By traditional benchmarks, the new DS4 Crossback is difficult to fathom.

The first hint that this might be the case comes from the name: ‘Cross’ implies it’s a crossover, but beyond a 30mm increase in ride height, it has few off-road pretensions and no four-wheel-drive capability, while ‘back’ suggests it’s a practical hatchback, yet it offers little in the way of interior space.

Certainly anyone who attempts to climb into the rear, having first been skewered by the protruding window, will find a distinct sparsity of headroom, limited opportunities for taking their legs with them, and windows that don’t open.

Drivers approaching six feet will find themselves feeling somewhat hemmed in, while the lack of anywhere to rest your left foot necessitated raising the clutch pedal unnaturally high to create space underneath it. Unfortunately, that just leads to having overdeveloped calf muscles and a bruise on your left knee as you clout the steering wheel with each gear-change.

Ergonomic curiosities continue with dual-zone climate controls that can’t be linked, instruments that are partially obscured by the steering wheel and illuminated in a variety of eye-searing shades of purple, a rather truculent electronic parking brake, and a glovebox that can’t even accommodate the modestly proportioned handbook.

Things are much the same once on the move, too.

The engine vibrates through the gear-lever causing it to knock against its housing, while the exceptionally tall ratios demand an extended spell in third gear at 30mph to avoid pronounced labouring.

And should you stall it, the car panics and slams on the parking brake. Which then takes an age to release.

It’s at this point we have to ask ourselves: why would you want a car that behaves like this?

Strangely, there is a reason.

You see, in a world where some cars have become almost anodyne in their efficiency as personal transport, it’s a brave manufacturer that decides to break away from all that and do their own thing.

A quick rummage through a mental list of your most fondly-remembered cars will probably turn up a few clunkers – the Alfa with the horrific pedal placement, the Citroen with the rotating drum for a speedo, and the Abarth with tilting seats that didn’t tilt.

This world of wilful craziness is something Citroen – and its avant-garde sub-brand DS – knows more about than anyone else. They’ve perfected the art of turning what would traditionally be judged weaknesses into character. Charm, even.

But the DS4 goes further. It mixes these foibles with some genuine appeal – the ride is typically French and wafty (as long as you avoid sharp ridges like cat’s eyes), it corners with an appealing sense of agility, and it wears some of the funkiest LED headlights on the market.

It’s also cheerfully punchy at low revs, offers a surprisingly crisp gearshift action, and is agreeably economical, registering just shy of a 50 mpg average during our testing.

Against all the odds, then, the DS4 Crossback manages to exude a sense of Gallic charm.

And while the DS4 might on the face of it appear desperately flawed, one thing we can say for certain:

It’s definitely a car you’ll remember.

Tester’s Notes

  • Protruding window on rear doors almost a safety hazard
  • Rear windows don’t open
  • Lacks interior space
  • No space to rest clutch foot; high clutch pedal
  • Dual-zone climate controls can’t be linked
  • Instruments partially obscured by steering wheel
  • EPB doesn’t release automatically; engages automatically at inopportune moments
  • Glovebox not large enough to accommodate handbook
  • Engine vibrations transmitted into cabin through pedals; gear-lever knocks against housing
  • Overly tall gear ratios; Crisp gear-shift action
  • Appealingly soft ride, but crashes over cat’s eyes
  • Beautiful seats
  • Flawed, but not without charm
  • Near 50mpg on test
Entry-level Price £21,745 Price as tested £24,315
Engine 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel Transmission 6-speed manual
Power 120hp @ 3,500rpm Torque 300Nm @ 1,750rpm
0-62 10.9 secs Top speed 124 mph
Economy 72.4 mpg CO2 103 g/km
Dimensions 4284 x 1810 x 1535 (LxWxH) Kerb Weight 1465 kg