The Citroën DS5 is a handsome hatchback designed with a premium feel, but doesn't back up its road presence with a refined ride

Find Used DS 5 2015-2018 review deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Used car deals
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

Taking inspiration from the massive success of France’s luxury brands, Citroën created the DS brand in 2009 to “express French style and luxury with beautiful details and exceptional quality".

The brand was intended to be more upmarket than mass-market, if not a direct competitor to Mercedes and BMW. The DS 5 tested here completes the initial incarnation of the DS line.

The Hybrid4 technology is shared with sister brand Peugeot

The crossover hatchback is also interesting because, while the link is unacknowledged by Citroën, this may be the closest thing to the original DS that France's famous double-chevron has produced in almost 40 years.

The first modern Citroën DS was, by contrast to that 1955 technological and stylistic trailblazer, more of an urban fashion hatchback than an expression of French luxury. Nevertheless, the Mini-like DS 3 quickly became a success following its launch in 2010, becoming Citroën UK’s best-selling model in the process. Next along was the slightly underwhelming DS 4 crossover, which then led to the more rugged DS 4 Crossback.

The dramatically styled DS 5 is an intriguing mix of high-roofed hatchback, coupé and sports estate, the result of the mounting pressure on the traditional D-segment family saloon in Europe.

It’s still an important sector, but selling cars in it is not as simple now as it once was. Roll back the clock a decade or so and if you wanted a full-size car of moderate price, there was little alternative.

Back to top

However, the birth of MPVs, compact SUVs and crossovers, combined with the solid residuals of otherwise more expensive compact executive cars, means that things are no longer so simple.

There is now plenty of choice and, as Renault has already discovered to the Laguna’s cost, you’ve got to give customers a damned good reason to buy a relatively ordinary traditional family car.

That’s why the likes of the DS 5 now exist, crafting together several different styles of cars into a package you won’t find anywhere else.



DS 5 exhaust system

As with its other DS models, Citroën’s intention in the big-family sector is to offer a sense of high design and desirability that traditional models cannot deliver.

Citroën itself says the DS 5 is pitched somewhere between the traditional Volkswagon Volkswagen Passat saloon and its natty CC derivative. Or between, say, the Vauxhall Insignia and Audi A4. Square where you might expect it, in other words.

The DS 5 is pitched between Volkswagen's Passat and CC

To a man, everyone who came into contact with the DS 5 thought Citroën had hit the styling nail square on the head. The DS5 has a tasty portion of aggression and dynamism in its styling and balanced, taut surfaces, but avoids occupying unequivocally the realm of the quirky. If a road test was judged on a car maker’s efforts with a pen, we could all go home.

But there is still more to learn. While Citroën’s other DS models have arrived pretty much at the same time as their non-DS sister models, the DS 5 is a diversion from that pattern, and in more ways than one. While the DS 3 is effectively a Citroen C3 variant and the DS 4 is based on the Citroen C4, the DS 5 is not based on the C5, introduced in 2008, whose numeral it shares.

Instead, the DS 5 sits on the same PF2 platform as the Peugeot 3008 and Citroën C4/DS 4/Picasso, thus rendering it shorter overall than the C5. At 4530mm, the DS 5 is some 249mm shorter than the 4779mm C5.

The PF2 basis means that most DS 5s do without an independent multi-link rear suspension system, instead making do with a torsion beam, with MacPherson struts at the front. 

There are three diesel powertrains offered, a 1.6-litre HDI with 118bhp and 148bhp and 178bhp variants of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel, the latter of which is offered with six-speed automatic transmission.

There is two variants of Citroën's venerable 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol developing 160bhp and 205bhp respectively. Curiously the former is only available with a six-speed automatic gearbox while the latter comes with a six-speed manual.

The range was once topped by the a hybrid model, which DS cut from the range at the end of 2016 after the French manufacturer announced only 3 percent of DS 5s sold were Hybrid4 models.


DS 5 interior

As imaginatively turned as the exterior is, the stylised body of the DS 5 is barely a warm-up for the design exercise that has occurred within. Conventionally, a car’s interior feels limited not by the creativity of its designer, but by the budget of a manufacturer grimly eyeing the bottom line.

