Our performance statistics paint a picture of a fairly sluggish, one-dimensional engine and transmission here – and driving the 4 Crossback only confirms the accuracy of that representation.

Although the peak outputs look adequate enough on paper, this car is afflicted by a lack of flexibility of delivery and particularly long gearing, making it slower than it really ought to be both against the stopwatch and out on the road.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Editor-at-large
Spongy brake pedal makes it difficult to slow the car at once firmly and smoothly

Renault’s 1.5-litre diesel Kadjar was the slowest new car we performance tested in 2015, taking more than 14sec to hit 60mph from rest.

But although the 4 comfortably beat the Renault’s mark from standing to 60mph, it’s only 0.1sec faster pulling from 30mph to 70mph in fourth gear.

So long is the 4’s gearing, in fact, that it’ll only just pull fourth gear below 30mph and takes so long to muster much turbo boost and meaningful response to the accelerator at that speed and those revs that you’d struggle to keep up with the traffic.

It’s impossible to be sure at exactly what point in its rev range that 1.6-litre engine wakes up and hunkers down, because the 4’s digital rev counter is frustratingly small and dismayingly imprecise.

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But it certainly does that at some point before 2000rpm, only to spirit the car’s mass forwards quite meekly in anything higher than third gear.

Overtaking on single carriageway roads requires plenty of space and determination, because the crankshaft isn’t particularly free-spinning above 4000rpm, either.

So what, DS Automobiles may say. This is the entry-level diesel option in a six-tier engine range, and customers will want it to be frugal above all else. To a point, we’d agree with the thinking (although other crossover manufacturers manage to deliver economy with much greater driveability). But the 4 isn’t desperately frugal, either.

It struggles to break through the 50mpg threshold in normal running, and recorded 49.3mpg for our True MPG testers (where a like-for-like Nissan Qashqai was a 53mpg performer, and an Audi Q3 returned 51.5mpg). 

The 4’s controls are fairly light and usable, although the lack of definition in the shift quality of the six-speed gearbox is typical of a car that’s only ever going to engage its driver somewhat unwillingly.

The engine is averagely refined for a small four-cylinder diesel, and wind noise is a bigger intrusion upon the cabin’s calm than anything else at motorway speeds.

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