By on April 14, 2011

It seems that my recent article on Citroën’s anti-retro retro-inspired car, the DS3, provoked two kinds of reactions: admiration and understanding, but also rejection and some even thought Citroën was simply being cynical in its use of the much storied DS moniker. What was hinted at with the DS3 becomes much more evident in the DS4’s case. With it Citroën may well have stumbled on a modern classic, not to mention a way forward for retro-inspired cars.

Like it was explained in the article and subsequent comments, Citroën is calling this line an anti-retro car. Citroën’s suits readily admit that the Mini and Fiat’s 500 were their inspiration (and these are shameless retro cars). Citroën didn’t want to repeat the retro-car formula though. As evidenced by Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and VW’s New Beetle, and in a couple of years by the American pony car trio, this direction can lead to a dead-end. Where do you go after a successful and modern re-do of a classic design? Citroën has been smarter than that. It claims to be inspired by the DS’s spirit, not its sheetmetal. So the DS line should be beautiful, innovative and a pleasure to drive.

On the first try, the DS3 did that. It’s beautiful in a thoroughly modern way. It has all the latest technology and gadgetry. But it is certainly not a revolution. Enter the DS4. This one could well be sparking a revolution of sorts. The DS3 can be classified as a cross between a sporting compact and a luxurious but small hatchback. In this way, it has been able to please those who already love the Mini and 500. The DS4 goes further. It is bolder and more original. Revolutionary? Maybe, maybe not, but it is surely pushing forward hard. It is lighting the way other retro-inspired cars may follow in the future if they are to get out of the darkness of extinction.

The DS4 is a mix between a sports hatch and a very small CUV. Its suspension gives it a taller stance. Its very raked windshield (45 degrees), however gives it an air of a sports coupe. This is reinforced by the big (19 inch) rims and tasteful back lights. Unlike a coupe, the DS4 has 4 doors, but it hides those back-door handles, taking the sports coupe idea further.

Designer Olivier Vincent, the project’s creation manager, claimed to Quatro Rodas (from which all numbers in this post have been gleamed): “We wanted to make a more agile car, more urban and unique. With this rupture, we conceived a comfortable, sporting car with a higher seating position.” Olivier Daillance, who was responsible for the choice of interior materials, also chimed in, “Our proposal was to create a model with a touch of typical French sophistication, using elements of haute couture”. Coincidentally or not, M. Daillance previously worked at Louis Vuitton and many of the couture touches in the car were his ideas.

The sophistication is real. The car aims to awake all senses, touch, hearing, smell, sight. The leather in the car was treated to smell like Cohiba cigars, you know, the real Cuban ones, reputedly rolled on mulata’s legs. And who get their undeniably delicious smell, reputedly, from the mix of the mulatas hands, thighs and sweat. Ahem! Moving on…In its efforts to revive the senses, Citroën uses real aluminum to adorn the steering wheel. There is a choice of four chimes for lights on or seat belt alerts. The instruments in the cluster have chrome rings. The aluminum and wood used for finishing are grained (none of the slick, glossy stuff). The console is covered in a rubbery material. According to trim level (Chic, So Chic and Sport Chic – oui monsieur, as I said before, c’est vrai! Gotta love those names, so French!), the seats can give you a massage.

Based on the common C4, the DS4 hides its heritage very well. If in front the pilot and his friend travel in greater comfort, out in the back the passengers are second class. This car is narrower there than the original and shorter, too. In a slight mishap, and as a concession to the design, the back windows don’t open. The trunk only holds 370L.

The DS4 is 4.27m long, 1.81m wide and 1.53m tall. It is compact and quite muscular looking. Outside, there are LED running lights, aluminum finishing and the dual exhaust (functional) is built into the back bumper. The suspension is a little tighter than on the original C4, which will surely please hardcore enthusiasts.

The engines on offer will all be based on the 1.6 Turbo THP (reviewed here and here). All gasoline (it appears Citroën doesn’t believe in diesel driving pleasure) and tuned for different outputs. The basic one produces 118hp, the mid-level one put out an enticing 156hp and the top is tuned to deliver 200 hp (this engine was seen here)! Not bad for a 1.6. Not bad at all. The DS4 will share this top engine with Peugeot’s RCZ (don’t know this car? Go look it up, it’s worth it).

