DS 4 (2015 - 2019) used car review

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

The Citroen-derived DS4, sold between 2015 and 2019, was a premium compact hatch that delighted in being a little different, with sporty 'five-door coupe' styling and plenty of signs of Gallic flair, whether you go for the standard version or the slightly more capable Crossback model. If you want something more individual than the usual Astra, Golf or Focus-fare. And a more interesting option than premium German compact models can provide, then provided you don't mind making a few minor compromises, it could well be worth a look.

Models

5dr hatchback (1.2, 1.6 petrol, 1.6, 2.0 diesel [DSign, DStyle, DSport, Elegance, Crossback])

History

The DS brand, we're told, is all about more distinctive style and technology. So back in 2015, we were interested to see what its interpretation of a premium-badged Focus-sized family hatchback might be like. The answer was revealed with this improved DS4 model.

Prior to 2015, we knew this car as a Citroen. It was introduced in 2011 by the Double Chevron brand, but shortly after the formation of the newly-formed DS marque in 2015, this model was re-launched merely badged the 'DS4' with a smarter look and a much clearer idea of its target market. That was important, for in its Citroen days, this design's rather bizarre combination of family hatchback, coupe and SUV left it with something of an identity crisis

Fortunately, the DS people seemed to understand it a little better, clarifying the appeal of this model line by creating two distinct variants. The 'Crossback' version kept the original car's high-ish ride height and added in a few carefully chosen SUV styling cues to try and attract buyers from the Qashqai Crossover set. Relieved of the need to appeal to such folk, the alternative standard DS4 model was left free-er to assume the role of premium sporty hatch and target people who might buy, say, a BMW 1 Series or Audi A3: or at the very least an Alfa Romeo Giulietta or an up-market SEAT Leon.

Whichever DS4 variant appeals, you'll find it a quite sophisticated than before, especially inside where a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen includes Apple CarPlay and Mirror Link media connectivity. Get a car whose original owner spent money on spec and you can enjoy things that'll really set this DS4 apart from rivals from this era - features such as limousine-like quilted leather, unique two-tone paint finishes and technology clever enough to track the car if its stolen, notify you of upcoming service appointments and even email you if your DS4 is lent out and is then driven further than it should be. The car sold until 2019 and wasn't replaced.

What You Get

We've had four-door coupes. When this DS4 was originally launched in 2011, its designers decided it was about time we had a five-door one. The stylists of rival models like SEAT's Leon and particularly Alfa Romeo's Giulietta will claim that this concept is nothing new, but cars like those aren't quite as extreme as this one. The swept-back roofline is more distinctly sporty, yet at the same time, your eyes are drawn to the other influences here: the sculpted wheel arches characteristic of a Crossover or small SUV. And the premium hatch feel of the chrome-finished waistline and the dark tinted windows.

Both DS4 models feature brand-specific styling at the front, where the vertical grille proudly incorporates the 'DS Wings' brand logo and extends smoothly into headlights that feature 'LED Vision' Xenon technology on plusher variants. Up-front, perhaps the most distinctive feature is the panoramic windscreen. Push back the roof panels where sun visors would usually be and you're given an almost unique 45-degree view upwards. Sticking with the individualistic theme, you can change both the instrument background colour and the style of the read-outs to suit your personal preference. The central speedo dial doubles as an information centre, offering speed, trip computer, audio and compass settings.

Anything this can't tell you will probably be covered on the central fascia infotainment screen, this feature re-designed in this later design to suit this model's more exalted DS brand status. It's a 7-inch colour touch-sensitive display with standard navigation, plus the usual audio, Bluetooth 'phone and trip computer options.

At the rear, there's a dark, rather restricted feel not helped by limited legroom and the narrow, tinted side windows, while the pared-back roofline will leave headroom at a premium for taller folk. Better, we think, to consider this car as the coupe the DS brand was determined it ought to be, making comparisons with something like a Volkswagen Scirocco more valid than those with, say, a Volkswagen Golf. Viewed in that light, it's all pretty practical at the back - and quite OK for two adults or three children, as long as the journey isn't too long. Indeed, if you're in that frame of mind, you might even be quite happy to forgive the fact that the rear windows don't open.

And out back? Well the boot has a high lip and a relatively narrow opening. Get your stuff inside and you'll find that it's 23-litres smaller than this model's Citroen C4 stablemate, but at 385-litres, is still slightly larger than the trunk provided in Alfa Romeo's Giulietta - or even in Volkswagen's Golf, plus there's much more space than you get in a Ford Focus or a proper coupe like that Scirocco model we mentioned.

