Plenty of French cars this time, which makes this a good week in my book. Not sure of the origin of my fond lifelong relationship with cars made 20 miles across the water, but it definitely exists. Even so, it has often struck me that the task confronting the bosses of the DS marque – that of newly dressing a lot of familiar Peugeot and Citroën components to make a convincing new prestige brand – is a bit like pushing water uphill. Sales have certainly not broken the bank.
However, after a pleasant few hours at a Thameside venue, driving two different new DS 4 models, I believe there are signs of a breakthrough. What has made the difference? First, the changes (restrained ‘bling’ styling and a very high-quality interior) are all convincingly executed, and second, the prices have been carefully elevated above a Peugeot-Citroën level, rather than employing a hit-and-hope technique. When the 4 gets going, UK volume should double to 7000-8000 a year, says DS UK’s personable boss, Jules Tilstone. It won’t change the world, he admits, but it does mean 160 new owners a week will help create a critical mass.
To Calcot Manor, handily near my place, where the UK arm of the Renault Group was staging one of its regular ‘range days’. Much of the Renault-Dacia-Alpine line-up has been refreshed or replaced recently, which made it extra good fun to ride a sunny 10 miles on my motorbike to try half a dozen cars. Star of the show was a car whose doors we couldn’t even open – a fully detailed model of the forthcoming all-battery Mégane E-Tech Electric, as shown in Munich recently. It really showed off boss Luca de Meo’s determination to major on bigger cars, which he unashamedly labels more profitable (and they’re easier to build as BEVs because there’s space for the battery).