IN the grand old days of motoring journalism I once went to lunch with Citroèn in Paris, returning
IN the grand old days of motoring journalism I once went to lunch with Citroen in Paris, returning the same day in time for supper at home in Caversham.
It was all very exciting and, I have to say, very Citroèn. This manufacturer of all the European car-making giants has always struck me as audacious, some might say flamboyant.
Citroen of course has a history of quirky cars, the best known of which is probably the Deux Chevaux or 2CV, that emblematic model everyone reaches for like an old accordion when wanting to convey the essence of Frenchness.
So a quick nip over the English Channel to lunch with Citroen’s top brass was quite in keeping with the carmaker’s sense of style.
Citroen has never lost this dedication to making cars that stand out (though I think it lost the plot a tad on some models a few years back). And yet its stunning Citroen Number 9 Concept recently revealed shows its design studio has lost none of its zest for beautiful lines.
And Citroen’s taste for unusual but highly successful models was evident last weekend when the truly audacious Citroegrave;n C4 Cactus won the 2015 World Car Design of the Year award at the New York Motor Show.
All of which, in a fairly circuitous route, brings me to this week’s drive, the Citroèn DS4 DSport HDi 160. The first thing that struck me about this car was its apparent solidity: that is, the DS4’s build quality was obvious the moment you stepped inside.
The seats felt positively luxurious and indeed, looking at the spec, this Criollo Semi-aniline Leather Pack for the interior (an optional extra at £1,550) contributed to my favourite combination in a hatchback, and something usually reserved for bigger cars - luxury, power and driveability.
The choice of leather (semi-aniline) sets the standard in this field and the “watch strap” design is exclusive. The dashboard is covered in “nappa” leather with precisely adjusted top stitching.
I think if you were buying the DS4 with this kind of specification you would get a lot of satisfaction from this model.
But you would have to be prepared to pay for the extras for the icing on the cake: the basic on-the-road price of the car was £23,700. As I said, the interior was beautifully turned out (and very comfortable) and the car itself a stunning shark grey (metallic paint, £520).
So with the look established, right down to the 19in Cairns alloy wheels, this DS4 was also pretty hot in the performance department. This was not so much in its acceleration (0 to 62mph in 9.3 seconds) but its willingness to go.
Indeed on the motorway its direct injection, common rail, turbocharged 1997cc diesel engine worked its socks off to deliver the easy performance one might demand.
With this kind of diesel engine, good economy can always be achieved. Of course if you drive fast (and the DS4 is capable of this) you will correspondingly use more fuel, but the combined cycle figure of 57.6mpg seemed achievable.
CitroÃ«n is not style without substance and technology in the DS4 provides hands-free access and start-up (HFAS) with touch navigation. With HFAS drivers can open, close and start their car while keeping their key in their pockets, as it is detected within two metres of the vehicle.
The new high-resolution 7in touch tablet simplifies use of the satnav and other functionalities, and contributes to improving cabin ergonomics.
There are personalised colour choices for the roof and spoiler: black, whisper and virtual blue.
Other features include the blind spot monitoring system, rotary xenon headlights (a nod to the original DS) and massage seats.
For once I would be hard pressed to describe the DS4 I drove better than Yves Bonnefont, chief executive of the DS brand.
He said: “The DS4 delivers a ride on a par with its styling: a driving position similar to a saloon but higher, along with response, performance and a unique road feel.”
• Price as tested: £28,025
• Options on test car: metallic paint (£520); Criollo Leather Pack (£1,550); Contrast Pack (£375), Xenon headlights (£690); eMyWay DAB Hi-Fi Signature Pack (£1,190)