This car will be on offer in Europe in June. In Brazil it will arrive by the end of the year or the beginning of the next. It will come together with the DS3 and the yet to be unveiled DS5. Like mentioned in the previous article, plans for Brazil are that, like in France, this car will be shown in exclusive show rooms in the more monied parts of towns. In them, similarly to the car, Citroën aims to delight customers by engaging all their senses. Apparently, you won’t find them at regular dealers.

All in all it’s a solid effort from Citroën. If the pricing isn’t too crazy (in Europe the top-of the-line could be yours for $31,900 euros), it could even become a pleasant sight on Brazilian streets. Well-resolved, sophisticated external design, posh and comfortable inside, the DS4 takes the retro car idea to the future. I for one hope it’s a bright future.

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47 Comments on “Citroën DS4: Simply Put, I Want One!...”

  • avatar

    Looks like someone welded the front half of a Mitsubishi Lancer to an egg. It is like they ran out of Mitsubishi parts and trim and just left the back unfinished. I don’t want one.

  • avatar

    I DO want one.  It’s the first “Sports Coupe/CUV/Grand Tourer/hatchback” that I think is attractive.

  • avatar

    i would like to strangle whoever designed that steering wheel.  is that how you interpret single spoke – as a single disc with cutouts for fingers?

  • avatar

    If Ford decided to call the new Focus the Model T instead that wouldn’t make it a fashion statement against retro-modern car design. It would just mean they put an old name on a contemporary design.
    The concept was interesting, but this is just a hatchback. A nice hatchback and all but not “bolder and more original” than the competition. Certainly not “pushing forward hard.”
    That is all this is. It isn’t pushing design forward, it’s just an unnecessary explanation as to why they choose not to jump of the retro bandwagon. You don’t get kudos doing something most car companies already do.

    • 0 avatar

      They would if they squared that car off against competitors retro designs.

      I get what you are saying though. The DS link is weak. But as they say, it’s a spiritual thing. Call it bS but if it weren’t there, I guess the car would’ve probably come out much more conventional

      • 0 avatar

        The anti-retro-but-paying-homage-to-the-past just comes across as marketing fluff to me. A bit of a plea to try and convince users that this is cooler than the funky-retro objects they desire. I don’t doubt that this is a solid effort, but your piece and the sales pitch from them seems to come across as a whole lot of hype for what is simply a normal hatchback with some nice touches. You can look to the new Focus and any other number of similar small yet content rich autos to see that this is what is required to be competitive now, and not a breakthrough in innovation/design.

  • avatar

    “And who get their undeniably delicious smell, reputedly, from the mix of the mulatas hands, thighs and sweat.”
    Dude, too much information!  Looks like I picked a good week to give up smoking!  I like this car, although I agree with tallnikita that the steering wheel is ridiculous.  Any pics with the doors open?  Is the rear door handle hidden in the c-pillar?  Too bad about the back windows, but if you carry passengers a lot this probably isn’t the best choice anyway.

  • avatar

    It’s a French car. Do.Not.Want.

    • 0 avatar

      To each his own, but I think everybody brings someting to the table. If people didn’t discard stuff out of hand based just on nationality, I think they’d all be better off for it.

      Thanks for reading!

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed. The French, after all, invented the automobile–in 1769. (@eldard–google Cugnot’s Fardier a Vapeur.)  Some of the most wonderful cars have been French.

      • 0 avatar

        As they say, you’ve never driven if you haven’t driven a French car going a two-lane highway. The command and grasp of suspension bits the French have is legendary (and much of this fame has to do with original DS, not to mention other great French cars).

        I dare say only FOrd Europe has come close recently.

    • 0 avatar

      “I don’t like it because its French”… If you asked me that kind of statement has very little relevance here. The French motor industry has been around forever and has made valuable and relevant engineering contributions the industry. Do you hate French fashion, food and wine for the same reasons? You would be in a small minority there… New York is practicably symbolised by the French – think statue of liberty.
      Frankly (pun intended) these types of statements are just immature and irrelevant.

    • 0 avatar

      Off the top of my head (there’ll surely be others):

      R4,R8, R12, in a roundabout way Brazilian Ford Corcel,
      Peugeot BB, 205, 404, 504
      Citroën 2CV, DS

  • avatar

    Great review Marcelo! It’s a shame we won’t get this in the states.  I’m not a big follower of Citroen, but the image was enough to bring me in.  The chrome window trim is a nice upscale touch, and the surfacing details aren’t over the top – just enough to draw your attention to those gorgeous rear lights and accent the fenders.  I think the wavy rims are a little too much, but overall a very attractive hatch.

