DESPITE our fisticuffs with the French over fishing, you can’t deny they have style.
They even own the words — “haute cuisine”, “couture” and “de luxe”.
But their car business has forgotten.
The best French cars are cheap-and-cheerful hatchbacks.
DS is changing that.
Even with only two cars on sale, the little DS 3 Crossback and biggish DS 7, it is managing to outsell Lexus and Jaguar across Britain and Europe.
Mind you, those two brands aren’t much of a success.
Beating them just means DS is the healthiest patient in intensive care.
Any wannabe premium car maker needs to take aim at the Germans.
And DS now has a car to go against the big-selling Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
It won’t beat them, but it might take a few chunks out of them.
Of course, being French, it’s not about to copy them.
The Germans set out to be ruthlessly effective but end up a bit clinical.
DS is soulful and also mildly eccentric.
It’s a bit higher off the ground than the conventional hatchback rivals.
But not as high as the crossover-coupes such as the BMW X2 and Audi Q3 Sportback.
So it’s aiming to appeal to both camps. It can get a bit of a wiggle on.
Key facts: DS 4 Performance Line +
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Power: 225hp, 300Nm
0-62mph: 7.9 secs
Top speed: 146mph
Outside the style is angular and jewelled.
Inside, it’s a bit of a boutique (another French word) handbag, with plenty of soft materials and ornamental stitching.
Plus, watch-like knurled metal. They have a word for that too. “Guillochage.”
On top of the craft there is tech. Most versions have four screens. One for the driver, plus a big head-up display, and a high-res centre touchscreen.
And then another smaller one down by your knee.
You can configure that fourth touchscreen to call up your most familiar actions — a couple of your usual radio stations, frequent phone numbers, maybe your favourite navigation destination, zooming the map.
Then you can do those things with simple swipe gestures, without your eyes leaving the road. I’m all in favour.
Too many cars these days lose you in fiddly menus.
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The hi-tech suspension includes a camera that reads the road ahead and softens the suspension before it hits a bump.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost has that. It works, too, giving the sort of dreamy-soft ride big French cars had decades ago but without the wallowy handling.
The DS 4 is no hot hatch but it can get a bit of a wiggle on.
True, it’s a bit cramped in the back. But isn’t luxury usually a bit selfish?
All in all, a car that turned out not only a bit leftfield but actually very good.
Or rather, tres bien.