The DS 5 is one of only a handful of mainstream models that we can think of where aesthetic inventiveness has clearly been consciously encouraged, and seemingly without defaulting to the constraints of the purse strings.

Reversing is hindered by the high-set and narrow rear screen

This makes the resulting cabin – especially in the top-spec model – a convincing tribute to what Citroën is attempting to achieve with the DS range.

It is awash with thoughtful details, expensive features and clever material juxtapositions, but the most satisfying impression it conveys is the abiding notion that someone actually took the time to conceive, craft and situate each component exclusively for your appreciation. Consequently, everything, from the meaty gearknob to the electric window switches, is a pleasure to look at and use.

It’s hard not to be persuaded by the shrewd interlacing of form and function. So strong is the look and feel of the surroundings that they serve to almost completely paper over the interior’s negligible shortcomings.

Foremost among these is a slight lack of legroom in the back and a serious lack of visibility all round. Despite split A-pillars, the DS 5’s layout impedes quick progress at junctions, and reversing is hindered by the high-set and narrow rear screen.

There are also minor issues on practicality in the front (such as the pointlessly huge cupholders and the paltry glovebox), but to highlight any of these too sharply would be to unfairly detract from the overall significance of Citroën’s achievement with this cabin.

There are three trim levels to choose from - Elegance, Performance Line and Prestige. Entry-level DS 5 models get 18in alloy wheels, front foglights, electrically adjustable, heated and folding wing mirrors, electric windows, cruise control, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, and keyless entry as standard on the outside, while inside there is dual-zone climate zone and Citroën's 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and smartphone integration.

Upgrade to Performance Line and you'll find 19in alloy wheels, front parking sensors, electrically adjustable driver's seat, a part-leather upholstery, LED headlights and scrolling indicators, while the range-topping Prestige model gets acoustic glazing on the windows, a reversing camera, blindspot monitoring system and ambient interior lighting.


DS 5 rear quarter

The engine range for the DS5 consists of Citroën’s familiar 160bhp and 205bhp 1.6-litre THP petrol units, plus a base 118bhp 1.6-litreHDi diesel, and the more potent 148bhp and 178bhp 2.0-litre oil-burner.

Previously the real star of the show – from a technology viewpoint at least – is the diesel-electric Hybrid4 drivetrain. Citroën’s first full hybrid system combines a 2.0-litre HDi diesel engine to power the front wheels with an electric motor on the back axle. Combined power from the system is 197bhp, and it comes with an automatic six-speed gearbox.

Stick with the conventional drivetrains – the Hybrid4 system is far from perfect

Driven in a relaxed fashion, the system is fairly smooth and willing, with an easy and pleasant gait. But this isn’t the case under hard and medium-hard acceleration; gearchanges become painfully slow and clumsy and the electric motor is simply not powerful or clever enough to cover the yawning interruptions in acceleration as the gearbox changes ratio.

Luckily, there is a lot to like about the DS 5 equipped with the 178bhp 2.0 HDi engine. It hasn't got the flexibility or efficiency of the benchmark diesels currently buoying BMW’s range, but it benefits from a strong, elastic mid-range that allows you to flow along rapidly and without fuss, and works particularly well with PSA's six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox.

The proof is in the 30-70mph sprint – a better gauge of performance than the 0-60mph dash for an everyday road car. The DS 5 HDi 180 managed a healthy 8.6sec through the gears, which is not at all bad for a car weighing 1689kg.

Elsewhere in the range, the 1.6 THP engines are fairly brisk, if not very economical, and it’s somehow at odds with the DS 5’s more relaxed positioning. The 1.6 HDi, although decently economical, offers limited performance for a car of the DS 5’s size.


DS 5 cornering

The DS 5 follows neither the more focused approach of Citroën's other DS models and nor does it offer the cushioning, silken deportment of big, air-sprung Citroëns such as the C5 and C6.

