Citroën’s new DS5, on sale next March, exudes design chic, but does it have the élan to carry it off on the move?

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.

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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

Join the debate

Add a comment…
artill 25 March 2012

Re: Citroën DS5 Hybrid4

Stotty wrote:
Anyhow, I’ve ordered one

Sounds an entertaining car. Its always good to hear other opinions of cars apart from road testers. I am surprised the ride is as hard as you describe, i wouldnt expect it of a Citroen at all, but if you tried it and can live with it, then i am sure it will be fine. And it will certainly be a lot more interesting than a lot of the cars out there, infact i doubt you could have got a more interesting car for the money.

Its a good day for Citroen 2 sold today with you and Bomb ordering one just from the readers of Autocars website!

Stotty 25 March 2012

Re: Citroën DS5 Hybrid4

Went back to have another look at the DS5 today.

This one had the leather pack, and with this the driving position is completely transformed. With electric adjustment, the seat base now tilts independently of seat height (with no loss of headroom), and coupled with an extending seat base, there’s loads of under thigh support. The electric adjustment, memory and massage functions are a nice bonus.

I asked if I could have a test drive and, after giving the salesman a few details, he gave me the key and away I went.

This one was a 160bhp diesel with an auto box and I had a good hour in it, including some urban, a good run on the motorway and a hoon down a few of my favourite country roads.

An auto wouldn’t be my choice on this type of car, but it actually worked quite nicely and didn’t get in the way of the driving experience.

First things first… yes, the ride is firm, though it stops short of being harsh. It is firmer than my Mondeo with ‘sports suspension’… I’d say it’s about on a par with the last gen 3er MSport on 18’s. I didn’t find it uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t want it any firmer! The payoff is handling like you’d never expect of an old school Citroen. Compared to my Mondeo, it has far less initial roll… meaning you can turn in much harder. And once in to a bend it really does corner flat and hard.

The steering doesn’t have a lot of ‘feel’, but the wheel itself feels nice, it’s direct and it’s got a lovely weight. The brakes are very strong!

Overall refinement is OK. Wind noise at 90+ is low but it does have a bit of tyre roar on coarse surfaces…. nothing that would interfere with conversation or get in the way of Radio 4 though.

I won’t comment too much on performance as the auto is c.1.5s slower to 60 than the manual, but the engine is much more refined than the one in my Mondeo. It has far less diesel rattle on start up and is generally much smoother and quieter with less turbo lag.

Anyhow, I’ve ordered one… DStyle, 160bhp diesel, manual, in hurricane grey (dark solid grey) with ‘lama’ leather (very light grey… almost white)… the paint colour would have been my last choice, but it’s the only solid (free) paint colour and to get metallic/pearl would have meant paying for it myself as my extras allowance would cover the leather.

Delivery c.8 weeks.

Stotty 18 March 2012

Re: Citroën DS5 Hybrid4

I went to have a look at (and a sit in) the DS5 this weekend. A mid spec DStyle, manual 2l diesel, in pale metallic blue with the standard black leather and alcantara interior.

I know styling is a matter of personal taste, but to me the exterior looks fabulous. It has great proportions, lovely detailing, and has bags of 'presence'. It's much more interesting than the standard stuff on my company car list.The interior is a bit of a mixed bag though. No issues with the design (it's a great match for the exterior), there’s loads of standard kit and the materials are absolutely top notch. But there are some issues.

Firstly, it's not very big. Admittedly, I'm quite tall (6’4”), but with the seat set for me only children or small adults would be able to fit behind. The passenger compartment is probably no bigger than a Golf, length wise, though it’s a good deal wider and the boot is big. It would probably be fine for a family with a couple of small kids, but would be a bit tight if you had a couple of teenagers.

Secondly (and more importantly for me), I couldn’t find a comfortable driving position. The seat has a basic height adjuster, but with it set fully back and fully down (necessary to avoid my head being jammed against the roof) there was no under thigh support at all… plus the wheel was too far away even with the reach adjuster fully extended. Probably wouldn’t be an issue for someone of average height as with the seat higher you could move it closer to the wheel, but for me it would be a deal breaker.

Anyhow, I’m going back next week for a test drive and the demo will have leather… which comes with electric adjustment (as well as heating, massage function and memory settings). I’m hoping that this also means it gets a seat base tilt function meaning I can raise the leading edge of the seat and move it a bit closer to the wheel…as long as the gubbins for the electric seat doesn’t rob it of any headroom.

Can’t help thinking they’d have been better to base the DS5 on the C5 platform though… and that they should have headhunted whoever signs off driving positions at BMW (the new 3er is perfect in this regard).