When the Citroen DS3 first appeared it was, justifiably, a great success. Since then DS (Different Spirit apparently) has fledged fully and flown the nest to boldly go and find its place in the world. A better place it would seem: more upmarket and on trend with not a parental chevron in sight. Not for DS the run of the mill, no: the brand wants to move upmarket and take on the posh motors. There is still a way to go.
The efforts of the company to date have something of the curate's egg about them. The cars are different certainly with a unique and attractive styling but, in the case of the original DS4 for example, simply not up to the mark with the overall package. Plus you have to ask...
The DS4 Crossback featured here is certainly an improvement on the original incarnation. Taller by 40cm than the hatch, the car features black wheel arch protectors and a black centre grill, a deep rear spoiler and alloy roof bars. Presumably this is in keeping with the intended blend of CROSSover and hatchBACK. On balance it is a more attractive package and, as previously alluded to, offers something a bit different to the mainstream norm.
Credit then for the bold design which goes for a coupé look hiding the rear door handles at quarter-light level. The black 18” wheels are fab and really set the car off well although the 'Tourmaline Orange' special paint is a matter of personal choice. Other colours are available. On the outside then it's looking good but open the doors...
Where It All Goes A Tiny Bit Wrong
First it is necessary to make a point. The car in the images is a press car. For the last few months beefy, grumbling journos have been piling into it and dishing out the treatment. Nevertheless it was disappointing to note that the hard plastic on the driver's door surround and adjacent to the seatbelt mounting were already showing some wear and scratching. Buyers probably won't be so rough but it does highlight where savings have been made.
The dashboard is also plastic, but softer and tough, with some carbon-fibre-like effects. The point to remember here is that DS want to move their brand upmarket and the disappointing dash just does not deliver. The touchscreen (which works well with all the usual suspects available) is on the small side and although the dials and buttons are neatly arrayed there's nothing special going on. It's all a bit dull.
Leather is available for the seats and would be the preferred choice over the cloth material supplied. It is described as part leather but the cow-hide only appears on the side and seat bolsters. In fact these work well, holding the incumbents in place, but the seats were way too soft. It was like sitting on soft foam which is presumably exactly what is in there. Far too spongy. On a long trip one prefers a bit of firmness beneath the buttocks.
Generally speaking, steering wheels on most cars are fine these days with sufficient reach and rake adjustment although many are getting a bit cluttered with more controls than a F1 car. The wheel in the DS4 Crossback seemed oddly big. Certainly it is comfortable enough to hold but there's a touch of the ship's wheel about it. Also, for taller drivers, there isn't enough reach adjustment.
Some would call it quirky but rear seat passengers can't open the windows. With climate control obviously it isn't necessary to do but surely the facility should be there. This feature – or rather the lack of it – was a cause for complaint on the original car. Despite this DS have chosen to keep the windows firmly locked to us. It's a mystery. Cynics might say that it is another cost-saver and who would disagree with that?
Leg room for passengers can get a bit tight if tall folk are up front and the coupé styling means head room is also tight. It's a bit claustrophobic in the rear seats because of the rising body line but in general it is no better or worse than many similar cars. It's meant to be a crossover after all which is basically just a taller hatchback in most cases. The boot is pretty decent at 385 litres and Isofix is standard. The full specification is pleasingly comprehensive and there are several trim options. On to the road and put the...
DS4 To The Floor
Drive on the tested car was through a crisp six-speed manual gearbox which, with a well-weighted clutch, made driving a reasonable pleasure. The supplied 118bhp 1.6HDi was gravelly at low revs but had plenty to offer in mid-range shove (221lb.ft). Although the traffic light sprint is accomplished in a modest 10.9 seconds it is possible to get this motor to cut along nicely.
The pedal box is a bit tight for the larger foot with only limited space 'twixt clutch and side wall. The brakes are well modulated and appeared strong. No complaints there.
Ride is good generally, if a tad busy. The combination of the elevated height and excellent panoramic windscreen - with adjustable sun-visors - gives you the impression of driving a far larger vehicle and helps to make the interior light and airy. Wind noise makes itself heard at higher speeds.
There's much to like about the DS4 Crossback. It is attractively and differently styled but unfortunately it falls short of the mark on the inside. If this car is meant to take on the likes of Audi then changes have got to be made.
Yes, there are tangible improvements and at around £20-24k depending it is decent value but it is just not there yet. Clearly the DS brand is on a mission but more needs to be done for a total makeover. It's good but not quite...