Citroen comparison: C4 and DS4

  • We take a detailed look at C4 and DS4
  • DS4 offers more style and the C4 more substance
  • Similar engines but different drives

Citroen’s DS line is an interesting proposition. It’s a range of models closely related to the more ordinary C-series of Citroens, but with more avant-garde styling and a premium outlook in terms of interior design and equipment.

To see how much of a difference there is between a common-or-garden C-series Citroen and a modish DS version, let’s take a closer look at the C4 hatchback and the DS4 ‘high stance coupé’ spun from the same underpinnings.

Design

Citroen DS4 Citroen C4

Of all the current Citroen DS models (the line-up also includes the jazzy DS3 and grandiose DS5), the DS4 (above left) is the least outlandish looking.

Although it’s slightly wider and taller than the C4 (above right) it hasn’t made a huge visual journey from its hatchback counterpart. Between the two cars there’s no doubt that the DS4 is the more engaging machine to look at, though.

Its bonnet and headlights are unchanged from the C4, and it still has a pair of rear doors – albeit with handles neatly hidden within the shape of the side window to make it look like a two-door car.

Citroen DS4

Inside, both cars share a virtually identical dashboard with a futuristic mix of digital and analogue instrument pods which have changeable colour schemes via a toggle switch. The architecture around the dials has some interesting angles and the whole dash is finished in a soft-touch material.  

One of the primary differences from behind the wheel is the DS4’s wrap-over windscreen, which extends upwards into the roof to allow more light in. It also features a different seat design.  Top DSport versions get leather seats with a blocky rectangular pattern, something of a modern DS hallmark.

Practicality

Citroen DS4 Citroen C4

With a slightly swoopier roofline than the C4 there’s marginally less headroom for rear passengers in the DS4. The middle section of the three-seat bench in the rear is best-suited to children, although you’ll still fit average-dimensioned adults on either side without difficulty.

The major body-blow for the DS4 is that the rear windows don’t open. They’re fixed in place because the door is smaller than the glass itself so there's nowhere for it to go.

Boot space in the C4 is a pretty generous 408 litres, giving it plenty of room for luggage and shopping. There’s less in the DS4, but it’s not bad either at 359 litres (or 385 litres if you include the extra storage space under the boot floor).

On the road

Citroen DS4

Citroens of old, especially ones wearing DS badges, were famed for their smooth ride but the present-day DS4 can get pretty jostly on uneven surfaces. Its handling doesn’t feel terribly well resolved, mixing a crashy ride with stodgy driving dynamics.

The C4, although not a paragon of handling brilliance, is actually the nicer car to drive as it has a more comfortable ride.

Both cars share a similar range of petrol and diesel engines, with the most powerful THP 200 petrol engine available only in the DS4.

For this article, we drove the top 2.0-litre diesel engined version of both cars.  For the DS4 that’s the HDi 160 unit pushing out roughly 160bhp and 149g/km of CO2, while for the C4 it’s the HDi 150 unit with around 10bhp less and 130g/km of CO2.

Of the two cars here, the C4 can manage an extra 6.9mpg according to Citroen’s quoted average fuel consumption figures.

Both cars are quiet on dual carriageways and well-suited to motorway cruising, while plentiful pulling power gives them enough get up and go to make quick progress.

As tested, the C4 had a six-speed manual gearbox, the only option available for the HDi 150 engine, while the DS4 had the optional six-speed auto transmission. This wouldn’t be our choice as it’s a slow, jerky affair – we’d suggest sticking with the standard six-speed manual.

Summary

Citroen DS4 Citroen C4

At the time of writing, the C4 range varies in price from £14,000 to £20,785 and the DS4 from £17,390 to £24,840.

While the C4 is a spacious and conventional equivalent to medium-sized hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus and VW Golf, the DS4 has its feet in several automotive camps without quite occupying any of them.

It’s taller than a coupé like a VW Scirocco and lower than a ‘crossover’ like a Nissan Juke, while being more compromised than a normal hatchback.

It is certainly interesting, though, with some neat design details and if you’re after something different you may find it’s just what you’re looking for.

For now though, we’d suggest the most well-resolved car in the DS series is the popular Citroen DS3, which is actually outselling its C3 donor car by a comfortable margin. Vive la différence, as they say.

Check out the full Parkers review of the Citroen C4 here and the Citroen DS4 here.