The French know style; the evidence is seen in their fashion, architecture and art. And of course, the cars. One French manufacturer, in particular, has never faltered with its design, DS Automobiles or just DS for short.

Formerly part of Citroen, DS has consistently provided gobsmacking beauties, and their second-generation DS 4 compact crossover is no different. Combining a chic minimalist design and the very latest automotive tech, it’s a beauty with brains and brawn.

As with its predecessor, the DS4 is still a slightly confused amalgamation of a hatchback, coupe crossover dwelling in the left-wing of the C-Segment. However, DS Automobiles has now confidently pitted the new DS 4 up against the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, a step-up from the Volkswagen Golf and Nissan Qashqai benchmark of the outgoing model.

When you first lay eyes on the DS 4, its piercing front fascia immediately grabs your attention. The slim MATRIX LED headlights, hooded by the long bonnet flanking the sculpted trapezoidal grille, lend to an aggressive, menacing look. Long, angular daytime running lights with 98 individual LED’s form a ‘tear’ from the headlights to the lower bumper, completing the DS 4’s French look, emulating the design language seen on newer Peugeot and Renault models as well.

Over on the sides, the sculpted body panels with their cuts and creases work well with the rising beltline to give the DS 4 a very athletic stance. The tapered C-pillar with hidden rear door handles, a design cue carried over from its predecessor, further accentuate the DS 4’s sporty silhouette. It sits on 19-inch alloy rims, with 20-inch alloys available as an option. The contrasting black two-tone roof, part of the DS 4 Performance Line that comes with the Black Pack and black alloys, ties in this French crossover’s dynamic look.

The DS 4 is a lesson of less is more, with a modern minimalist look. However, the devil’s in the details, with the steeply raked rear hatch and rhomboidal twin tail-pipes. The prettiest area of the DS 4 has got to be the intricate woven pattern of the LED taillights, echoing that lights found on its bigger brethren, the DS 7 Crossback.

Following the exterior, the interior of the DS 4 is a thing of beauty. Simple and chic, the dash of the DS 4 wraps around the driver and passenger in a cocoon of luxury with material choices ranging from Nappa leather and polished wood or Alcantara and forged carbon in the Performance Line trim. Driver’s have three screens at their disposal, a digital instrument cluster, DS IRIS 10-inch central touchscreen and uniquely to the DS 4, the DS Smart Touch controller on the centre console.

The DS IRIS system comes with its own personal assistant, voice command and gesture control. At the same time, the DS Smart Touch controller has your most used functions at your fingertips. The icing on this digital interior is the immersive 21-inch DS Extended Head-Up Display. This augmented reality information display is projected directly onto the windshield. Now, drivers will never have to take their eyes off the road again, thanks to this digitalised cockpit.

Having everything controlled through screens is all well and good, but DS has gone with simple and easy to reach buttons for the uber-cool DS Air climate control system. Even the air vents have a sense of drama built into them, with ‘invisible’ vents designed to minimise visual clutter on the dash and maintain sufficient airflow around the cabin. Moreover, the DS 4 comes with an air purification system that filters up to PM2.5 particles, making the cabin (almost) COVID-19 safe.

The DS 4 comes with personalised ambient lighting, complemented by a 690-watt, 14-speaker Focal Electra sound system. With the shell-shaped cooled and massage seats, the DS 4’s cabin is sure to be a relaxing place to be in.

On the safety front, DS has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at it in the form of DS Drive Assist 2.0. Now equipped with level 2 semi-autonomous driving, the DS 4’s cruise control adapts speed depending on the traffic flow with the ability to stop and restart in traffic jams. Semi-autonomous overtaking, speed adjustment for corners and speed limit recognition all fall into the DS 4’s safety suite as well.

In-built radar function as long-range blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning to prevent collisions in the blind spot. A safety cum comfort feature of the DS 4 is the DS Active Scan Suspension, utilising a front-facing camera to scan the roads ahead for any irregularities and either firming up or slacking off the dampers for maximum ride comfort and stability. Rounding off the safety systems is the DS Night Vision system. Using an infrared camera mounted on the grille, the system can detect pedestrians and animals up to 200 metres away at night, projecting the image onto the DS Extended Head-Up Display when needed.

As safe and comfortable as possible, the DS 4 has some wicked technology underneath, giving it a pretty impressive performance. Built on the all-new EMP2 platform, the DS 4 comes with the E-Tense plug-in hybrid system. Developed from the championship-winning knowhow from the DS Formula E team, the E-Tense powertrain comprises a turbocharged 180 horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a 110 horsepower electric. The total system puts out 225 horsepower and drives the front wheels via the 8-speed e-EAT8 gearbox. With larger and more efficient batteries, the DS 4 can now travel up to 48km (30 miles) in pure electric mode.

If the hybrid route isn’t your cup of tea, there are three PureTech petrol engines with either 130, 180 or 225 horsepower. Only one diesel option is available, namely the 130 horsepower BlueHDi option. All variants come with only one transmission option, an 8-speed automatic gearbox.

Last but not least, the DS 4 is a very environmentally friendly car made with 95% reusable material with 85% recyclable parts, such as the chassis baffles and polymer engine mounts.

Gorgeous looks, high-tech interior, powerful engines and eco-friendly, the DS 4 embodies design and performance in its most efficient form. Safe and comfortable, the DS 4 is the refined all-rounder that is every bit as a premium vehicle as its German rivals but wrapped in an oh-so stunning French body.