and invisible air vents, we have to agree.
If the interior design doesn't impress, the DS4's suite of new technology should. The all-new DS Iris System is their new full HD touchscreen infotainment, which is supported by over-the-air updates and features voice recognition. To make the system even more intuitive, DS Smart Touch, a small additional touchscreen fitted below the centre console, has customisable shortcuts and handwriting recognition. The idea of an extra screen might sound odd, but the Smart Touch touchscreen works well, too.
Elsewhere, there is a DS Extended Head-up Display, which projects key information clearly on to the windscreen, helping to keep your eyes on the road.
There is also the DS Drive Assist 2.0 system, which includes semi-autonomous driving, lane positioning and adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go. Plus, new functions including semi-autonomous lane changing, curve speed adaption, recommended speed adaption, long range blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
The DS4 is built on the same EMP2 modular platform that also underpins its big brother, the DS9. So, like the range-topper, the DS5 is available with petrol, diesel and hybrid power. Petrol models are powered by a choice of 130, 180 and 225 versions of the Puretech, 1.6-litre petrol. There is also a 1.5-litre Blue HDi 130 diesel and E-Tense 225 plug-in hybrid, which pairs the Puretech 1.6-litre petrol with a 110hp electric motor.
We got to drive E-Tense 225 Cross and the Puretech 225 Performance Line versions of the DS4. The E-Tense 225, which is expected to be the most popular engine for fleet, defaults to Electric mode, so this DS4 starts of quietly. With it being so quiet, the interior refinement is what impresses first. Move it into Hybrid mode and the E-Tense is keener to switch between petrol and electric power - which it does smoothly and quietly.
Comfort mode is like Hybrid, although as the name suggests, the ride seems more cosseting and the drive more relaxed. Sport seems to harden the ride and quicken the accelerator.
DS Active Scan Suspension is segment-first innovation that is fitted as standard to E-tense models and is activated in Comfort mode. It works via a camera positioned at the top of the windscreen, which scans the road ahead for imperfections. There are also four attitude sensors and three accelerometers that record every movement, giving the system control of each wheel independently. DS claims this results in a smooth ride at all times. Both the DS4's that we drove were fitted with the optional 20in alloy wheels, which had a noticeably negative effect on the ride. However, the E-Tense in comfort, had a noticeably more composed ride - although it was a little floaty. The difference with this trick suspension was far less noticeable on the Puretech 225. The 20in alloy wheels look great, but if you want your DS4 with a more settled ride, we'd advise choosing the smaller 17 or 19in wheels.
Comfortable rather than dynamic, the DS4 is a tidy drive, but rivals are more involving. The DS's strengths against the opposition are its sense of style, attention to detail and the technology.