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First drive: DS 4 E-Tense. Image by DS.

First drive: DS 4 E-Tense
DS is ramping up its model range with the new DS 4 crossover hatchback. A convincing French rival to the likes of the BMW X2?


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DS 4 E-Tense

4 4 4 4 4

The DS 4 E-Tense hopes to attract premium-hungry customers who've become bored of the predictable, Germanic domination of the upscale car market. Can this posh French car make its mark in the UK market?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: DS 4 E-Tense La Première Edition
Pricing: £TBA
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol + 82kW electric motor
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover hatchback
CO2 emissions: 29g/km (VED Band 1-50 - €0 per annum)
Combined economy: 207mpg
Electric range: 34km (WLTP)
Top speed: 144km/h
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Power: 225hp (system total)
Torque: 360Nm (system total)
Boot space: 390 litres
Safety: Euro NCAP rating for DS 4: Not yet tested

What's this?

This is DS' idea of a competitor for the likes of the BMW X2 and the Mercedes GLA. It's the new DS 4 (remember the old DS 4? No, nor do most people...) and it's in the vanguard of a sea-change that's seeing big, boxy SUVs morph into lower-slung, tall hatchbacks (see also: Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, although those are both much larger cars than this DS 4).

It's been designed to be distinctive and different, rather than classically beautiful, but we think it works quite nicely all the same, especially in the pale grey paintwork of our test car. The glowering LED headlights look great, as does the diamond-faceted detailing around the brake lights. It's certainly not following the more predictable look of its Germanic rivals.

Inside, it looks closer to a Lexus than a BMW, with the emphasis on luxury, although that is partly down to this test car being a top-spec La Première Edition with almost every conceivable extra fitted. There are squidgy, but supportive leather seats, leather and alcantara coverings for almost everything, and even little inserts of marquetry woodwork in the doors.

You get the expected big touchscreen in the centre of the dash (which can also be controlled using the little auxiliary touchscreen mounted down on the centre console) and if the main digital instrument panel is a little small - and it is - then it's usefully augmented by a very good heads-up display that projects lots of driving info onto the windscreen.

Less impressive is the space on offer. With the sloping roofline and shallow side glass, the rear seats feel a little claustrophobic, while the boot, at 390 litres, is nothing special within the class.

If you can't fill it with much luggage, DS has at least filled the DS 4 with high tech options, that run the gamut from infra-red night vision to an active suspension system that uses a camera to read the road ahead and warn the adaptive dampers of upcoming bumps. It's not quite innovative - none of the tech in the DS 4 is anything we haven't already seen in other cars, but DS does claim that much of the equipment is making its debut in the compact premium SUV class.

How does it drive?

This being a DS, you'll expect the DS 4 to major on comfort, and it does. That was never a given - the old DS 5 hatchback should have been a squashy comfort express but DS mistakenly tried to make it feel firmer, sportier, and more like its German rivals. The result was an utter mess.

Thankfully, the DS 4 leans into the French tradition of serene-riding, comfortable cars. Aside from the deeply wonderful seats, the active suspension is very effective, only being upset by very sharp bumps and mostly giving the DS 4 something close to a classical magic carpet ride.

It doesn't flop over in the corners, either. In fact, the DS 4 corners keenly, and stays very flat even on quick and twisty sections. It lacks the incisiveness and outright precision of a BMW, perhaps, but if it's not quite a drivers' car, then it is at least very well balanced. There is a Sport mode that firms everything up, but to be honest we didn't use it much, the DS 4 feels much happier in Comfort or Hybrid modes.

Hybrid? Yes, the E-Tense model uses the same 1.6-litre turbo petrol plug-in hybrid setup as the likes of the Peugeot 508 PHEV. It develops 225hp and 360Nm of torque and feels effortlessly swift and smooth. Charge up the 12.4kWh battery, and DS claims a 34km EV range. On a long test route, which took in fast French autoroutes as well as country and urban roads, we managed to squeeze better than 55mpg out of it, which is impressive for a PHEV. Obviously, you'll want to have a driveway and a home charger to make the most of it, at which point you might be better off with a fully-electric car. Happily, DS has confirmed that it will launch just that, an all-battery version of the DS 4 in 2024, after which the brand will launch nothing but all-electric new models, although its existing PHEV range will continue to be sold for a while after that.


The DS 4 is probably the most convincing all-round DS model since the original, small, fun, Citroen DS3 hatchback, launched more than a decade ago. It won't be to all tastes (a fact that DS is pretty much embracing) but it's interestingly different, hugely refined and comfortable and makes good use of its hybrid powertrain.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 9 Sep 2021

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