The CitroÃ«n DS4 THP 200 Sport is the sixth candidate in our 2012 Car of the Year overview. Judge and Mamba Motoring Editor Brent Ellis gives this bold and brash French contender a spin.
Parked next to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the new CitroÃ«n DS4 shares top spot on the podium for being the quirkiest finalist in the running for this year’s coveted Car of the Year title. With its French flair and blatantly off the wall styling, the new DS4 compliments its younger brother DS3 by bringing yet another niche model to CitroÃ«n’s local line up – both of which will be joined in the very near future by the stunning DS5. But does the DS4’s funky looks and bonkers attitude make it stand out enough from the crowd?
Well at least none of your friends will think you’ve bought a Golf or a Focus, because this car cannot be mistaken for anything else. And CitroÃ«n is really one of the only companies whose rich history of making strange and wonderful cars lends the opportunity to be bold and brash in the 21st century – at a time when most car makers are employing a plain and uniform look with all their cars (Audi and VW especially). The DS4 is literally bathed in swoops, curves and angles, with every inch of plastic and metal revealing something interesting.
My favourite bit is the side profile – the large and sharp glass profile is met by a smart beading arrangement and 18-inch “Brisbane” wheels, and with cleverly hidden rear door handles, the coupe appearance is very sexy. That does lead me on to a bit of a bone I have to pick with this car however: CitroÃ«n will happily tell you that the DS4 is a sporty 2-door coupe with a high stance, and in being so, is in a class of its own. I argue though, that this is simply a 5-door hatchback with raised suspension – because that’s what it is. I also found it horribly annoying that the rear windows cannot be opened, like those of a coupe…
Comfort and Features
The interior is just about as funky as the exterior, and with a completely bespoke design, this car is utterly gorgeous to sit in. High-quality materials have been used throughout, with soft-touch dashboard plastics, sumptuous leather seats and finishes, and solid switchgear giving off an air of class. Interesting features abound, chief of which is the clever panoramic windscreen, which allows up to 45Â° of upward vision, with adjustable extended sun visors for brighter days. The electronic instrument cluster is also a talking point, and it features colour adjustment to suit your mood. You can also adjust the car’s warning and indicator sounds, and some of the options are pure comedy – thumbs up to the French!
What is also pleasing to note with the DS4 is that in Sport guise, the list of standard fitment extras is brilliant for a car in this price range. Mod cons like dual-zone climate control, cruise control, a full multi-function steering wheel and trip computer, massaging front seats with electric lumbar adjustment, electric mirrors and auto-dimming for the rear-view mirror, automatic lights and wipers, front fog lights with cornering function, front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights and a very good 6-speaker radio/CD/MP3/USB/iPod sound system with Bluetooth – all are fitted as standard.
Ride and Handling
Sadly, this is where the DS4 was slightly lacking for me. Dynamics aren’t bad and road holding is solid, but a bumpy road with undulations really reveals this car’s weakness – its steering. It’s electro-hydraulically assisted and that’s fine, but in my opinion the system is too sensitive and the wheel is too light at higher speeds. The large tyres tend to want to do their own thing and, with limited feedback through the steering wheel, you’re not always sure what that might be. It’s a pity, because I loved driving the DS4 – although I suppose you could get used to the steering over time and it really only plays up when you’re on bad roads.
Performance and Economy
Labelling this version of the DS4 the “Sport” model means there must be some meat under the bonnet and there sure is. The same 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine you find in the Peugeot RCZ and MINI Cooper S is on duty in the DS4 THP 200 Sport and CitroÃ«n haven’t gone for any limp wrists in the power department. An addictive 147kW and 275Nm are on offer, and in combination with a 6-speed manual gearbox, this car was not only quick but also a hoot to drive.
That’s thanks in no small part to the power, but also the clever engine sound system, which sends a lovely buzz of exhaust noise into the cabin when you put your foot down, adding to the excitement. CitroÃ«n claims you’ll do 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds and top out at 235km/h. In something as fun to drive as the DS4, fuel economy is always going to be a pain, and my combined figure of 11.5-litres per 100km wasn’t nearly as good as CitroÃ«n’s claimed 6.9 – though I noticed the DS4 does calm down if you drive it gently. Carbon emissions are pleasingly low at just 149g/km.
EuroNCAP awarded the DS4 five stars during crash testing and that’s thanks to the car’s multitude of safety systems, which include ABS (anti-lock brakes), EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), EBA (emergency brake assistance), ESP (stability control), ITC (intelligent traction control), HAS (hill start assistance) and six airbags. ISOFIX child seat mounting points and electronic child locks are also on offer, along with an electronic handbrake, parking space measuring system and even blind spot assistance – all fitted as standard. Anti-theft measures are taken care of by remote central locking, auto-locking doors and an alarm/immobiliser combination.
With such a high spec level you wouldn’t really expect the DS4 THP 200 Sport to need anything else, but CitroÃ«n does offer a few extras that tickle my fancy. The car you see in these photos in particular was fitted with dynamic bi-xenon headlights which also turn with the car’s steering, and I’d really recommend you opt for them if you’re looking at this car. The only other options are different wheel designs, different leather combinations and satellite navigation – of which only the navigation might get the nod from me.
As I’m sure you’re wondering (as I did on the launch of the DS4), this must surely be a pricey machine. But for R319 900 including a 5-year/100 000km service plan and a 3-year/100 000km warranty, it’s actually excellent value for money. When you consider just how much you get for the money, and how much style and pizzazz comes with everything too, you simply have to consider this if you’re shopping around the R320 000 mark.
Then of course, you’d also be considering similarly funky cars like the new MINI Cooper S Coupe, the Volvo C30 T5 R-Design, Honda’s CR-Z hybrid, or even the silly (really, don’t buy one until the new shape arrives, please!) VW Beetle. Of course, none of these cars offer nearly as much practicality as the DS4 though, which means if you need back doors and a big boot, the CitroÃ«n is an obvious choice.
It does however also compete (price-wise) against the VW Golf GTI and BMW’s new 120d – two premium German family hatchbacks which offer similar if not better practicality, and I’m not sure the CitroÃ«n badge is strong enough to sway people away from either of these brands – despite that the Golf and 1 S