The DS 4 E-TENSE is a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid hatchback with a focus on stylish design, but is style prioritised over substance and ease of use?
DS used to be a model within Citroen but it’s now a standalone brand in the Stellantis family. It wants to be known for being stylish, as well as being a leader in the area of electric vehicles. So although the platform underneath the new DS 4 is shared with other models in Stellantis, an effort has been made to try and ensure the car stands apart from other models; does this work?
The DS 4 E-TENSE has a turbocharged 180hp 4-cylinder, 1.6-litre petrol engine along with a 110hp/320Nm electric motor and a 12.4 kWh lithium-ion battery, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox sending drive to the front wheels. Combined system power from the plug-in hybrid powertrain is 225hp and combined torque is 360Nm.
The DS 4 E-TENSE has exterior styling that stands out, as does the interior with its diamond design theme. In the Performance Line version, Alcantara material covers the dashboard, the doors and the centre console.
Rear legroom is quite tight, and the 430-litre boot isn’t huge.
The DS 4 starts in electric mode which is good, and the electric motor generates 110hp of power and 320Nm of torque, so performance in electric mode is respectable, although not as good as a pure EV (the DS 3 E-TENSE has a power output of 154 hp). The DS 4 is much better to drive in electric mode thanks to instant torque than on its petrol engine, when it was hesitant, revvy and noisy.
The steering has decent feel and handling is good, resulting in the DS 4 being enjoyable through corners. Ride quality should be good on a DS, which was the case on smooth roads (the DS 4 is quiet and comfortable on the motorway) but the suspension didn’t like the huge potholes in South Manchester. This is despite DS ACTIVE SCAN SUSPENSION which features a camera positioned at the top of the windscreen to scan the road ahead for imperfections and adjust the suspension accordingly.
The DS 4 has a gear selector which offers D and B modes, the latter delivering increased levels of regenerative braking. There are also steering wheel-mounted paddles.
There’s a drive mode switch, which is angled away from you on the left-hand side of the centre console, making it hard to see, offering options of Sport, Hybrid, Comfort and Electric.
You can also select eSave, ie. driving on the petrol engine in order to save the battery charge, but you have to delve into the touchscreen to find this option in the Energy screen.
If you drive near a white line you’ll experience the steering wheel being wrenched out of your hands by the lane departure warning system. This can be switched off but only after going into the touchscreen and pressing buttons for the Application Drawer then ADAS then Lane Keeping Assist – after all that button-pressing on the touchscreen while driving you’re more likely to have crashed than if the car didn’t have the lane departure warning system in the first place.
The DS 4 features the DS IRIS SYSTEM – an all-new, full HD touchscreen infotainment system. Under the touchscreen is a row of buttons that face upwards and are silver with light silver graphics, which are hard to read in many poor light conditions. This is an example of the dashboard design being a case of style over substance. Another example of poor ease of use is that there’s no way of viewing, accessing or changing the cabin climate settings when satnav or Apple CarPlay is on the touchscreen. The DS 4 – and all cars – really needs separate climate controls.
There’s also a separate small screen above the gear selector called DS SMART TOUCH – it may not be obvious what this screen is for, but it’s a gesture control system featuring customisable shortcuts and handwriting recognition.
And the designers have tried to be clever with the ‘DS AIR’ vents in the dashboard, which are ‘invisible air vents’. Again the result is that it’s not a user-friendly way to operate the vents. Also the diamond-style window switches aren’t the easiest window switches to operate, and if you need to fit an Isofix child seat, you have to open a zip in the seat and fight your way through material and foam to insert this.
The DS EXTENDED HEAD-UP DISPLAY projects key information onto the windscreen, and DS NIGHT VISION helps detect hazards in low or poor visibility through the use of infrared camera technology, with objects projected onto the driver’s display.
The official electric driving range for our DS 4 Performance Line + E-TENSE 225 test car was 30 miles, along with WLTP combined fuel economy of 183.8 – 232.3 mpg, and CO2 emissions (WLTP) of 34 g/km.
The DS 4’s real-world electric driving range varied between 22-29 miles, and over a week of mixed driving the fuel economy was 51.3mpg. The range on petrol was displayed as 400 miles.
The DS 4 E-TENSE 225 line-up features three variants: DS 4, Performance Line and Cross derivatives. Slightly confusingly there are also four trim levels: Trocadero, Rivoli, Performance Line and Performance Line+. Prices for the DS 4 plug-in hybrid range start from £38,100 for the DS 4 Trocadero E-TENSE 225. The DS 4 Performance Line+ is available from £39,600.
The DS 4 E-TENSE has steering and handling that is enjoyable, and when on electric power, the car is quiet and offers the potential of decent fuel economy – although we’d prefer an all-elecric DS rather than a plug-in hybrid. It has exterior styling that stands out, and the interior also has its own personality. However many of the interior controls feel as though they have been designed primarily to be different, but in practical terms the outcome is that they aren’t user-friendly. Our test car came with a PowerPoint presentation about how to use the air vents, the touchscreen and Smart Touch, and how to scroll through the information pages for the head-up display, the digital instruments and the onboard computer’s information pages. If a guide is needed for such things, we’re thinking that the basic car controls aren’t sufficiently user-friendly, and it’s a case of the interior design being style over substance. The DS 4 E-TENSE gets a Green Car Guide rating of 7/10.