The infamous DS badge adorned its first Citroën in 1955. Styled by Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni and the French aeronautical engineer André Lefèbvre, the DS was revealed at the Paris Motorshow, after 18 years of secret development, and saw salesmen take 743 orders within 15 minutes of the doors opening.
There were many good reasons for this wild success. “DS” is pronounced in French as “Déesse” (goddess if you live across the channel) – and it was definitely heralded as such. Furthermore the DS advanced achievable standards in automobile ride quality, handling, and braking. It pushed the envelope in almost every department.
In 2010 Citroën relaunched the DS badge in the form of the slightly off beat, whacky, hot hatch version of the C3. However don’t be fooled into thinking this was nothing but a marketing ploy – underneath the DS3 was a lot of engineering know-how. A fact which showed in the world wide sales book.
The DS range recently adopted a big brother, the DS4. It undoubtedly carries the flame the DS3 ignited back in 2010, just on a slightly larger scale. So it goes without saying that the Golf-ish size Citroën is easy on the eye, if not all in part thanks to its clever 2+2 layout, giving a coupe look while retaining the practicality of four doors.
Occupants will however be surprised to find that there isn’t much space around the cabin, especially those in the back. This happens to be the one downside of function following form. That low raking roof line limits head room in the back, while the curvaceous rear doors don’t allow for the window to wind down – ends up quite claustrophobic back there. The boot is alright though.
Aside from the practicality shortfalls, the inside of the DS4 is a very nice place to be, especially for those up front, with seats that will massage you and an elegant, functional, well-made dashboard to look at. The massive windscreen stretches well above your eye line, and thanks to adjustable roof panels will open up a unique view of the sky above.
As you drive the DS4, those practicality issues dwindle further. The DS4 handles well, far better than it probably should, given its simplistic suspension setup, size and ride height. Citroën has resisted the temptation of electrically assisted steering, sticking with good old fashioned hydraulics. The DS4 is all the better for it. Steering is sharp and accurate and provides a surprising amount of feedback and the suspension keeps body roll in check with aplomb.
Under the bonnet lies the same 1.6 litre, turbo charged petrol motor from the DS3 Sport and in fact the Mini Cooper S, while power is delivered to the tarmac via a newly introduced six speed automatic gearbox. Even if the motor’s 120kW and 240Nm isn’t really enough to qualify the DS4 as brisk, the gearbox deserves special mention. It’s exceptionally smooth. But more than that, it doesn’t muck about when you pull off, nor when you want to get a move on suddenly.
Yes, the DS badge is back once again and perhaps the DS4 isn’t quite from the same branch as the ground breaking 1955 model. None the less it’s a sign that Citroën are awakening the genius of their illustrious past. It isn’t perfect, but it is fun – and when you look around at the DS4’s competitors, it’s hard to find anything anywhere near as interesting.
Engine: 1598cc four cylinder turbo charged petrol
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 9.3 seconds
Top speed: 212km/h
First published in Autodealer – KZN