What You Pay

Prices for the standard version of this DS 4 start at around £5,800, which gets you a 1.2-litre petrol DS4 for a '15-plate with base 'DSign' trim, with values rising to around £7,300 for a later '16-plate car. Add about £800 for plusher 'Elegance' trim - or around £1,700 more for the Crossback body shape. The 1.6-litre petrol-powered variant prices from around £7,700 on a '15-plate in 'DSport' trim, with values rising to around £10,000 on a '16-plate. Add around £1,500 more for racier 'Performance Line' trim. The 1.6 BlueHDi diesel variant prices from around £5,700 with base 'DSign' trim with a '15-plate, with values rising to around £6,800 for a later '16-plate car. Add around £1,200 for plusher 'Elegance' trim - or £1,900 more for Crossback trim. If you want the 2.0 BlueHDi engine, prices start at around £6,800 on a '15-plate with 'DSport' trim, with values rising to around £8,350 for a later '16-plate car. Add £500 more for mid-range 'Elegance' trim - and £1,700 more for the Crossback version.

What to Look For

We should start by pointing out that as a whole, DS4 owners are a very happy bunch. If your perception of DS / Citroens corresponds with unreliability, then it's time to change your perspective. The later post-2015-era DS4 range we're looking at here comes from a time when most of the original post-2011 model's teething issues had been sorted out. All that having been said, there have been faults reported and we found a number on our various surveys: you might want to look out for these on the used market.

The situation of the starter motor supply terminal might not conform to the correct specification and could short circuit against nearby components. Lower seatbelt mountings on the right hand side of the car might not be torqued to the right settings and could therefore detach in a crash, but this should have been rectified by DS dealers. There were early reports that an oil leak might develop from the turbocharger of some of the engines because a union retaining bolt was found not to conform to the manufacturer's specification. It was also found that the striker that holds the bonnet closed could corrode on some DS4s and would fail if left untreated, with the potential for the bonnet to spring open while driving. Check that the bonnet latches properly.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2015 DS4 1.6 BlueHDi 120) Parts prices won't break the bank, with an air filter priced in the £11 to £19 bracket, while a fuel filter costs around £20-£25 and an oil filter costs in the £8 to £11 bracket. A water pump will be priced in the £27 to £58 bracket, while a starter motor is around £110. On to brakes. Front brake discs retail in the £37 to £88 bracket; rears are in the £102-£114 bracket. A pollen filter is around £6-£21. A wiper blade is in the £14-£29 bracket.

On the Road

On the move, first impressions depend a little on the variant you've chosen. The Crossback version sits 30mm higher than its standard counterpart, giving you more of an elevated view, plus its extra suspension travel makes the otherwise slightly over-firm ride rather more absorbent. Otherwise, the two derivatives are pretty similar and feel quite sporty if you're minded to throw them around. And you might be. After all, body roll is well controlled and the car feels taut and quite responsive, with the whole experience complemented by a terrific six-speed manual gearbox.

Under the bonnet, the entry-level option is a 1.2-litre PureTech 130bhp petrol powerplant but the most popular engine was the most affordable 120bhp version of the 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel unit that all black pump-fuelled DS4 models share. This is reasonably responsive - and decently economical too, managing 74.3mpg on the combined cycle and 100g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). Plus there was an efficient EAT6 auto gearbox offered for those wanting it. If you want more power, there's an auto-only BlueHDi 180 variant near the top of the range. Other engines include a mid-range diesel option, the BlueHDi 150 variant. And two THP petrol models offering either 165 or 210bhp.

Overall

You could see the thinking behind the original Citroen version of this car. It targeted family folk looking for something more interesting than a conventional Golf, Focus or Astra hatch. People who maybe liked the idea of a premium-badged model of this kind, but couldn't quite stretch to one. And folk who in recent years had found themselves tempted by a whole range of different types of car: plush family hatchbacks, GTis, four-seat sports coupes and SUV-like Crossovers. In trying to meet their needs, what could be better, the early designers of this DS4 thought, than to offer up a model incorporating elements from all these categories? A crossbreed if you will. Crossbreeding, as we all know, can be the gateway to the creation of powerful new genes. But it also brought us the labradoodle...

In the case of the original Citroen version of this DS4, the crossbreeding in question went a touch too far. Trying to target the growing Crossover sector with this DS4 at a time when the same car was being promoted as a premium sporty hatch proved to be predictably difficult. Reinvented as a DS brand product though, this model proved to be a much more credible proposition. The letters stand for a 'Different Spirit': this car has exactly that.

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