  • avatar

    I agree with you Marcelo!!.. I took one look at this car, and I really badly want one!!  Gotta hand it to the French….  they somehow instinctively know beauty!!…    Must follow this up with obligatory rant and lament about how we will never get this car here in the US… Sigh!!

  • avatar

    The original was the car in which French President General Charles De Gaulle was chauffeured. That was the spirit of the old DS. So this obviously lacks the spirit of the old.
    Plus, that damn CUV look is bad on any car, and is the opposite of French sophistication, and the car has  that vertically challenged greenhouse thing going on. From the back, it could be the plug-ugly Murano’s little brother.

    That said, it’s got a clutch, with a very nice looking pedal, and who knows, maybe the cuban tobacco and leather thing works well inside. Hard to tell without sitting in one. And if it really drives nicely, more power to it.

    • 0 avatar

      You got good solid points there.

      Have to see car in person to judge, but I doubt it’s that taller. Probably just wanted to give a commanding view of the road.

      Now the retro anti retro excuse allows it to do things we wouldn’t forgive on a normal car, like back windows that don’t roll down.

      I think it does have a little of the high beltline problem, but it’s not as bad as in some cars. I normally despise that, but to my eyes it doesn’t seem so bad. The back, we must see it in person to judge. I wager it’ll have that typical butt in the air theme common in French cars, but I think the bumpers and metal have some interesting lines to keep it interesting.

      In fact, I don’t like the back of most modern cars. BMW and Mercedes are specially bad at it. Funnily, my first impression on both DS3 and 4 is that I like that back!

      In fact, most modern car design doesn’t impress me at all. Fiesta with that line going up so high in back, same with Hyundai. Like I said before even when front is ok, sides and back are always iffy. Somehow for me this car congeled. I like it. I like it a lot. Proves to me at least modern car design has a way forward.

      As to the tobacco and mulatas, if anything else it serves to spike our imagination.

      BTW, that part is pure me. Original article just mentioned Cohiba cigars. The mulatas and sweat and thigh is how they were done traditionally. Somehow, as the car aims to awake the senses, it awoke this long forgotten story in my mind. And somehow I made the connection French-mulata-car-Carribean-sweat-thigh-pleasure.

      Yeah, I went off the rocker on this one!

      But that just marks it as a good car. What does a car serve for if not to stir things up. If a car doesn’t do that (and even being an enthusiast, I have not been stirred like this for a long, long time), hell than it’s not good for me. Cars for me are not numbers. It’s a sensation. From the lines which please MY eyes, to the sensation of the whell in my hands. How it drives, if it makes me smile. I’ve driven many a German lux or Jap torpedo. Sorry, always left cold.

      So, yeah, I’m liking it. Allez Citroën! Allez!

  • avatar

    It’s not an ugly car, but does sort of look like someone smoothed the Mitsubishi Lancer’s nose, added the Lexus CT’s tail, filled in the middle, then laid it over the Subaru Impreza’s chassis.

    If we’re going to talk Citroen cars that are icons of excellent modern design, the discussion begins with the C6.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    I find recent Citroens quite good-looking , but this car is 1.53m tall, so it doesn’t make my shortlist. 1.35m would do it for me.

    • 0 avatar

      1.53 is not so high in today’s world. I bet my Logan is taller. Must grow the roof to keep the kids in. People are taller than ever you know. Even the French. I’ve seen some estimates that the French is taller than the American, but not Dutch or German. I think this car disguises its height very well

  • avatar

    Citroen and Sébastien Loeb have proved that this company can produce an excelent car. I think that, like the MINI, it could be a huge success in the USA. Again I will say, the market here is more than ready for this type of car.

  • avatar

    Just another painfully overwrought five door hatchback with no particular distinguishing features whatsoever.  And the hidden rear handles are just like those in the far more beautiful Alfa Guilietta. Nothing about this car is radical, novel or even particularly attractive.

    And as far as retro goes, Citroen is working on a retro 2CV thing that makes the VW Beetle look like a radical new car, so take their publicity with a Siberian salt mine. 

