Test drive: DS4 Rivoli E-Tense 225: the right balance?

The very first cars from the DS brand may have shocked prospective customers while the  subsequent ones may have seemed a bit bland. Would the new DS4 be the right balance, the car that eventually put the thins right for DS, Citroën’s posh badge ? That’s what we think after a week spent behind the wheel of this Peugeot 308 and Opel Astra relative. It successfully blends an original design that sets it apart from its German competitors with a new driving experience brimming with comfort and luxury.

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The DS4 is irresistibly attractive, with its retractable door handles and dynamic headlights that welcome you when getting close to it. Its imposing front grille, its stretched lines, its sculpted sides along with the highly detailed back panel all lend it real character. Its diamond-shaped rear lights are unmistakable. DS entrusted us with the most expensive model, a PHEV 225 bhp E-Tense DS4, in Rivoli trim. The interior is impressive and makes for a welcome change from the usual German copy and paste techniques. The electrically adjustable, heated, ventilated and massaging front seats are very impressive (a €2,050 extra) and perfectly match the high quality fit and finish. There’s leather on the door panels, as well as on the central console sides, everything ooze quality and luxury. And that’s not even mentioning the exquisitely done dashboard.

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I like it

Once on the road, the DS4 feels rather stiff, a bit like a German car. Obviously, the big wheels  play a part, as well as the batteries. Their sheer weight requires a stiffer suspension set up to avoid undue body movement. One gets quickly used to it, even if some particularly rough Belgian roads do their best to upset the car. Never mind… once aboard, the DS4 is very pleasing, a sheer serene feeling dominates and fits perfectly with the DS ADN.

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Quite clever

DS is there up with the best regarding standard kit or extras available. The “Safety Pack” offers active anti-skidding, automatic emergency braking up to 140 km/h, a driver’s attention monitoring system, road sign recognition, automatic high beam lights activation… On the top of the range version, rear traffic alert and long distance blind spot monitoring are standard. To summarize, the new DS4 is very much in tune with the times and fully equipped to cope with everyday traffic safely.

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I don’t like it

DS do things differently and sets its cars apart from the competition. However, there’s a price to pay… some details, like the power windows switches can be puzzling. The way aircon vents work is difficult to understand. Anyway, you have to like diamond shapes… Compared to some competitors, the infotainment system is a bit down as it’s not as playful as some that allow colours and display changes.

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Why I buy it

What’s not to like with the DS4? Its striking and distinctive exterior design grows on you, the plush interior cossets the driver and passengers, not to mention its roadholding that totally fits in with the DS brand’s luxurious and dynamic goals. Technology is not left behind either: all the safety systems one would expect are there, it’s just the infotainment that’s not as modular as we would have liked. Our test car featured standard adaptive dampers that are constantly monitored using a camera located on top of the windscreen. It scans the road surface ahead of the car and modify settings all the time to make sure the car rides as smoothly as possible. It will work fine up to 130 km/h speed but driving faster could impair it.

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Why I don’t buy it

The DS4 is an excellent car… until you look at its recommended retail prices! Obviously, selecting the top level trim makes things worse but ticking off extras to enhance it further will surely make you cry. The E-Tense car starts from € 38,800 (incl. VAT) and can quickly get to unreasonable levels. Some colours are expensive and you could easily have to foot a € 60,000 bill. We think that’s way too much for this car’s segment. As a company car, the PHEV DS4 has a lot going for it, thanks to low emissions (29- 32 g CO²/km). However, its batteries will have to be charged regularly. Otherwise, fuel consumption will soon get out of control (we recorded 8.6 l/100 km during the test).  Buyers beware : full electric range is rather tiny (about 40 km under ideal conditions). Some of its recent German competitors can do much better. By the way, its dry weight is 1728 kg… (Pictures: Pierre Fontignies)

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