Citroen DS4 proves a premium player

FIRST, a neighbour wandered onto the drive for a closer inspection. Then a young (male) passenger in a passing Transit on the M25 nearly twisted his neck for a longer look as he passed in a white blur.

Yes, the new DS4 is no shrinking violet. Instead it’s Citroen’s second model in a DS badged line up that will provide a haute couture alternative to its more mass market models.

First came the little DS3 and it has proved a big sales success, combining catwalk looks with the sort of spirited driving appeal we all thought Citroen had forgotten about. It also gave its bigger, newer DS4 something to live up to.

There’s no question the newcomer works triumphantly in the style stakes; a slightly tall SUV stance combining with bulges and curves to make a different and distinctive addition to anyone’s driveway.

Practicality has suffered in the metamorphosis from plain Jane C4 to designer led DS4. Hiding the back door handles at the rear of the window makes for a coupe-like lack of visible hardware but leaves a jutting panel ready to clonk an unwary nut.

The rear windows don’t wind down (there’s nowhere for them to go in the contoured recesses of the bodywork), making this a car to avoid if you carry children who fight car sickness with loads of fresh air.

There’s actually room enough for growing youngsters in the rear but longer legged adults will find conditions cramped behind similarly limbed grown ups in the front.

But the best seats are reserved for those up front, where an expensive looking and nicely crafted dashboard dominates proceedings. Want to see a bit more sky? Then slide the panel carrying the sunvisors into to the roof lining and you’ll be able to count the stars or duck the aircraft coming into land at Heathrow.

Should the driver tire of instruments lit by a gentle cream light, a push on a dash mounted button turns things vivid blue by degrees. Yes, a lot of Gallic flair is on parade inside the DS4.

Quite a lot remains when you fire up the engine; in this top line model its a potent petrol powered version, although Citroen expects more diesel than petrol sales of its DS4 range, which starts at £18,150 for a petrol VTi 120 (the cheapest diesel costs £19,445).

Anyway, the 197 horses in the test car were ever eager to perform, pulling like Derby winners at the mere twitch of a right toe, the engine all the while making properly sporty noises.

Driven with less verve (like on a slow crawl home on the M11) it also sipped fuel, showing 49mpg for the journey (and 44mpg overall for its 800 miles in my hands).

A smooth road shows the DS4 at its best, when the big alloy wheels and wide tyres grip as well as they look. On lesser surfaces there’s a constant niggling jiggle to the ride that takes the shine off the journey.

Best then to slow down and enjoy a sound system boosted by a £500 Denon upgrade, stay on track with the satellite navigation system (£750), wonder as the headlamps curve themselves round corners (£690) or relax in the Habana Club leather and heated seats (£590).

Notice a touch of German premium car options fever? Well, the new (and French) DS4 has the class to carry it off.