DS 4 review

DS 4 review

Once in a while I get to road test a new car I know little about, and it proves to be something of a revelation. The stunning DS 4 is one such vehicle.

A cross between a hatchback and a compact crossover, the five-door DS 4  challenges everything from the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class to the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.

And if you’re new to DS Automobiles, then it’s probably best described as Citroen’s premium spin-off sister brand.

Sharing a platform with other Stellantis group cars (eg Citroen C5 X, Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308) the DS 4 is available with petrol and diesel engines, plus a flagship plug-in hybrid.

DS 4 review

Priced from £29,710 to £43,550, there are two trim levels (Performance Line and Performance Line ), plus a DS 4 Cross which complements the stylish design of the DS 4 with SUV-inspired styling cues, including side skirts, gloss black roof bars, front and rear skid plates and black bumpers.

You only have to look at the pictures to see that the DS 4 oozes kerb appeal. Its profile is rakish with a blend of smooth surfaces and elegant lines – there are also big wheels and flush-fitting door handles.

The front is dominated by a large diamond mesh DS grille, slim matrix LED headlights and sharp vertical, zig-zag LED running lights, delivering a unique lighting signature, while the rear gets a slim window and sexy rear light clusters.

DS 4 review

All in all, the DS 4 has an athletic stance and if cars were judged purely on style, it would go straight to the top of the class.

It’s the same story inside where there’s a classy, hi-tech feel mixed with top build quality. DS does things differently and the uncluttered interior is a treat with numerous clever design touches. Who else would have thought of integrating the electric window switches so beautifully into the top of the door trim?

A special mention for the seats too, which are easily the most comfortable you will find in this price bracket. There’s plenty of space too, though taller passenger in the rear may struggle for headroom if you opt for the panoramic sunroof which eats into the roof space. Boot capacity is a decent 430 litres, expanding to 1,240 litres with the rear seats folded down.

DS 4 review

Every DS 4 features a 7.0-inch digital driver’s cluster, plus a 10.0-inch central touchscreen which its flush with the dashboard, while higher trim levels get a head-up display that’s projected neatly onto the windscreen.

The infotainment system takes some getting used to, but after a while you get the hang of it. The home screen is customisable and there are short-cut buttons below, but sadly essentials like the climate control are not permanently accessible.

There’s also a twinkly 5.0-inch touchpad (‘DS Smart Touch’) down near the gear selector, which allows you to pre-set up to six shortcuts – each with their own gesture movement. It’s a bit gimmicky, but anything that avoids tapping and swiping menus on the main infotainment screen when driving must be a good thing.

DS 4 review

To summarise, the DS 4’s infotainment system isn’t without its frustrations, but it will grow on you. If nothing else, it’s a thing of beauty – like the rest of the cabin.

I tested the entry-level DS 4 Performance Line PureTech 130, which is fitted a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo driving the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It may sound weedy for a car of this size, but it’s surprisingly powerful.

Developing 128bhp, it’s a punchy little unit and a mainstay within the Stellantis group of cars (Vauxhall, Citroen and Peugeot too).

DS 4 review

On paper it’s capable of up to 48.6mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 132g/km. Top speed is 130mph and its 0-62mph time is 10.4 seconds.

There’s a pleasant thrum from the engine when pushed, but such is the refinement of the DS 4’s cabin, it’s hardly noticeable in everyday driving.

Naturally, it’s in its element darting around in an urban environment, but it settles down well on the motorway too. Push it on more challenging roads and the engine will become a little more vocal and it will run out of puff. There’s a slight hesitation getting off the mark sometimes, but generally it works well.

DS 4 review

If you want more petrol power, then move up to the 1.6-litre four-cylinder options, delivering 178bhp and 222bhp respectively, or the plug-in hybrid which offers up to 398.5 miles of electric only motoring.

The DS 4 rides smoothly and feels planted, while body lean is well controlled in faster corners. Just the job, considering this is a car that prioritises comfort over hot handling.

