4 out of 5 4.0
Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

France's alternative to the Audi A3 looks the business

DS 4 Hatchback (21 on) - rated 4 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £26,350 - £43,100
Lease from new From £357 p/m View lease deals
Used price £18,930 - £31,185
Used monthly cost From £472 per month
Fuel Economy 38.0 - 232.3 mpg
Road tax cost £145 - £480
Insurance group 19 - 32 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid from launch
  • Plush and well-designed interior
  • Three bodystyles to choose from

CONS

  • It won't be cheap in cash terms or on finance
  • You'll wait until 2024 for the electric version
  • A lack of brand kudos and visibility

DS 4 Hatchback rivals

Written by Alan Taylor-Jones on

DS Automobiles has announced the next model in its expanding line-up. The DS 4 is a family car that's positioned between the 3 and the 7, and is aimed to appeal at buyers looking for something a little taller than a more traditional premium hatchback, such as the Audi A3, but don't want to go the whole hog with an SUV.

The DS 4 is available in regular form and as the DS 4 Cross - an SUV-themed version with a few design tricks to make it look like it’s beefier and taller, even though it isn’t. They’re both available with a wide choice of interior and exterior finishes, but there’s also a trim package called Performance Line that DS regards as a separate third version.

It shares much of its technology with a range of hatchbacks and SUVs offered by Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall. But DS is a premium brand and is majoring on comfort, style, technology and a civilised ownership experience, rather than worrying about its dynamic similarity to the Peugeot 308 or Vauxhall Astra.

What's it like inside?

It’s by far the most successful cabin design of any DS on sale. It's designed to have ‘comfort’ areas – seats, armrests – that are soft and uncluttered, and ‘control’ areas – screens, buttons etc – that are very nearly as uncluttered. The controls are intelligently grouped, and some good decisions have been made on what must be a physical control and what can be left to voice, gesture or touch.

The side air vents are positioned on the doors – not on the dash – next to the window controls, and the central vents are barely visible, so neatly are they merged with their controls in a central blade. The transmission selector sits next to a lower screen that controls some functions, while the higher, bigger central screen can be personalised to prioritise the functions that are most important to you.

There’s the option of an advanced head-up display that shows important information on the road ahead, moving diagonally with the driver’s gaze. It's clear and can be configured to show exactly what you want, so you rarely have to look at the 7.0-inch driver's display. Night vision is also available, as is sound-reducing acoustic glass – one of many features more often associated with larger, more expensive cars.

Speaking of, the DS 4's interior has plenty of plush plastics, solid feeling controls and the option of lavish materials such as leather and Alcantara on the dashboard. Impressively, the upmarket models we've tried so far feel more luxurious than an Audi A3 or Mercedes A-Class.

What's it like to drive?

We've driven the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol Puretech 225 and the E-Tense plug-in hybrid. Although the E-Tense has an extra 200kg or so of bulk to carry around, it’s marginally quicker on paper and feels quicker on the road, too.

That’s partially down to the punch delivered by the electric motor. The E-Tense’s transmission is the more responsive, changing gear far more readily than the PureTech’s. Given the sometimes hesitant nature of rival PHEVs, that’s a good result. However, neither are what you’d call fast, feeling little livelier than a 35 TFSI Audi A3 for instance. With 110hp the E-Tense’s electric motor proves just about adequate in normal traffic with a range of up to 38 miles according to official figures.

Still, it’s not like you’ll want to punt either along particularly quickly. The steering’s weight is agreeable enough and it’s reasonably precise, yet even with the clever adaptive suspension (more details below) set to Sport there’s more body roll than the A3 and AMG Line versions of the non-PHEV A-Class. In other words, it feels less responsive on the road.

What models and trims are available?

Like the DS 7 Crossback, the choice is combustion engine or plug-in hybrid. The PHEV is a turbocharged petrol four-cylinder with a combined output of 225hp, driving the front wheels. Petrols with 130hp, 180hp and 225bhp will also be available, as is a 130hp diesel, but not all are coming to the UK.

The Mercedes-Benz GLA-sized DS 4 will be offered with a black roof, while the Cross version has a body-colour roof but gains roof bars and gets some extra black trim lower down, especially at the back. Front space is generous although rear leg room is a bit tight for those over six feet tall.

The Performance Line, majors on black trim, some of it carbonfibre, but the only mechanical difference is an optional advanced traction control system that has modes for sand, snow and ice, as well as Hill Descent Control. The grille and rear LED lights are all new, featuring bold new vertical double LED strips straight off the ASL concept, and thinner directional matrix LED headlights.

What else should I know?

Its suspension set-up is as clever as you'd expect from a premium-badged French car. It employs a system known as Active Scan, which uses a forward-facing camera to read the road surface to tweak the damper’s force. It only works in Comfort mode and is designed to maximise comfort.

However, on big 19- and 20-inch wheels the DS 4 still thuds over potholes while Comfort mode allows quite a bit of body movement over undulating roads. Sport mode firms things up noticeably, though.

DS 4 Hatchback rivals

Other DS 4 models: