Citroen DS4 a style statement

Citroen's new design-driven DS4 doesn't put style above substance, says Matt Joy.

Even those of you with a distinctly casual attitude to cars – you buy them and drive them but nothing more – may have heard of the Citroen DS3. And even if you haven't, you will have seen one.

The baby premium-aspirational hatchback took the market and its rivals by surprise in 2009. By combining sharp design, the all-important personalisation options and a sharp driving experience while still being a genuinely useful and practical small car. Suddenly the less accommodating MINI and Fiat 500 seemed that bit less attractive.

Now Citroen has released its second car to wear the DS tag, which denotes a design-led approach and something slightly outside of the normal templates. The DS4 is billed as a four-door coupe – something a few other manufacturers have presented – but Citroen has gone a step further and created something of a crossover. Although it shares some hardware and fundamental structures with the C4 hatchback, the similarity ends there.

A quick look at the side profile and there are bold curves everywhere, with a strong arc to the roof and slashes over the rear wheelarches. With hidden handles on the rear doors there is a coupe feel to it, but it also rides higher than a conventional hatch to give a loftier driving position and the panoramic windscreen brings more light into the cabin and affords a better view out. Unusual it certainly is and whether you find it attractive or not is a personal matter, but whatever your feelings it is unquestionably bold, refreshing and will stand out.

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Despite the focus on appearances the DS4 is a thoroughly practical car. The overall height of the body means plenty of room regardless of whether you sit front or back and the boot is a usefully large 359 litres with a further 26 litres beneath the boot floor. It's worth mentioning that because of the unusual shape the rear windows are unable to roll down, although in a car with climate control as standard this is unlikely to be an issue. Certain models also come with a vast centre console storage box, which adds up to an impressive amount of space.

Although the cabin is more conventional than the exterior there are still some smart touches. There are flashes of silver around the air vents and gearlever, there is the option to have customisable sounds and lighting effects and should you choose the full leather trim option the seats have multiple panels that evoke the look of a watch bracelet – unusual but highly appealing.

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With the blend of practicality and style sorted out, Citroen also claims the DS4 is sporty as well as comfortable and offers an involved driving experience – after sampling various versions it is hard not to agree. The way in which the steering responds to inputs and the suspension keeps the body in check when cornering is impressive. While it will never match the sprightliness of the smaller DS3, for a car of its size and status the DS4 is enjoyable to drive in a variety of conditions. The larger 19in wheel options trade a little ride comfort for the sake of looks, but this is also down to personal preference. Regardless, the DS4 strikes a balance between comfort and fun.

The DS4 has a good choice of well-proven petrol and diesel engines, with the HDi 160 and 120 versions vying to be the pick of the bunch. However petrol fans can also choose the excellent THP turbocharged units, with the 200 THP version offering power with impressive economy and emissions.

Back in the diesel though and the torquey, flexible nature of the high output version is ideally suited to the DS4's multi-faceted personality. It will cruise with ease and potter through urban traffic quite happily, but should you be fortunate to find yourself on an open road it will punch to 62mph from rest in under 10 seconds. The headline figures of 55.4mpg and 134g/km of C02 means it makes financial sense too. Mid-range DStyle 160 HDi costs �22,950 with an impressive specification. The semi-crossover approach means it will appeal to a wide audience – even though the design means only those with a taste for modern looks will understand.

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