The reality of the DS 5’s conventional suspension set-up is a fairly mediocre ride that is at best settled but short of sophistication, and at worst plies an uncomfortable blend of vague, unsettling body control and an intermittently grimace-inducing lack of bump absorption.

Think of the DS 5 as a comfortable barge in terms of handling

As such, the car falls down the gap between comfortable GT and encouragingly driver-focused saloon. You can’t help but feel that Citroën would have been better off settling for the likeable, soft ride that it does well in other big saloons.

Still, if the DS 5 falls closer to any one camp then it’s that of the comfortable luxo-barge, because its handling is certainly no sparkling success. Acceptable, yes, but merely average generally.

The weight of the car is noticeable as it shuffles from corner to corner in vigorous driving, while the ride is at its jarring worst under high cornering forces, where the DS 5 feels fidgety and unsettled.

Substantial steering kick-back over very poor surfaces at high speeds is another discomfiting trait, even if the slightly springy steering is inoffensive in its weighting and response. In the unlikely event that a DS 5 owner does push to the limits of grip, the result will be substantial but manageable understeer.


DS 5

The official fuel economy of the now defunct DS 5 in Hybrid4 spec is practicality unprecedented in a car of its size and in its segment. A claimed 83.1mpg is on offer alongside an official CO2 rating of just 88g/km.

However, buyers should note that the real-world economy figures are likely to be somewhat removed from these figures. A real-world 60mpg is quite easily achieved, but while good, that's nothing like as exceptional as you might hope.

The DS 5 undercuts an equivalent Mondeo Estate

The standard 2.0-litre HDi model is also impressively economical – both on paper and in the real world; in an extended run, we achieved 55mpg on our touring route and 42.8mpg overall. That may be some way behind the official combined figure of 55.4mpg, but it’s more than competitive.

The range-topping 205bhp 1.6 THP turbocharged petrol option that’s smooth and eager, but it only makes financial sense if you don't cover many miles or don't pay for your own fuel.

While it doesn’t represent the value for money that a familiar big Citroën would, the DS 5 is at least well priced. At full list, near-range-topping models undercut an equivalent Ford Mondeo Estate. And though it can’t compete with the Ford on practicality, it out-dazzles it by a country mile.

Residual values will depend on how much demand there is for the DS 5 and how cleverly Citroën’s dealers manage that demand. Our experts suggest they will be strong – not quite to premium brand levels, but much better than usual for Citroën. Business demand for the emissions-efficient Hybrid4 version should help, too.

However, discounted DS 5s are being offered through familiar channels, sowing a seed of doubt about the ability of Citroën’s dealer network to effectively sell a big, premium-priced car. Which means private buyers must push for discounts to be sure of getting value for money.



3.5 star DS 5

The DS 5 is a success of sorts. It is a genuinely stand-out, original design: striking, quite practical and thoroughly likeable. The first time you see a DS 5 – and for quite a few subsequent viewings – you’ll need time to absorb the sheer complexity of the exterior styling. But we'd wager you'll enjoy the process.

And no other car at its price – and few others at any price – offers the same level of styling dynamism inside and out, partnered with impressive perceived interior quality. With the DS 5, if there is any justice, PSA has found a niche where it can sell interesting cars. And as enthusiasts, we can’t ask for more than that.

The ride quality ruins an otherwise impressive package

Yet all is not quite rosy. While we love the DS 5’s cabin quirks and materials, the enthusiasts were disappointed with its ride quality to the extent that many of our testers couldn’t imagine scribbling their name on the order form, or recommending that others do the same.

That’s a great pity because, in other areas, the DS 5 would be an extremely pleasing car to own. We never expected it to be the last word in handling sophistication, but how far it is from the final chapter in comfort might just make it too much to bear.

For many, the occasional all-over body shudder on a back road and the shortage of involving dynamics will be nowhere near a deal-breaker, given the DS5’s quirky appeal. But then the original Citroën DS managed to be pliant, advanced and visually appealing.

Its spiritual successor leaves that little bit to be desired, both compared to that iconic Citroën and to the ruling powers in the European compact executive and volume family saloon segments.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

DS 5 2015-2018 First drives