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DS 4 E-Tense 225 against Audi and Mercedes in the test

Advance to Go and collect 7,178 euros for your plug-in hybrid. Free parking in many cities? Another bonus that the taxpayer bears for the mostly leased PHEV, which are designed to protect the environment. The newcomer DS 4 E-Tense starts with the A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e and A 250 e.

At the end of 2021 the Peugeot 308, now the DS 4 and soon the Opel Astra: In a short time, the brands of the Stellantis Group will be launching their compact cars on the fresh EMP2 V3 platform. For the first time, this supports plug-in drive trains such as the variant with 225 system hp in this DS 4 E-Tense, which is already available in the 308 and will soon also be in the Astra.

The mixed drive of the Audi A3 40 TFSI e, which is in the MQB Evo compact models (modular transverse matrix) VW Golf, Cupra Leon and Skoda Octavia, is just as widespread. The Mercedes A 250 e, on the other hand, only shares its hybrid hardware within the brand, for example with the B-Class, CLA and GLA, with Renault supplying the petrol engine.

DS: a bit of crossover

Looking at the Stellantis cars, you can see how they are related to some of the plastics, the center armrest and the trunk lid panels - or the largely identical infotainment structure. The only sufficient space in the rear is one of the similarities. Although the noble Citroën differs only slightly in its dimensions from its siblings and test rivals, it is differentiated by its proportions. It also has huge 20-inch wheels whose tire walls are hardly flatter than those on the two-inch smaller rims on the A3 and the A-Class.

Adaptive shock absorbers are only available for the DS 4, the control of which also uses information from the front camera to condition them for road damage. The Active Scan Suspension seems particularly effective at city speeds, because although the wheels rattle audibly in their houses and the body does not move excessively, the bumps often only arrive softly in the comfortable leather seats. The A-Class springs a little more consistently and not much tighter, but keeps its structure under control even better. The A3 is best at the latter, but the adjustment to Querfugen feels more like a sports model. The DS has little in mind with sport, but at least deserves the comment "no fun brake" on the measuring sheet for the dynamic tests. It keeps up well on the proving ground and corners fast enough over land. The steering? Little feedback, otherwise everything okay.

His world is the DS-typical extravagances such as extending door handles and large leather-covered door panels with curved shapes and high-positioned window switches - or the air vents hidden behind a row of buttons under the touchscreen. Another touch display sits on the center console. This is used to call up and operate a favorites menu on the main monitor, zoom the map or write letters.The latter worked rather poorly in the test, and the display flickered wildly while driving. It's a pity, by the way, that the smart touch monitor doesn't support menu navigation like the laptop touchpad in the Benz does. Overall, the DS is okay to use, with the physical home button and the customizable start page helping. But there are enough corners and edges - such as the seat air conditioning and steering wheel heating hidden in submenus, the seat massages then again in another. In addition, there is climate control via touchscreen.

The GPS destination entry via voice control could use more fine-tuning. She doesn't ask questions, but sets as a goal, without confirmation, whatever she has (mis)understood. When the navigation is running, you can clearly see the route on the monitor. Because even with the medium Trocadero equipment, an above-average head-up display on the windscreen provides support. Really clever: As with the Opel Astra, the height of the HUD is adjusted using the knob of the mirror adjustment.

Regardless of the selected equipment line, the DS 4 charges with up to 7.4 kW, but only single-phase, so you would need a 22 kW wallbox at home. The 12.4 kWh battery fully charges in just over two hours. That's enough for at least 42 km in electric mode. As a Stromer, it accelerates more slowly than its two competitors, but driving in town is extremely pleasant.

The Frenchman also lags behind slightly in hybrid mode, and although it has the most powerful combustion engine with 181 hp (A3: 150 hp, A-Class: 160 hp), you feel an empty battery the most with it: then it's more likely to be good 200 instead of 233 km/h in it. As with all, the battery always has enough power to boost when starting. They all do this effectively, but the DS succeeds most harmoniously with its eight-speed automatic transmission.

Audi: the fastest e-sprinter

The A3 is not only clearly the fastest in electric mode, it is also the only one that allows manual gear changes. In order to be able to use his sprint strength spontaneously, the paddles have to be used accordingly, because in automatic mode he promptly selects a high gear, which reduces intermediate sprints to the level of the competition.

For recuperation, on the other hand, it only offers an automatic function that can be deactivated, which takes into account the traffic ahead, but not the speed limit. In Stuttgart, for example, it lacks a great comfort function, because the 40 km/h limit cannot be maintained with the accelerator pedal when going downhill into the boiler. It is possible to use distance cruise control, but that is not equally convenient. In addition, the speed on the steering column lever can only be set in increments of five (from 80 km/h: increments of ten).

