Citroen’s luxury brand has a lot riding on the success of the premium family hatchback

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It’s been around six years since Citroen spun the DS line into its own sub-brand, and while the latter has had a modest amount of success standing in its own legs, there’s a general feeling that the DS brand still has plenty of untapped potential. The French automaker hopes to unlock some of that potential with the new DS4. The upscale four-door hatchback is an important model for DS, largely because of the popularity of the segment it occupies.

That popularity, though, comes at a price, specifically with the models that the DS4 will compete against. We’re not talking about riff-raffs here; this segment is also occupied by a handful of German stalwarts, including the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and Mercedes A-Class. Still, if DS wants to be taken more seriously as an upscale brand, this is the segment where it needs to show its mettle. The DS4 will be tasked to do just that, and if the hatchback lives up to DS’s expectations, it can go a long way in adding some shine and boosting brand awareness for Citroen’s luxury brand.

Exterior

  • Brand-new lighting signature in the front and rear
  • Muscular profile
  • Smart headlamps with five preset modes: city, country, highway, fog, and harsh weather
2021 Citroen DS4 Exterior Spyshots
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The DS4’s design is heavily inspired by its big brother, the DS7. The latter is visually appealing in the ways luxury SUVs are. It carries a masculine aura, complemented greatly by a sporty front fascia with full LED headlamps and vertical LED daytime running lights and indicators.

DS even has a name for its light signature — Matrix LED Vision — and a system that allows the lights to adapt to the hatchback’s speed, steering wheel angle, and weather and traffic conditions. The automaker has high hopes that this technology will be a major selling point for the DS4. The smart headlamps even have preset modes — city, country, highway, fog, and harsh weather — that allow drivers to drive anywhere they want to go without worrying about being a hazard to motorists.

2021 Citroen DS4 Exterior Spyshots
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Recent spy photos of the DS4 getting tested in the middle of winter also hint at the large front mesh grille that has become one of the DS7’s most enduring design attributes.

The rear section of the DS4 also looks similar to the DS7, albeit shrunk down to fit to size. The latter’s taillight signature is present in the DS4, though the light strip on the rear bumper either isn’t present or is just being covered by the swirly wraps. Either way, it’s unlikely the DS4’s design would be a drastic departure from the DS7.

Interior

  • DS Extended Head-Up Display
  • DS Iris System
  • Well-dressed cabin
2019 DS3 Crossback Interior
- image 795267

DS hasn’t dropped any images of the DS4’s interior and the recent batch of spy shots that were sent to us wasn’t of big help, either. Fortunately, DS did drop important details about the DS4’s cabin, specifically touting the hatchback’s state-of-the-art connectivity features.

Two items are of particular interest to us. The first one is DS Extended Head-Up Display. Apparently, the automaker has a shiny new head-up display that utilizes optical illusion — that’s intriguing — to project information on the road ahead as you look out the windscreen.

This technology allows you to look at important information as you drive, including your current speed, navigation directions, warning messages, and driver-aid indicators.
2021 Citroen DS4 Exterior Spyshots
- image 887990

Heck, it can even show you the title and the artist of the songs you’re placing. It’s all impressive tech that should, if all of it works according to plan, help the DS4 cut an identity of its own on the foundation of pioneering technology.

Speaking of technology, the DS4 will also be loaded with an infotainment system called the DS Iris System. It comes with a highly customizable interface and personalization system that allows different users to create their own profiles. It’s not unlike what we have on our smartphones. Voice and gesture controls can even be used to run the system.

More details about the DS4’s cabin should be available closer to the model’s launch date. Expect it to be as well-appointed as the DS7, or at least close to it.

Drivetrain

  • Hybrid powertrain
  • 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and electric motor
  • 222 horsepower total output
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
2021 Citroen DS4 Exterior Spyshots
- image 887986
The DS4 is powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain that includes a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 178 horsepower and an electric motor that’s good for 108 horsepower.