Drive it sensibly and it will deliver close on 50mpg on longer runs. What’s more, you’ll arrive at your destination more relaxed than many of its rivals.

DS 4 review

You’ll also feel special, because the DS 4 turns heads (for all the right reasons), the interior is a designer wonderland and it’s a joy to drive. The best DS I’ve driven yet, it deserves to succeed.

Verdict: Test drive the gorgeous DS 4 if you’re in the market for a premium five-door family car that stands out from the crowd and delivers a tempting alternative to its German rivals. One of 2022’s biggest surprises, you may just fall for its stunning design, classy feel, comfortable drive and twinkly charms.

DS Automobiles UK

Kia Niro review

Kia Niro Hybrid (

We test drive the Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and EV versions of the all-new second generation Kia Niro…

The Niro compact crossover is an important car for Kia. After the slightly larger Sportage, it’s the South Korean brand’s second most successful model.

A genuine game-changer when it was launched in 2016, it was available with self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or 100% electric powertrains and offered practicality, peace of mind and economy at an affordable price.

Fast forward six years and more than 70,000 have been sold, while 55% of all Niro sales are fully electric. In fact, the e-Niro was the UK’s second best-selling EV in 2021.

The success of the all-electric version especially was no surprise, given the value for money it offered, plus that 282-mile range.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Now it’s time for the second-generation Niro. Again, there are hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions, and this time round it’s slightly bigger (65mm longer, 20mm taller and 10mm wider) and the interior features a higher proportion of sustainable and recycled materials.

Pricing starts at £27,745 (Niro Hybrid), followed by the Niro Plug-in Hybrid (£32,775) and the popular Niro EV from £34,995. Note, it’s no longer badged ‘e-Niro’.

There are three trim levels (‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’) and a choice of eight colours, with top spec ‘4’ models offered with an eye-catching two-tone paint option which features the C-pillar in contrasting Steel Grey or Black Pearl, depending on the chosen body colour.

Naturally, there are differences in spec and equipment between the trim levels, but as standard you get goodies such as LED headlights, rear parking sensors and camera system, a touchscreen display with DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus driver assistance technologies such as Forward Collision Avoidance with car, pedestrian and cyclist recognition and junction crossing – and Smart Cruise Control.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Top-of-the-range ‘4’ grade models get a head-up display, twin 10.25-inch touchscreen, an instrument cluster display, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats, a power operated tailgate, electric sunroof, an uprated Harman Kardon premium sound system, driver’s side memory seating, and front passenger lumbar support.

There’s also Remote Smart Parking Assist, Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist and PU vegan leather seat coverings, containing Tencel from eucalyptus trees.

The all-new Niro EV combines a 64.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a 201bhp electric motor.

Torque is rated at 255 Nm, and it can accelerate from 0-to-62 mph in 7.8 seconds. More importantly, an electric driving range of 285 miles is claimed.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Recharging from 10-80% takes as little as 45 minutes – up to nine minutes quicker than the outgoing model.

In colder months, the system uses navigation-based conditioning to pre-heat the battery when a charge point is selected as a destination, which helps shorten charge times and optimise battery performance.

The Niro Hybrid has a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There’s also a 43bhp electric motor and small 1.32kW battery, delivering a combined maximum power output of 139bhp.

It can accelerate from standstill to 60mph in 10.4 seconds, fuel economy is up to 64.2mpg, while CO2 emissions are 100g/km.

The Niro Hybrid (and Plug-in Hybrid) also feature a new ‘Green Zone’ drive mode, which automatically switches to electric power based on location guidance from the navigation system, driver patterns, or manual selection by the driver.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Expected to be popular with business users because of its low CO2 emissions and tax benefits, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid uses the same 1.6-litre engine as the Hybrid, a larger 11.1kw battery (it takes about 2.5 hours to charge it at home) and an 83bhp electric motor, producing a combined 180bhp and 265Nm of torque.

