The improved DS4 offers an appealingly different way to own a sporting yet luxurious Focus-class car. Jonathan Crouch looks at the petrol-powered THP 165 version.
Ten Second Review
The DS4 offers a stylish twist on the family hatch theme and in improved THP 165 guise, it offers a tempting alternative to the more pragmatic diesel-engined versions. With its winning blend of extrovert styling and a competitive petrol powerplant, could this be the optimum DS, maybe even the optimum DS?
Niche marketing has a lot to answer for. As an excuse for bringing intrinsically unpopular items to market, it has its critics. Every once in a while, these products designed to appeal to a few eccentrics break out into mainstream success. Does that make them niche marketing failures? Who would have ever predicted that fixed gear bikes would become so popular? Once the preserve of hipsters in tight vintage-style jeans, check shirts worn with a hoodie, Vans sneakers and oversized sunglasses, they're now built by the big companies and are in your local bike shop with smugly inflated price tags. The French PSA Group hasn't been slow to recognise this phenomenon and its DS sub-brand appeals to those who wish to be seen as a little edgy but maybe don't want to stomach the sacrifices that come with fully embracing the radical. Call it hipster-lite. Its DS3 was a hot hatch with a bit of attitude and here we're looking at an improved version of the slightly larger DS4 model. It's like the 'after' shot on a family hatch makeover promo.
The DS4 is offered with a choice of six efficient engines. Two of its petrol powerplants - the THP 165 driven here and the THP 210 - were co-developed with BMW. The diesel engines - BlueHDi 120, 150 and 180 units - are all fitted with Citroen's Diesel Particulate Filter System, which virtually eliminates particle emissions. The 1.6-litre THP engine has a solid pedigree, too. It's also the result of the link-up between Peugeot and BMW which saw the two marques pooling resources to produce a range of compact powerplants. BMW doesn't entertain bad engines and the 1.6 THP is fitted to the high performance models in its MINI range, so the portents for this DS4 were good from the start. It's a strong, flexible and refined performer, only offered with the brand's EAT6 auto gearbox and able to propel the DS4 to 62mph in 8.7 seconds and running onto a top speed of around 133mph.
Design and Build
While it looks like a three-door coupe, this is in fact a genuine five-door hatch. The panoramic windscreen extends backwards into the roof and the dimensions and its styling give the car a compact and muscular look. This latest version gets the smart DS front grille that originally debuted on the revised DS5 model with is 'DS Wings' signature and DS LED Vision headlamps. Inside the premium cabin, the driver faces an array of smart chrome-rimmed dials and a sculpted, contoured dashboard featuring a higher-tech 7-inch colour infotainment touchscreen. Other up-market touches include embossed leather door handles, plenty of chrome detailing and cool ambient lighting. Far more attention has been paid to build quality and refinement too, to match this up-market feel. Then there's that panoramic windscreen, offering front occupants a 45-degree view upwards and giving the cabin a real feeling of light and airiness also enjoyed by those in the back seats. And talking of the rear, there's proper space for two adults there - or three at a squash. Plus a boot behind of 370-litres, larger than that in rivals like VW's Golf or Alfa Romeo's Giulietta.
Market and Model
The DS4 THP 165 is offered only in top Prestige trim with an EAT6 auto transmission; prices start at around £22,500. The Prestige models feature 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic windscreen wipers and headlamps, front sports seats with electric lumbar adjustment and massage function, part-leather upholstery, automatic digital air conditioning, aluminium drilled pedals, rear parking sensors and the eTouch Emergency & Assistance System. Given the niche nature of the DS4 it's hard to know what exactly to compare it with in order to get an idea of the value proposition. Ford Focus? MINI Countryman? Audi A3 Sportback? Best to take a look at it for yourself and make your own judgment on how appealing it is.
Cost of Ownership
Unsurprisingly, the diesels are the most economical units in the DS4 range and the frugality reaches quite heady heights if you choose the BlueHDi 120 version which returns a combined consumption of 74.3mpg. For a car with petrol running through its pipes though, the THP 165 does all right, posting a combined figure of 50.5mpg which equates to 130g/km of CO2 Residual values should be stronger than those of comparable mainstream models, the DS brand attracting a strong core of followers. Couple that with the reasonable asking price and small ongoing running costs of the THP 165 model and you have a car that looks set to retain its value better than any comparably-sized French model in this segment of the recent past.
This DS4 is a brave design. Hardly groundbreaking, but brave nonetheless in the way that it brings elements of so many motoring genes together and somehow makes them work in one very appealing package. Whether you arrive at this car from a Qashqai-like Crossover, a curvy coupe or a super shopping rocket, you'll find something familiar, blended along with intriguing qualities that won't be. We're not sure whether this is a new class of car but it's certainly a whole new class of French contender in this segment. Unique. Just as every DS should be.