The optional sports seats, which provide extraordinarily good support and hold, especially in the lower shoulder area, provide great comfort without pressing anywhere.Except for the lumbar support, the seats in the test car are adjusted manually, which even applies to the seat inclination via a lever, but not to the integrated headrests. The center armrest, which can be tilted and adjusted for length, further increases seating comfort, which rear passengers can also enjoy on the superbly shaped rear bench seat.

The Sportback brings up the rear when it comes to charging, because despite 3.6 kW (according to the factory), it takes more than four hours for the 13 kWh battery to be fully charged. In the test, the A3 drives 47 km on one charge, and it also consumes just about the least on our commute with an empty battery (7.2 l/100 km). If you want, you can also reserve power for the E mode via infotainment or have it generated via the turbo four-cylinder, which is otherwise only possible in the DS. The Mercedes only offers a function via navigation system to drive as much as possible electrically in town.

Its infotainment lacks a rotary pushbutton and a real home button, but the structure quickly makes sense, and the customizable direct selection bar and tile menus help a lot. Also top is the audio control on the steering wheel, on which the digital speedometer navigation map can also be zoomed using a roller.

Mercedes: can charge with DC

The A-Class offers the greatest variety of controls with direct selection buttons and the central touchpad plus home button, which is also available in a small version on the steering wheel. This eliminates the need to activate the cruise control: set the speed with the rocker switch, that's it. Although the touchpads are less easy to use, they are useful while driving, as is the well-functioning voice assistant, which, in addition to useful things, also tells flat jokes: "What do you call a rabbit in the gym? Pumpernickel."

And a compact PHEV at the fast charging station? Currently always Mercedes, because only there is a CCS connection for DC charging (595 euros) in this class. The prerequisite is the more powerful AC charger for 357 euros, which charges in two phases with 7.4 kW. The 15.6 kWh battery is sufficient for 54 electric kilometers in the test, but only 35 liters fit in the petrol tank (A3, DS 4: 40 l). At a motorway service station, the battery is fully charged in 33 minutes with a maximum of 24 kW.

On the way there, the A 250 e in hybrid mode confirms that it accelerates a little faster than the A3, but also makes a lot of noise with its 1.33-liter four-cylinder. In addition, his sprinting ability feels a little superior when the battery is empty - both manage it on the flat with more patience in the range of around 220 km/h, whereby the Benz loses less speed on the hill.

Overall, the slightly more direct and traction-stronger A3 drives more sportily, which has a well-tuned brake pedal for a plug-in, which best mixes the transitions between recuperation and the brake system. Especially in the Mercedes, dosing is not easy on country road bends, which is easier in the DS.The good news: Apart from the occasionally strange recuperation hiccups, all test cars can be stopped without jerks with more or less practice. The best of the very good braking performances is achieved by the A-Class from 100 km/h with 34.6 meters.

However, when it comes to the drive, it is most likely to allow itself fisima tents. When the battery is running low, the software is happy to fire up the cold combustion engine at 4,000 rpm with a moderate accelerator pedal position. In addition, the A 250 e sometimes rolled backwards a bit while maneuvering on a slope when it was busy choosing an engine. Otherwise, he maintains proper hybrid manners and has five recuperation modes that can be selected via paddle shifters in E mode – but that costs money.

Because although the test car prices don't show it, the most meticulously finished Mercedes with the same equipment is the most expensive. To be more precise, around 2,000 euros more than the A3, which is too plastic-heavy in the interior, and even 5,000 euros more than the high-quality DS 4. As a Rivoli, it already has matrix headlights, a lot of assistance, leather interior, adaptive shock absorbers and plenty of other bells and whistles. It doesn't put it in the front places, but it still ends its test premiere positively: it delivers the DS charm and comfort without having to deal with any strange disadvantages.

Conclusion

1. Mercedes A 250e 631 points

The A combines the largest electric range and the best charging hardware with a strong, not always harmonious drive, many recuperation options and good operation.

2. Audi A3 SB 40 TFSI e Advanced 611 points

The most powerful e-sprinter offers the sportiest handling and a mannered drive with a decent e-range. However, it sometimes springs tight and loads the slowest.

3. DS 4 E-Tense 225 Rivoli 590 points

The smooth hybrid drive contributes to good driving comfort, as does the chic interior. With the same equipment, the DS, which is a little tight at the back, costs the least.

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