Crucially, it has an electric-only driving range of up to 40 miles – more than enough to complete the average daily commute in the UK.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid can cover the 0-60mph sprint in 9.4 seconds, CO2 emissions are just 18g/km, while fuel economy could be as high as 353mpg (in theory).

Whichever version you go for, the new Niro is a much bolder looking crossover than the outgoing car with angular design cues and a hint of the larger Sportage. And those sharper looks continue to the rear corners which feature high-set upright boomerang-shaped lights.

The smart interior is attractive, and well designed, with twin 10.25-inch displays giving the dashboard a wow factor. Featuring slick, sharp graphics, the infotainment system is intuitive to use – something of a Kia trademark. Broadly speaking, the quality of the cabin, in terms of materials used and build quality, is good, but it won’t worry premium rivals.

Kia Niro Hybrid

There’s a real feeling of space and plenty of leg and headroom for adults in the back, while luggage capacity varies depending on the model chosen. For the record, the Plug-in Hybrid has 346 litres, the Hybrid gets 451 litres, and the EV boasts 475 litres. Flip the rear seats and you get 1,342, 1,445 or 1,392 litres.

You sit quite high in the comfortable seats so there’s a commanding driving position. Visibility is generally good, but those chunky rear pillars leave a bit of a blind spot.

The three versions of the Niro each have their own character. Naturally, the Niro EV is the smoothest and most refined of the trio.

It’s swift without being gut-wrenchingly quick like some other electric cars. And for a crossover with no performance SUV pretensions, it handles well (with the accent on comfort). Sure, there’s some body roll if it’s pushed, but it’s well controlled and it generally feels planted.

There’s good traction through the front wheels, while the all-round grip is impressive. There are various drive modes, and you can also adjust the level of brake energy recuperation using paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s worth playing around with them, but we found the normal/mid settings worked best for us.

Kia Niro Hybrid

The Plug-in Hybrid is refined too, unless you floor it and the petrol engine kicks in. Drive sensibly and the transition between electric and petrol, and vice versa, is much smoother.

There’s more than enough performance on tap for everyday driving and it works well with the six-speed automatic gearbox. Obviously, EV mode is a joy, if not as quick as it’s pure electric sibling.

With a firm suspension and sharp steering, it’s a lively performer and more agile than you might think, but as with the EV, it’s at its best cruising along.

The lethargic full Hybrid is the most disappointing version of the Niro. It’s not a bad car, but its shortcomings are apparent when it’s tested alongside the PHEV and EV models.

Not only is it down on power compared to its siblings, but the six-speed automatic gearbox can be tiresome. It’s fine at city speeds, but can become hesitant on faster roads, meaning the engine is more vocal, resulting is a far less relaxed driving experience.

Kia Niro Hybrid

On the plus side, it will slip into EV mode for short bursts in stop-start traffic or when manoeuvring, CO2 emissions are low, and the fuel economy is comparable.

The Hybrid has a slightly softer ride than the PHEV, and again is easy to drive. Just don’t push it.

The Niro hasn’t been tested for safety by Euro NCAP, but we’d expect it to get a maximum five stars (like the Sportage and EV6) because it’s packed with driver assistance and safety technology.

Finally, the Niro comes with a large dose of peace of mind because, as with all Kia cars, it comes with a generous seven-year warranty.

Verdict: The all-new Kia Niro family-sized crossover is a step-up from its predecessor, offering a winning blend of good looks, space, safety, practicality, generous equipment levels and comfort.

Kia UK

Nissan Juke Hybrid review

Nissan Juke Hybrid

We test drive the new hybrid version of the much-improved Nissan Juke – the compact crossover designed, developed and manufactured in the UK.

Cards on table time – I was never a fan of the original, pioneering Nissan Juke. Launched in 2010, its looks were at best challenging, and I didn’t like the way it handled.

All that changed in 2019 when the second-generation Juke was introduced. Not only did the design switch from weird to funky, but it drove much better, there was more interior space and quality was stepped up.

