First DriveThe 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
First DriveSaloon version of Citroën's DS5 has been created to battle premium German rivals in China, but falls short
What is it?
Taking inspiration from the massive success of France’s luxury brands, DS is designed to “express French style and luxury with beautiful details and exceptional quality” and be seen as more upmarket than mass-market brands, if not a direct competitor to Mercedes and BMW. In turn, the success of the DS brand - which now relies on the new Citroën DS5 - will pull up the image of the Citroën parent brand.
The first DS was, however, more of an urban sporting car than an expression of French luxury. Nevertheless, the Mini-like DS3 has been a success, shifting more than 130,000 units since it went on sale. Next along was the DS4, which is just arriving in showrooms.
Completing the initial incarnation of the DS line is this car: the Citroën DS5. Due to arrive in UK showrooms from next March, the dramatically styled DS5 is an intriguing mix of high-roofed hatchback, coupé and sports estate.
What’s it like?
The first time you see a DS5 – and for quite a few subsequent viewings – you’ll need time to absorb the sheer complexity of the exterior styling.
The interior is just as dramatic. The driver is hemmed in by a genuine cockpit feel, thanks to the high centre console, deep dashboard and roof-mounted switchgear console. The interior also relies heavily on metal trim, which appears, among many places, on the rim of the flat-bottomed wheel, around the instrument bezels and on the unusual, but effective, ‘shark’s tooth’ switches on the centre console.
The 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, driving a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox (the manual version will cost about £26,000 in the UK), is smooth and willing, with an easy and pleasant gait.
The combination of the higher – and very relaxing – driving position and the car’s refined and long-striding powerplant give the DS5 a flavour of the classic French ‘Grand Routier’ cars that were optimised to waft unerringly across Europe. This is a notably refined car when cruising on part-throttle.
Downsides include the way the double A-pillars and the low-mounted rear-view mirror obscure the view through the shallow windscreen. But the real problem with this DS5 is the shockingly bad ride over very rough surfaces and potholes.
On good surfaces, the ride is more than acceptable, but the way it suddenly deteriorates over potholes and broken surfaces made more than one driver curse out loud in surprise during our time with the car. The amount of noise that is transmitted into the cabin is also unusual.
This problem goes beyond the 18in wheels and low-profile tyres on the test cars. But with a few months to go before the DS5 goes on sale in the UK, there may be time to rid this attractive car of such a significant flaw.
The Hybrid4 version of the DS5 gets a multi-link rear axle and this helps to improve the ride over rough surface a little.
The DS5 Hybrid4 has the technical prowess to back up the styling, offering a Co2 rating of 99g/km, a potential combined thrust of 197bhp and 369lb ft, part-time all-wheel drive and the option of part-time zero-emissions running, when just the rear wheels are driving the car via battery power.
Should I buy one?
The DS5 is a genuinely stand-out, original design: striking, practical and thoroughly likeable. But Citroën needs to smooth out the rough-road ride as a matter of urgency.
Citroen DS5 hybrid4
Price: £33,000 (est); 0-62mph: 8.6sec; Top speed: 131mph; Economy: 74.3mpg (combined); CO2 emissions: 99g/km; Kerb weight: 1660kg; Engine layout: 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbodiesel, plus electric motor; Power: 161bhp at 3850rpm, plus 36bhp electric motor; Torque: 221lb ft at 1750-3500rpm, plus 148lb ft electric motor; Gearbox: 6-spd automated manual