  • avatar

    a spiritual thing.. No they’re just trying to revive Citroen. Read reboot, back to the DS quirkiness. They need to, the DS marked the good old days of sales. The French don’t buy high end Citroen today that’s fleet. The first thing Peugeot did when they acquired Citroen was dumb down the CX then the rest of the brand. Citroen ain’ t been the same since. The DS lacked a 6 and proper automatic for the market here. It was expensive to build. It got hit twice by legislation home & away. Taxed to 4 cylinders in France and faced congressional bumper height here. This niche voiture is quite possibly an attempt by PSA to gauge market to nostalgia for the future line.

  • avatar

    Great review!
    Interesting styling– as others have said, it looks fairly Mitsubishi-ish… I like it. And those seats! I must have them for my living room!

  • avatar

    This car won “most beautiful car of the year 2010” inside and out!! It is a stunning, amazing car and I can’t wait for the release, watch the videos that Citroen have released about the design and making of this car, they are all on either youtube, just search DS4, or on the DS4 website. Great articles, I love your site, I might even send a review of the drive of this car if I get the chance to drive one soon!!

  • avatar

    like so many cars on the road today, it looks like a conglomeration of so many cars on the road today …

  • avatar

    I like it much more than it’s cousin the 207, too bad that we don’t have Citröen dealers in Mexico yet, as for the engine, I can tell it works very well, actually I own a 3008 which has the same engine, (Btw you have to be gentle on the throttle or your gas bill will be dramatically high),
    About the non rolling windows; well much of the time they aren’t rolled down on our warm climate, and on many cities (SP or RJ or Mex City and Mty) because of safety concerns, so it doesn’t bother me, however to make a 4 door without that feature is not common as on the 3 door models.
    The interiors look much better than their cousins from Peugeot, even the RCZ (Which I test drove a month ago ;-P ). 
    I would easily change my 307 for the DS4 if it were available here.. or would I go for the 308???? geez dilemmas, dilemmas… What I have no doubt is about the Mulatas…;-)

    Saudades de Mexico meu amigo.

    • 0 avatar

      Oi J Mendez!

      Wonderful car you have. Congrats! BTW, did you get to read my article on the 3008? If you did maybe you’d be interested in doing a write-up of the car and see if my impressions are confirmed by the daily drive. Iwas encantado by it. ([email protected] or [email protected]).

      I have exxtensive driving experience with both 307 (SW) and C4 (hatch). I like the 307 well enough, except for the dumb four speed auto! Maybe because the C4 I know is manual it is so much better. But that’s not the only thing. PSA did make them different. The Peugeot is a little more hard. The Citroën just floats, but all the while in perfect connection with the road. I like vey much the C4. Can’t imagine how much better it’d be to drive the DS4, but everyone says it’s different and better, so I believe.

      If you buy the 308 (not available in Brazil yet), it’s more of the same. I’d boycott it until Peugeot puts the auto or manual 6 speed in it. It makes a world of difference. Now as to choose between 308 or DS4? Only reason for 308 is if you take your family all the time. Like I said I have not sat in DS4, but it has 13 cm less leg room back there than C4. In C4 back space is good for legs (though not head as roof design hinders that, a lot). But 13 cm sounds like a lot.

      Anyway, great to hear from you! Yes, the mulatas can get one dreaming…

      Abraços amigo!

  • avatar

    I gues it ain’t coming to the US, so big effing deal huh. I would have liked to at least see one in person and I kinda like that it’ not like everything else.

    In the mean time, I’m working on my own retro car to pitch to any willing car builders. It’s a 64 Ford Falcon with air suspension, AWD, kelvar lined and bullit proof glass, 302 cu in small block chevy with NOX feeding into a powerglide, all plastic and vinyl interior that smells like Winston cigarettes and roll cage by old Grady -the shade tree welder.

    • 0 avatar

      I for one would love to see a retro Falcon. Here in Brazil Falcon didn’t get made. I guess familiarity for it in America bred contempt, but I think it’s a stunning looking car.

      Just make it light, and put a modern small displacement engine in it and it could sell the world over.

      Mustang? The world over? Sorry, too big

  • avatar

    Fixed windows in the back are indeed stupid. Hopefully, they offer a sliding roof or quarterlights, to get some fresh air in and out.

  • avatar

    damn, i miss french cars. those seats look amazing.

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