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Jonathan Bell

The DS 4 exemplifies mass-market luxury, cramming features and frivolity into an excellent all-rounder

DS 4

It's a measure of the weird hybrid space that DS has manoeuvred itself into, a mass-market manufacturer aping the approach and actions of a luxury car maker. DS is carefully curated to exude an aura of niche, bespoke design, all within the umbrella of the Stellantis family. 

(Image credit: DS Automobiles)

Motoring journalists tend to have longer memories than car buyers, and the subtle but insistent art of modern branding can be far more persuasive than the historical record. The original DS has faded far in the cultural memory – too old to even be considered a cult car. When Citroën siphoned off its big car DNA into the separate DS brand, it intended to evoke the spirit of the original, if not the actual dramatic avant-garde approach to design and engineering. 

(Image credit: DS Automobiles)

Alongside the DS 9, the DS 4 is the best-looking car in the DS line-up. A mid-sized, raised-up crossover-style hatchback, it has the proportions to reconcile the angular front and rear treatment – all big grilles and slashed lighting – with the long flanks. The wheels sit suitably far apart to give the DS 4 a purposeful, planted stance. It feels right, not awkward, with space for the wilfully esoteric detailing to breathe. In plug-in hybrid form, the DS 4 E-Tense 225 will run 62km on battery power alone, a welcome chunk of zero-emission driving that’s paired with a sprightly petrol engine.

(Image credit: DS Automobiles)

Inside, there’s even more character. The graphics on the central screen are eccentric but by no means offensive, and DS’ designers are sensible enough to realise that it’s the tactile touch points like buttons and roller dials that provide the most obvious and gratifying interactions with a car. Hence DS 4 is awash with little breaks from the norm, like the windowsill-mounted electric window buttons, or the concealed ventilation system. 

DS 4 and its low-key luxury

(Image credit: DS Automobiles)

There’s a lot of low-key luxury going here – from the heated massage seats to the use of hand-stitching on some of the surfaces, embossed leather, and innovations like night vision, active suspension that scans the road ahead, and a customisable info screen – that is normally found much higher up in the market. 

(Image credit: DS Automobiles)

As a case in point, DS has created a nappa leather ‘culinary trunk’, part of its drive to celebrate the ‘Esprit de Voyage’ conjured up by its cars. The trunk was designed by DS’ Design Studio Paris and fabricated by French leather goods manufacturer La Malle Bernard. It was developed in collaboration with the Michelin-starred chef Julien Dumas, containing the kinds of items needed for a tasting trip to vineyards and olive oil producers, rather than an out-and-out picnic. It’s available in edition of ten, for either the DS 4 or DS 7 Esprit De Voyage editions at a cost of €4,000. 

Culinary trunk for DS 4 (Image credit: DS Automobiles)

Aiming too high, or an example of luxury’s democratisation? Regardless of the perks and quirks, the DS 4 ticks many boxes. It is easy on the eye, easy to drive, and a very straightforward car to live with. Some of the design decisions verge on the perverse, but historically that’s exactly what hardcore Citroën owners craved – a bit of deliberate difference that set them apart from the mainstream. 

(Image credit: DS Automobiles)

DS 4 Esprit De Voyage hybrid, from £44,650,

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