Citroen DS4

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

A French hot-hatch-cum-coupe-crossover, a powerful engine that can only be matched to a manual gearbox (and you know how much Kiwis dislike those) and a design ethos that puts style ahead of absolutely everything else.

To illustrate: the svelte shape of the roofline and elegant rear doors were only possible sans opening rear windows. That’s right: if you’re sitting in the back, you have to put your faith in the air conditioning in hot weather. Which, unfortunately, is about the least effective aspect of the car.

What’s gone wrong? Nothing really, as long as you understand that the DS-line (there’s a DS3 as well and a DS5 in Europe) stands as a glamorous, super-stylish halo range above the marque’s more mainstream offerings. These cars are not supposed to be sensible.

If the DS4 is too wacky for you, may we refer you to the much more conservative C4 on which it is based. Although it might not be obvious, because the two share hardly any sheet metal. The DS4 might be a styling statement above all else, but it’s fairly comprehensive one.

Our $46,990 DS4 Sport Chic is the flagship of the range, with a 147kW/275Nm 1.6-litre turbo engine and six-speed manual transmission. Despite the high(ish) ride height, it’s front-drive and the firm suspension is certainly not conducive to anything other than road driving.

Fast road driving, actually. On power and price, the DS4 Sport Chic is actually very competitive against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The powertrain is superb – smooth, torquey and lively at the top end. It tackles corners with enthusiasm, although I’d still swap a little of that handling ability for a slightly more compliant ride. It seems odd to make a car tall, then give it stiff suspension to stop it rolling around; as if Citroen is struggling to solve a problem of its own making.

That $47k looks like particularly good value when you consider that the Sport Chic comes as standard with leather, a massage function for the front seats and Citroen’s trademark panoramic front windscreen, which can be reduced to regular size with a split-sliding blind.

The fit and finish inside is stunningly good for a small car: a wealth of soft-touch plastics and shiny inserts that add a touch of class. Some weirdness as you’d expect, too: you can adjust the illumination of the instruments and digital information display (separately) from a translucent white through blue to a lurid purple. It’s fun for about five minutes.

The rest of the car, however, is oddly appealing. It looks avant garde, it’s great to drive and it’s good value. Really quite cool, even without decent air conditioning.