Fast forward three years and Nissan has launched a full hybrid (or self-charging) version of the Juke, which is claimed to deliver 25% more power and 20% less fuel consumption.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

Priced from £27,250 to £30,150, the newcomer uses much the same hybrid powertrain as the Renault Captur E-Tech hybrid, taking advantage of Nissan’s alliance with the French car maker.

The Japanese firm supplies the 1.6-litre engine (93bhp) and electric motor (48bhp), while Renault provides the gearbox, high-voltage 15kW starter-generator and 1.2kWh water-cooled battery.

The combined 141bhp of power is sent to the Juke’s front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox and it can “sprint” from 0-62 mph in 10.1 seconds.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

More importantly, the car can return up to 56.5mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 114g/km.

Exterior changes include more aerodynamic bodywork to improve airflow and reduced drag, ‘Hybrid’ badges on the front doors and the tailgate, plus a black-gloss grille featuring the new Nissan logo, as seen on the larger Nissan Qashqai.

Other tweaks include keyless entry and two new colours (Ceramic Grey and stunning Magnetic Blue).

Nissan Juke Hybrid

The new Juke Hybrid also offers new two-tone 17-inch alloy wheels and a 19-inch design inspired by those fitted to the upcoming Nissan Ariya electric SUV.

Inside, it gains a new set of dials behind the steering wheel. A power gauge replaces the rev counter so you can monitor regenerative charge and battery charge level.

There are three selectable drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport), plus an EV button. The Juke Hybrid can be run on pure electric for a maximum of 1.8 miles at speeds of up to 35mph and Nissan reckons it will travel on battery power for up to 80% of the time around town.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

There’s also an ‘e-Pedal’ button which allows the movement of the car to be controlled using just the accelerator pedal. When the driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator, moderate braking is applied, and the car will decelerate to a crawl of around 3mph. This regenerative braking also helps to recharge the battery.

Boot space is reduced by 68 litres compared to the regular 1.0-litre petrol turbo Juke, because of the larger battery pack. However, there’s still a decent 354 litres, or 1,237 litres when the rear seats are folded down.

The cabin is a pleasant surprise thanks to the overall uplift in build quality and materials. Yes, there are some hard plastics used down below, but up top it’s mostly soft-touch, attractively designed (in a busy, old school sort of way) and has a solid feel.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

Unlike most crossovers, I was able to achieve a decent driving position because it’s possible to lower the seat more than usual. What’s more, I could sit behind myself, if you get my drift. The only slight negative is that the Juke’s waistline rises at the back, so smaller rear-seat passengers will struggle to see out of the windows.

The ride is on the firm side, but it’s perfectly comfortable and cruises nicely, while body roll is kept in check.

There’s plenty of poke from the electrically assisted engine and the switch from electric to petrol power, and vice versa, is seamless.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

The automatic gearbox works well enough, though the shifts are laboured when you put your foot down. It’s also worth noting that there are no paddles behind the steering wheel to hurry things along.

There’s plenty of grip up front, the steering is light and responsive, and it generally feels planted.

Our road test took in a mixture of city, motorway and country driving and we achieved around 45mpg, but I’m sure 50mpg is achievable on a longer, more relaxed run.

In other words, it’s not the most economical compact full hybrid out there, but every little helps.

Nissan Juke Hybrid

The Juke is already well equipped, so there’s full connectivity (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay) and the latest safety features including Traffic Sign Recognition, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Hill Start Assist.

Our test car was also fitted with ProPilot – an advanced driving assistance technology that takes care of the steering, accelerating and braking on major roads.

Overall, the second-generation Juke is a huge improvement on the original, while the new full hybrid option is the icing on the cake.

Verdict: Thanks to the addition of hybrid technology, there’s never been a better time to switch to a Nissan Juke. Extra power and better economy complement the already practical, comfortable, well equipped and fun to drive compact crossover that it is. Well worth a test drive.