Together, though, the hybrid setup produces 222 horsepower, which is transferred to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

There’s no mention of performance times, but given the segment it occupies, those figures aren’t that important, at least compared to how much electric range the DS has (around 31 miles) and, more importantly, if it will come with self-driving technology. On that end, the DS4 will feature level 2 self-driving technology.

Moving forward, you can also count on DS to offer different powertrains for the DS4. Traditional gas-powered versions will arrive, as well as a fully electric model.

Prices

2021 Citroen DS4 Exterior Spyshots
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In the absence of official price tags, we can surmise that the DS4’s price tag would likely start at around £23,000. That would make it cheaper than the starting prices of the BMW 1 Series (starting price at £24,400), Mercedes A-Class (starting price at £23,800), and the Audi A3 (starting price at £25,300).

How DS prices the DS4 is crucial in how the upscale hatchback is going to be received by a market that has gotten used to buying any of the three German models.

Competition

Mercedes A-Class

2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Exterior
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With the fourth-generation W177 model arriving in 2018, the Mercedes A-Class stands as one of the best models in its class. Not only does it look sportier than its predecessor — that counts for a lot of people — but it also elevated the kind of state-of-the-art technology that’s expected in the segment. All versions of the W177 A-Class come with Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system and semi-autonomous driving systems are also available. On the engine front, you’ll get your fill with the myriad of available engine options. From a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 101 horsepower and 133 pound-feet of torque to a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that packs 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, you can pick and choose which engine you want, diesel units included, on your A-Class. In the U.K. pricing for the A-Class starts at £23,800 while here in the U.S., pricing for the A-Class starts at $33,650 for the entry-level A 220 and goes all the way up to $45,850 for the AMG model.

Read our full review on the Mercedes A-Class

Audi A3

2021 Audi A3 Exterior
- image 889925

For the longest time, the Audi A3 was regarded as the third option behind the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class in this segment. But with the long-overdue arrival of the fourth-generation Typ 8Y Audi A3, the Ingolstadt-based automaker is back with roaring vengeance in its mind. Not only is the all-new A3 longer and wider than its predecessor, but the model’s design is heavily inspired by Lamborghini. More to that, the new A3 is now stocked to the brim with new technologies. Whether it comes standard or offered as options, you can get your fill with a lot of Audi’s new tech, including Matrix and Laser LED headlights. On the engine front, the A3 comes with a multitude of engine options, starting with a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 110 horsepower all the way up to a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 400 ponies. Pricing for the next-generation A3 hasn’t been revealed, though it is expected to start at around $35,000 in the U.S. market. For now, the outgoing A3 is still in the market with a starting price of £25,300 in the U.K. and $33,300 in the U.S.

Read our full review on the Audi A3

BMW 1 Series

2020 BMW 1 Series
- image 841368

Just like the Mercedes A-Class and the Audi A3, the third-generation F40 BMW 1 Series is a new model, having entered production less than two years ago. In keeping with its roots, the new F40 1 Series is one of the best introductory models among all premium manufacturers. Its aggressive styling matches with a lot of BMW’s new technologies, including the MUBX-rivalling iDrive 7.0 infotainment system. You’ll get your fill with all the available engine options, too. From the 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-three cylinder engine that produces 108 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque to the delightful 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine that packs as much as 302 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, the F40 1 Series checks a lot of the boxes that you want from an entry-level premium compact vehicle. Pricing for the BMW F40 1 Series starts at £24,430 in the U.K. and around $35,000 in the U.S.

Read our full review on the BMW 1 Series

Conclusion

2021 Citroen DS4 Exterior Spyshots
- image 887983

The hatchback’s design, or at least our expectation of it, points to a modern and sporty looking model. The interior should be high-quality, too. We only know one drivetrain — the plug-in hybrid — but more engine options are expected to be available, including an all-electric EV model.

From the new tech headlamps to the latest connectivity technologies, DS dropped a fair share of fancy tech on the DS4. Whether all of that is enough to make the DS4 a contender in the premium compact car segment has yet to be determined.

  • Leave it
    • Still has a lot to prove
    • Plenty of stiff competition
    • Final production model could still have changes
Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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