THE story so far. Citroën has a posher parvenu brand, DS Automobiles. Until this year the DS hatchbacks (DS3, DS4, DS5) also carried the Citroën badge. Now they do not.
Sales have been encouraging, with 7,257 registrations in the UK in the last 11 months – and even with a drop of almost 3,000 sales of Citroëns per se, it shows a net gain for the two brands.
The DS3 three-door hatchback led the way in 2010 with a welcome burst of quality and driving panache. The Mondeo-sized DS5 had a revamp this year and now the DS4 has had a bit of spit and polish in trim and cosmetics and engine updates and deletion of its Citroën tags. My snap verdict is the same as for the DS5: style over substance, with lots of attention and time spent on its rakish looks, not enough on the driving comfort.
Like the DS5 it goes into a price band in which Citroëns and other Frenchies do not fare well. DS4 prices start at almost £20,000 for this rival to the Ford Focus – which is still an exemplar of driving enjoyment. The Volkswagen Golf is (pending further fall-out from the emissions fiddling scandal) still the default choice.
We tried a DS4 Prestige PureTech 130 stop-start ignition, with a six-speed manual gearbox, costing from £20,745. The 128bhp three-cylinder 1.2 litre engine is delightful. Its official figures are 123mph, 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and 54.3mpg combined and 120g of CO2.
This price is overlapping the starting point for BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class ownership, and rather higher than that for an Audi A3.
The coupé-like rear and wide central pillars makes visibility a bit fudged. The ride – on 18-inch wheels – was variously too firm over faults and too much of an undulating ride over rises and dips. However, the DS4 is now joined by the DS4 Crossback, which has a higher ride height and better traction control to serve its time as an urban/rural runabout.
There are adjustments to the suspension and the result (again on 18-inch wheels) is that it has a better ride than the standard DS4. With the same engine and similar trim grade it costs £21,745 – which brings roof rails, wheel arch protectors, black wheels and bespoke facial make-up.
Both models are made at the renowned Peugeot factory in Mulhouse, eastern France, and are offered with excellent diesel engines from the Peugeot-Citroën family. The Crossback tried (seen here in striking Tourmaline Orange) was fitted with the 118bhp 1,560cc four-cylinder diesel which also produced 221 lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm. Brochure figures are 117mph, 0-62 in 10.9 seconds, 72.4mpg and 103g. This is a sweet engine. It runs quietly and pulls well and if you can face the price premium for diesel (£23,495 plus £520 for the fancy paint) and decide not to spend the money on a properly posh German car, then the choice may be a happy one.