Nissan UK

Hyundai Bayon review

Hyundai Bayon review

We road test the newest addition to Hyundai’s growing family – the Bayon baby SUV…

I feel a bit sorry for the Hyundai Bayon. Not only has it been saddled with a name* which means nothing to most UK buyers, but it was introduced at around the same time as Hyundai’s acclaimed Ioniq 5 EV and Tucson SUV.

In other words, this worthy compact crossover – which will do battle with the likes of the Nissan Juke, Seat Arona, Ford Puma, Renault Captur and Skoda Kamiq – missed out on the launch limelight.

First impressions are mixed. Let’s be charitable and describe the design as bold. A huge grille sits below thin headlights, there are sharp creases down the side and it has an angular rear end with tall tail-lights and a thin horizontal light bar.

Hyundai Bayon review

Inside, it’s much the same as the i20 hatchback, the car on which the Bayon is based. The dashboard is attractive enough and sensibly laid out with top versions getting a pair of clear and crisp 10.25-inch digital screens – a digital driver’s display behind the steering wheel and a central touchscreen which takes care of media, navigation and car settings.

Naturally, it’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, while Hyundai’s BlueLink smartphone app allows owners to connect with the car remotely, checking its location, status and sending routes to the sat nav for their next journey.

The Bayon range is priced from £20,530 and there are three trim levels offered: SE Connect, Premium and Ultimate.

Hyundai Bayon review

There’s only one engine available – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol (99bhp or 118bhp) with the choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.

The engine has 48-volt mild hybrid assistance and the more powerful version paired with the auto gearbox is capable of a 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds and a top speed of 115mph. Fuel consumption is as high as 53.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 119g/km.

My 118bhp test car in Ultimate spec came with a six-speed manual transmission and a ticket price of £24,780.

Hyundai Bayon review

Top trim means there’s plenty of kit, including black gloss door mirrors, two-tone black roof, keyless entry and a Bose sound system, on top of the rear view camera, privacy glass, heated front seats and steering wheel found on entry-level models.

There’s lots of safety and driver assistance equipment too including AEB (autonomous emergency braking), Blind Spot Collison Warning and Lane Follow Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and automatic high beams. Ford the record, it achieved a creditable four out of five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.

The Bayon is surprisingly spacious inside with room for two adults in the back, though space for your feet below the front seats is limited. The boot is a reasonable 334 litres, expanding to 1,205 litres with the rear seats flipped down, and there are smaller storage spaces dotted around the cabin.

Hyundai Bayon review

My only gripe is that there’s too much scratchy, hard plastic used around the cabin.

I’m glad I was able to try the clever manual gearbox, which is marketed as an intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT).

Apparently, there’s no physical link between the clutch pedal and the clutch and it allows the engine to switch off temporarily while coasting, reducing emissions and saving fuel.

The system seems to work well enough on the move, though sometimes there is a hesitation with the stop-start when engaging first gear in slow moving traffic.

That said, the clutch is light, and the gear lever has a pleasant short throw, even if it is a bit notchy at times.

Hyundai Bayon review

The engine is more punchy than the performance figures suggest, and more importantly for many, it’s smooth and refined when up to speed.

You can choose between three drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport). Eco is fine for motorway runs on cruise control (50mpg is achievable), but Normal is the best all-rounder and will do just fine, because Sport simply adds weight to the steering.

With its light controls and raised driving position, the Bayon makes sense as an urban crossover choice.

It would be wrong to call its firm ride sophisticated, but it’s comfortable enough.

Hyundai Bayon review

It’s light up front, so grip level is moderate in the wet or on a loose surface, but overall it handles well and body control is decent. So, while it’s not as engaging to drive as some rivals, it ticks plenty of boxes for most buyers.

Verdict: The Hyundai Bayon is an honest, competitively priced, boldly-styled new entrant in the busy compact crossover segment. Well equipped, easy to drive, practical and economical, it comes with an appealing five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

*Just so you know, the Bayon name is inspired by Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque country in the south-west of France.

