The enjoyable eccentric
Something strange just happened. While driving through town, I caught sight of my reflection in a shop window. This isn’t overly strange but my reaction was – a mixture of excitement and pleasure that my visage was framed in the driver’s window of a Citroën DS4.
Many people will attest to Citroën being a bit quirky, slightly off-centre, and while I already knew this, I had no idea that it would appeal to me so much. A brief reflection displayed more than a weird car – it displayed something refreshingly different with a dash of joy.
Citroën doesn’t brand itself Créative Technologie for nothing; these French cars are wonderfully creative and different in almost every aspect of their being. Accountants, librarians and attorneys stay away. Artists, eccentrics and philosophers please step closer and meet your dream car.
Much like Hyundai, these guys almost over-designed the DS4 and seemingly messed with every single body panel. The roof’s quite standard but it crests two humps and hidden door handles at the back before it runs past both rear fenders into the side sills, negatively affecting rear and ¾ visibility along the way.
The front and rear light clusters are extremely busy and both bumpers feature plenty of peculiar chrome dressing. As with other models, the front windscreen stretches far back into the cabin and both sun visors may be retracted to add more light to your lap.
Librarians should be advised against entering the DS4 as the cabin’s unstructured flamboyance and sci-fi noises may provoke their untimely demise. Most controls are where you expect them to be but some of them don’t exactly operate as you’d imagine them to.
The ventilation controls are easy to use whereas the radio, navigation, Bluetooth, CD player and cruise control aren’t. A large central monitor displays beautiful graphics, lots of information and excellent navigation (its beloved default screen) but controlling it will take some practise.
Never mind, at least the half-digital instruments are reasonably legible with a matching central display and customisable colours. The trip computer is comprehensive and you can check on most other infotainment via multiple buttons.
The DS4’s large steering wheel may not have a floating central hub but it has 16 buttons with 24 possible commands, not including the hooter. I’m still not sure what all of them do and couldn’t get the cruise control to work, no matter what I pressed. RTFM, I guess.
Specifications, safety, comfort and space are on par with rivals and the cabin is well put together. Leather is standard and all seats with their hollow headrests can be trimmed in wild two-tone combinations (ours mimicked a spotty Panda) that are only outdone by the DS4’s startling choice of paint hues.
The steering is quite light and obedient, the pedals are close together but highly responsive, the six-speed manual gearbox is nice ‘n precise and this Citroën has the obligatory French ride comfort. It handles well and absorbs imperfect road surfaces with amazing ease.
You can turn the ESP off but it will immediately return at the slightest hint of wheel slippage. And burning rubber was no problem for our test unit, a DS4 HDi 160 Sport. The 2-litre turbo-Diesel four-cylinder is incredibly lively, brawny and almost, almost deserving of the “Sport” badge.
This 120kW (163hp) 340Nm unit starts pulling firmly and cleanly from 1,500rpm to about 4,500rpm, at which point the rev-counter will go mental and very red. It reaches 100km/h in 8.6 seconds and a top speed of 212km/h while achieving averages of only 134g CO2/km and 5.1L/100km.
These figures translate into nimble and rapid motion of the 1,340kg DS4 with torque steer on the front wheels being kept to a manageable minimum. Town driving will result in consumption figures around 6-7L/100km, so you might obtain 1,000km from its 60L tank – easily more on the open road.
This motor is also incredibly quiet, so much so that a passenger disembarked from a journey and asked if this DS4 was a petrol or diesel car. Should you prefer higher revs, Citroën offers two petrol models as well: 1.6 VTi 120 (88kW/120hp/160Nm) and 1.6 turbo THP 200 (147kw/200hp/275Nm).
Prices are N$254,900 for the 1.6 and N$319,900 for both turbo models, including a 3-year/100,000km warranty and 5-year/100,000km maintenance plan. At these prices, I could list many worthy competitors but fear that none will top the DS4’s creative individuality.
I love creativity and individuality. Sure, everyone is and wants to be individual and yours won’t be the only DS4 in town. I hope. Mixed with good technology and surprising versatility, this is a slightly odd but highly enjoyable car that sticks out like a saw thumb. Just what Monsieur Le Docteur ordered.