Citroen hatch a grand plan
Published 10/09/2011 | 05:00
We all get carried away with things sometimes. It can be a sign of over-zealous immaturity (forgivable and understandable), or cockiness (understandable).
Or, in the case of some former politicians, simple, unwarranted self-importance.
I think Citroen got a little bit carried away with themselves on this DS4 -- that is both praise and criticism, by the way -- but nothing that can't be put right.
So what is the DS4 about?
Essentially, it is based on the C4 small-family hatchback but has been given serious treatment to transform it into something really eye-catching and different.
It is a mix of coupe, hatch and, because it is a tad taller, mild SUV.
At least I think it is. No one really has pigeonholed it yet. Sitting 60mm shorter and 40mm higher than the C4, it certainly makes a statement.
Now, I can truly understand how a few elements got just a little bit out of hand. I like Citroens and have bittersweet memories of the enigmatic GS (reg number ODI 364) which played a pivotal role in my young family's life. It had its excellence, and its maddening, quirky departures.
So does the DS4, though the former vastly outweigh the latter. I am going to assume the faults derive from enthusiastic immaturity rather than the built-in foibles so long associated (but presumed banished) from the Gallic automaker's DNA.
The DS4 is a breath of fresh air in many ways, even if it tries too hard in some. Big drawbacks are its rear doors when open. They pose a risk to your ribs as you try to get around them because they have this protruding proboscis as part of their design that is just not clever and one of my few reasons for not liking this car. As well as that, rear seat space, and headroom, is quite tight compared with the standard C4 and, maddeningly, you can only open the front windows. Why, oh, why?
But when I sat into the DS4 I really liked it. And I still do. A lot.
I was delighted with several other elements of it.
The marque has begun the long climb back up from what has been a deep and muddy hole. And with the DS4 the company is doing so with admirable panache, even if sales on the ground may not match the effort. Yet.
They did a similar job on the DS3 (such an improvement on the C3 supermini) but not that many bought. I think they should continue (with lessons learned, of course) because this is the sort of showcase that sparks a bit of confidence and shows what can be done.
It looked exceptionally well, had plenty of that broad-stroke design flair and élan to make it a car you'd like to own. And the cabin is an eclectic mix of DS badging and good quality surfaces. It is certainly light years ahead of its C4 cousin.
Speaking of light: by sliding the sun visors back over your head you can significantly extend the span of the windscreen.
I was impressed with the handling, which was solid, taut and encouraged a bit of energetic driving. This was a little surprising as taller cars usually don't perform as well in that area as those with a lower centre of gravity.
The steering had a good weighting to it but might benefit from a 'better-feel' tweak. This is something a lot of carmakers get wrong.
And for me and the front seat passenger -- when I had one -- there was plenty of room. It was fun to drive, which is really what it should be.
The engine had plenty of pep but, most memorably, loads of pulling power which gave it a lot of fluidity on the open road.
The DS badge -- dipping back into history to underpin some authority -- should be kept and as many of its everyday cars should get the treatment. They are a statement of intent as much as anything else and these days that counts for a lot.
The good thing, from a Citroen perspective, is that they get -- and deserve, -- a second opportunity to put right the few things that are wrong.
When they do, I think they'll have an excellent exponent of whatever this DS4 wants to call itself.
Unlike some of those cocky, self-important politicos, it deserves a second chance.