Hyundai UK

Honda HR-V review

Honda HR-V review

If you’re looking for a new compact SUV, you’re already spoilt for choice – so is there room for the latest Honda HR-V?

Well, Honda is on a roll. The futuristic all-electric Honda e city car is a revelation, and the new Jazz is a supermini transformed.

Now magic dust has been sprinkled on the HR-V. The third-generation model is a bold, hybrid-only “coupe-crossover” up against formidable rivals including the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Toyota Yaris Cross.

Honda HR-V review

Priced from £27,960, it combines a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with two electric motors, producing 129bhp. Uniquely, at low speeds the battery pack and main electric motor drive the front wheels directly. At higher speeds the petrol motor kicks in.

Unlike its dowdy predecessor, the new self-charging hybrid HR-V has real kerb appeal.

A pair of slim headlights and an impressive body-coloured grille form the new HR-Vs face. It also looks more purposeful thanks to big wheels, an extra 10mm of ground clearance than before, rugged plastic cladding and roof rails. It even comes equipped with hill descent control.

Honda HR-V review

There’s a high seating position inside the HR-V, which is generally spacious and comfortable. It also has a quality feel thanks to the soft-touch surfaces used, while the doors close with a satisfying clunk.

Unlike some of its rivals, there’s plenty of space in the back for passengers. However, the boot is a slightly disappointing 319 litres (expanding to 1,305 litres with the rear seats flipped), but there is a nice wide opening.

Of course, the HR-V also benefits from Honda “magic seats” which can fold flat or flip up like a cinema seat, enabling large items (like bikes) to be stored centrally in the car without compromising boot space.

Honda HR-V review

Up front there’s a 7.0-inch digital driver display behind the steering wheel and a 9.0-inch central touchscreen for the infotainment system, which has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard.

The modern dashboard is less cluttered cabin than before, and mercifully hasn’t dispensed with too many buttons, switched and dials.

The ‘e:HEV’ (Honda-speak for the self-charging hybrid engine) starts off in electric mode and you get a choice of three driving modes: Econ, Normal and Sport.

Honda HR-V review

Econ is fine for cruising, but a little gutless on flowing country roads, so you’ll probably spend most of your time in Normal with the occasional “blast” in Sport.

The HR-V is generally refined and the transition between combustion and electric power is pretty seamless, but if you’re too heavy with your right foot, the downside of its CVT automatic transmission rears its ugly head and the revs sky-rocket.

To Honda’s credit, it doesn’t take long for the din to settle down again, but it’s a reminder that you should drive smoothly for an enjoyable HR-V driving experience.

Honda HR-V review

Even with that proviso, the HR-V does feel swifter than the official figures suggest. For the record, it can “sprint” to 62mph in 10.6 seconds before maxing out at 107mph.

On the road there’s a little body lean in more challenging corners, but overall it handles well. It feels substantial, safe and secure. Add excellent visibility and light steering and it’s a doddle to drive in town.

Grip is surprisingly good too, while the brakes are more progressive than many hybrids. Sadly, there’s no four-wheel drive version available.

Honda HR-V review

Honda claims CO2 emission levels are as low as 122g/km, while fuel economy of up to 52mpg is possible. In fact, we found 50-60mpg is very realistic when the HR-V is driven sensibly.

All three trim levels come with Honda’s impressive ‘Sensing’ suite of safety technology as standard, featuring road departure mitigation, traffic sign recognition, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Regenerative braking (which returns much of the energy otherwise lost from braking and coasting back into the battery while you’re driving) is also on offer. Simply select ‘B’ mode on the transmission or use the paddles behind the steering wheel. The system is especially satisfying on downhill stretches of road.

Verdict: The all-new Honda HR-V e:HEV is a welcome addition to the busy compact SUV sector, offering a winning blend of style, safety, comfort, economy and practicality combined with generous equipment levels and the brand’s reputation for reliability.

Honda UK

Honda HR-V review