DS makes quite a speciality out of its E-TENSE Plug-in Hybrid models - here's another of them, the avant garde-looking DS 4 E-TENSE 225 compact premium hatch. It's ambitiously priced but you get a super-sized dose of style for the outlay and drive technology that's really cutting edge.
The idea of having Plug-in Hybrid tech in your next family hatch is tempting. But if the car you have in mind is a mainstream brand PHEV model, the prospect of paying getting on for £40,000 for it might not be. You probably won't be far off that by the time you properly spec up a PHEV Peugeot 308, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf or Skoda Octavia. You'd feel a lot better though, splashing out this kind of sum if the car in question had a premium badge and a much more up-market feel. Such is the appeal of models like the Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSIe and the Mercedes A250e. And of the car we look at here, the DS 4 E-TENSE 225.
The DS 4 E-TENSE Plug-in Hybrid model uses a familiar Peugeot / Citroen-derived 1.6-litre PureTech petrol unit mated to a 108bhp electric motor powered by a 12.4kWh battery for a combined output of 225hp and an electric driving range of up to 38.5 miles. There are two additional drive modes available with this PHEV variant - self-explanatory 'Hybrid' and 'Electric': and if you shift into 'Sport', there's a reasonable turn of speed that sees 62mph dispatched in 7.7s en route to 145mph. That's despite the E-TENSE model's extra 200kgs of weight over its conventional counterparts (which you rather feel when throwing the car into a corner in a way a likely owner probably never would). A full-electric variant will eventually arrive too, sharing its 50kWh battery and 250 mile driving range with the Peugeot e-308. So everything beneath the bonnet we've seen before - and the EMP2 chassis it all sits on is very familiar too, though the French maker claims 70% of that platform has been modified to meet various specific DS 4 requirements - one of those being the need to accommodate the particularly large 20-inch wheels of top variants. These are detail differences, but a little more substance lies with the addition of certain high-tech drive electronics which, for the time being, DS has reserved for itself. Chief amongst these is the clever Active Scan Suspension system which uses a camera that looks ahead across the tarmac as you drive, over a distance of between 5 and 25-metres, altering damping predictively. It only operates in the 'Comfort' drive mode and doesn't work quite as effectively as you might hope it would - you still crash over speed humps for example - but the set-up restores a modicum of ride subtlety, though in a rather wafty way that makes you feel a bit disconnected from the whole experience.
Apart from the E-TENSE badgework and an extra flap for the charging socket, there's nothing to give this top DS 4 variant away as the PHEV model. As with the rest of the range, DS hopes that the look of this car will sell it to you - and for sure it'll stand out in the supermarket car park. At first glance, you might be undecided as to whether this is a premium compact hatch or a premium small SUV - and that's entirely intentional. DS offers it in both conventional and SUV-inspired 'Cross' forms, plus there's a sportier-looking 'Performance Line' version if you want a sportier vibe. Either way, the styling's certainly Gallically avant garde, the front dominated by bold double daytime running lights and trendy matrix LED headlamps. In profile, you'll notice striking creases, door handles that pop out as you approach the car and wheels that can be as large as 20-inches in size. Coupe lines characterise the rear, where the boot lid plunges to mee the slim LED tail lamps. Pavement presence? You get it here. Inside the so-called 'Digital Seamless Cockpit', there's a fully digital cabin made up of no fewer than three displays, There's a 10-inch screen replacing conventional dials in the instrument cluster. And an infotainment display of the same size in the centre of the dash for media and navigation. This is controlled by a third 5-inch screen further down the centre stack known as the 'DS Smart Touch'. If that's not enough screen tech for you, it's also possible to specify the segment's cleverest head-up display, claimed to be closer to augmented reality than any other system. The information viewed doesn't just get projected onto the windscreen; it instead gets projected further out onto your view of the road in a range 4-metres ahead and on an image 21 inches wide. Another interesting touch is the lack of visible air vents; the main ventilation unit has been integrated behind and strip of physical switches that sit just below the main control screen. Out back, rear seat space is reasonable but unremarkable. Unfortunately, as with most PHEVs, you lose a bit of boot space, which falls from 430-litres with the conventional model to 390-litres here.
DS expects a large proportion of customers (maybe around 30%) to opt for the PHEV plug-in model. As for pricing, well let's start with the luxury hatch version of this model we tried. Prices for the DS 4 in this form with the E-TENSE 225 Plug-in Hybrid powertrain start from just under £40,000: that gets you a mid-spec 'Trocadero' variant and it represents a premium of around £6,000 over the equivalent BlueHDi 130 diesel version - or around £7,500 over the equivalent PureTech 130 conventional petrol model. If you want to stretch to top 'Rivoli' trim, you're looking at around £43,000. If you want the sportier look of a 'Performance Line' DS 4 variant, then you're looking at around £37,500 as a starting point for 'Performance Line' trim, with a premium of around £3,500 more if you want top 'Performance Line+' trim. Finally, if you want the SUV style look of the DS 4 Cross body style with the E-TENSE powertrain, then you'll be spending either around £40,000 with 'Trocadero' spec, or around £43,500 with top 'Rivoli' trim. This type of pricing is broadly comparable with premium rivals in this sector like the Mercedes A250e and the Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSIe. But with those cars, you can't get cutting edge tech like the DS Active Scan suspension system. Or one of the French brand's exquisitely stitched leather upholstery packages. You might also want to save some budget for features like the night vision set-up and the Head-up display.
This E-TENSE 225 variant uses an 11.8kWh battery which can be fully charged in an hour and 55 minutes using a standard 7kW Wallbox (or 7 hours and 5 minutes from a domestic plug). Once that's done, an all-electric WLTP-rated driving range of up to 38.5 miles is possible. Even better news lies with the low WLTP-rated CO2 readings and combined cycle fuel readings generated by this Plug-in model; it's rated at up to 232.3mpg on the combined cycle (ridiculous of course - it's more like 55mpg in the real world): and up to 27g/km of CO2 (which means a low 11% BiK status, compared to between 29 and 34% for the other models). If you want to do better, you'll need to ask your dealer about the full-electric version that DS will eventually sell, with a 50kWh battery which will offer a driving range of around 250 miles. With the E-TENSE model, you can monitor your efficiency via Energy Monitor screen displays. And across the range, there's no doubt that DS has sweated the details to optimise efficiency returns. The engineers for instance achieved a 10% weight reduction in the weight of the alloy wheels (that's 1.5kg per wheel) with aerodynamic inserts in order to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Servicing is needed every year or every 12,500 miles and the cost of garage visits should be affordable too. The car comes with a three year warranty and three years of DS Assistance. This E-TENSE model's battery has its own 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty. DS 4 E-TENSE insurance groups start group 30E.
The DS 4 is rare - this E-TENSE 225 Plug-in version is even rarer. But for converts here, that'll be all part of this Gallic model's appeal. Yes, it's pricey. But at least, in contrast to choosing mainstream brand PHEV family hatchback models, it's easy to see and feel where the money has been spent here. For owners, this electrified DS 4 will have a jewel-like quality when parked in the drive - and will make them feel more special than they ever expected to be in a family hatch when at the wheel. It isn't cutting-edge in drive dynamics - or even in ride comfort, despite the clever suspension tech. But it's different. The DS 'Different Spirit' is alive and well here. And that makes up for a lot.