From £21,6707
The DS 5 is hard to pigeonhole but it works as a package. Impressive French-style long-range cruiser, albeit at strong money for an unproven brand

What is it?

The facelifted DS5, which is no longer a Citroën but a standalone DS model and the first ‘new’ car since DS became an independent entity last June.

The most obvious changes are to the styling of the car’s nose, where the new DS corporate grille makes its debut. It has a more upright stance and gets a wide, polished aluminium-effect surround, and replaces the old nose which wore the twin Citroën Chevrons as its main signature.

There have also been tweaks to the headlight design (which combines three distinct LED units and Xenon main beams, another DS signature) and the design of the lower bumper.

Inside, the highly distinctive ‘cockpit’ interior now gets a 7in touchscreen, Mirror Link for compatible smartphones and the curiously-named ‘eMyWay’ sat-nav system as standard on both the UK DS5 Prestige and Elegance trim levels.

The most important changes to the new DS 5, however, are under the skin. When the original DS 5 was launched to the press in 2011 it was immediately panned for the chassis’ exceptional inadequacy in dealing with sharp-edged obstacles.

Not only did the original car stumble over the edges of craters and the like but the rear suspension’s attempts to absorb the shock also resulted in a resounding thump through the structure. Running changes shortly after the car was launched did help, but the new model features a more comprehensive cure.

The new car has had its its ride height raised "by a few millimetres", according to DS, and it gets new shock absorbers with a longer compression stroke and "pre-loaded valve technology" that limits sudden changes in damper force.

The revised DS 5 line-up offers three strengths of BlueHDi diesel engine - with 118, 147 and 178bhp outputs - and a 162bhp turbocharged petrol motor.

The unusual 4x4 Hybrid model, which gets a 2.0-litre diesel engine driving the front wheels and an electric motor driving the rear wheels, also remains in the range as the flagship model. In top-end Prestige trim, the showroom price for that is £34,890.

The cheapest DS5 is the entry-level Elegance 118bhp BlueHDi diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox and a showroom price of £25,980.

What's it like?

On the test route, which ran from the countryside, along a motorway and into central Paris, we tried the BlueHDi 150 S&S (stop-start) with a six-speed manual ’box. In top-line Prestige trim, it costs £29,560, although the standard specification can only be described as generous.

The DS 5 remains an attractive and individual car. Four years on from launch, the appeal of the styling is undimmed, especially the combination of deep body sides, a narrow side glazing and a sloping roofline.

The interior is also for the most part unchanged, which means a substantial centre console and dramatically sloping dashboard. Unlike the established German premium brands, which are moving to ever more minimalist interior treatments, the DS 5 is loud and proud in its difference.

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The unusual ‘shark tooth’ switches on the centre console and the big, circular, dials that control the climate control system fly in the face of the dominaant German premium-brand design language, but that’s what DS – with its new ‘spirit of avant-garde' tag line – is supposed to be about.

The DS 5 is an unusual vehicle, a kind of cross between a premium hatchback, coupé and crossover. It’s no worse for that. The raised ride height makes it very easy to get into the front seats (which were the extremely comfortable optional leather items with stylish ‘watch bracelet’ leather finish).

The volumous dashboard and console are supposed to be inspired by aircraft cockpit design and – combined with the relatively shallow windscreen, do give the driver a strong sense of enclosure. This is in effect relieved neatly by the so-called ‘cockpit roof’, which are two small glazed panels position above the heads of the front occupants.

Things are a little tighter for rear passengers but the big, square boot is of a decent size for the luggage of four passengers.

Although the flat-bottomed steering wheel is perhaps a little oversized and could do with a more inward adjustment, and the seat could usefully drop another 10mm or so for taller drivers, this is a comfortable cabin.

This manual transmission car has a pleasingly high-set gearlever and a stylish chunky gearknob, neither of which have to flatter the shift action, which is clean and unobstructed.

The 147bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is also impressivlye refined and only really audible at wide throttle openings when accelerating up from low speeds. It is surprising how quickly it spools up which, combined with the in-gear refinement, means it is especially easy to gain speed and exceed the local limits without realising.

As part of the emphasis on refinement, the DS has been fitted with acoustically damped glass in the side windows (they are of triple-section construction with a plastic layer sandwiched between conventional glass). It works; at motorway speeds, the DS 5 is composed and hushed.

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On backroads, there’s a touch of the SUV advantage about the DS 5, whose raised ride height and driving position make it easy to steer around tight bends.

Clearly this is not a car in a rush and there’s little point trying to wrestle from apex to apex, but it can be threaded along at a reasonable clip. One small annoyance, though: in tight, low-speed bends the lower corner of the steering wheel (where the continuous curve bends into the rim’s flat bottom) seemed to spend far too much time planted uncomfortably in the middle of my palm.

Most importantly, the terrible ride problem with the original model has been pretty much eliminated, and the car even made a decent fist of Parisian cobbles. The DS 5 is a civilized, long-striding animal with more than a hint of the traditional French ‘grande routier’ cars of the past. It is not an autobahn stormer, but it is all the better for it.

Should I buy one?

Quite possibly. If you are bored by the ubiquity of the Germanic premium and have a genuine taste for being different, the DS 5 might appeal. It might also appeal to drivers who like the raised ride height and air of unhurried progress that is the essence of the car.

It is hard to make direct comparisons, but the DS 5 is probably sized between the A3 Sportback and A4 Avant. In slightly less lavish ‘Elegance’ trim, the car is priced at £27,140, against the £28,128  you'd pay for an A4 Avant 150bhp diesel S Line.

Sure, it lacks the factory-stamped design precision and execution of the Audi, but the DS5 has its own distinct appeal and character as well as a pretty healthy standard spec.

The ‘entry-level’ Elegance lacks only leather, xenon headlights, front parking sensors and reversing camera of the Prestige model. You can add those fabulous seats for £2390 (£1690 on the Prestige) and full electrical assistance for the chairs for another £500. Another £500 buys you a Denon sound system.

Yes, the options can take the price well over £30k, but the DS brand wants you to treat the DS 5 as a semi-bespoke car among the laser-welded German business models.

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It’s a pity, though, that the new torque convertor autobox is only offered on the BlueHDi 180, which starts at £29,620.

We’d recommend test-driving the DS 5. If nothing else, it’s genuinely original.

DS5 BlueHDi 150 S&S Prestige

Price £29,650; Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbodiesel; Power 147bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 273lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1537kg; Top speed 127mph; 0-62mph 10.6sec; Economy 68.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 105g/km, 19%

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Pete-Suffolk 23 May 2015

Thank Heavens

Thank heavens this ugly brute no longer sullies the Citroen name. Even though the use of the sacred DS name is annoying.

The DS range as a whole just despoils Citroen's history of beautiful shapes - DS, GS, CX even the BX and Xantia were great shapes in their day although not as timeless as the others.

The gimmicky, disjointed shapes of all the DS range are just grim - more in the mistakes folder, like Ami 6 and Bijou than the glorious successes. The C6 is the only current Citroen that even attempts to recapture the former greatness.

Yes I know the older models were hopelessly unreliable, but I am talking about style and shape here!

JIMBOB 31 May 2015

Really a citroen...

Pete-Suffolk wrote:

Thank heavens this ugly brute no longer sullies the Citroen name. Even though the use of the sacred DS name is annoying.

The DS range as a whole just despoils Citroen's history of beautiful shapes - DS, GS, CX even the BX and Xantia were great shapes in their day although not as timeless as the others.

The gimmicky, disjointed shapes of all the DS range are just grim - more in the mistakes folder, like Ami 6 and Bijou than the glorious successes. The C6 is the only current Citroen that even attempts to recapture the former greatness.

Yes I know the older models were hopelessly unreliable, but I am talking about style and shape here!

With a smidge of irony, I think this should be the Citroen C5, and should be realistically priced to be competition for the Focus/Leon/Golf. This would have given Citroen justification to rationalise the range by removing the C4 and current C5 from production, along with the unloved DS4, and maybe the 5 seater C4 picasso even (and possibly the Peugeot 3008).

Outoftowner1969 23 May 2015

Discounts

Will DS soften the depreciation bomb shell? Probably not like Citroen as was would have. So you'll need to really really want one and have deep pockets. Francophiles only need apply. I'll stick to my Jag, but maybe have a look in 18 months or so as a 2nd car. Let's see how the reliability holds up.
Jeremy 23 May 2015

Agree with EndlessWaves

It's great they've sorted the suspension, even if it means going against the trend of lower cars (should have fitted proper hydropneumatic suspension all along ...) But I prefer the old nose!

I love the way this car looks and goes against the well-worn grain of the German car industry. Now they've improved it, it will be on my shortlist for the next car