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Review

FIRST DRIVE: Citroen DS5 car review

14/10/11

CITROEN’S ‘premium’ line-up is now complete with the arrival of the DS5, and just like the DS3 and DS4 it’s quite the attention-grabber.

One thing the DS trio all have going for them is that they’re very distinctive. The DS5 couldn’t be mistaken for anything else, and for some people that’s a selling point in itself.

It’s a strange looking beast, which from some angles looks absolutely stunning and from others doesn’t look right at all. But that’s easily brushed off in acknowledgement of it being a big, quirky French car.

So quirky, in fact, that half the switches that should be on the centre console or the doors are on the roof, for that genuine ‘cockpit’ feel. It’s actually a really well designed layout in the main, once you’ve learned what all the symbols on the buttons mean.

The upholstery style is new, and looks fantastic. Citroen has gone to town on making the DS5 stand out in as many ways as possible, and the seats are a prime example of a job well done.

There’s decent legroom in the back, but the car isn’t as big on the inside as you might think, so three adults would be a bit cramped on the rear 60/40 split bench seat.

Boot space varies according to model choice. There’s more room in the diesel and petrol models than there is in the hybrid version. The latter takes a hit because of the batteries and motor under the boot floor.

Three trim levels will be on offer to begin with, and current Citroen owners might be familiar with the DSign, DStyle and DSport labels. One point worth highlighting is that while the test cars’ distinctive 19-inch wheels looked great, the standard sets on some models are as small as 16-inch, which spoils the car’s dramatic looks.

The build quality is outstanding, though. The leather quality is remarkable, the dashboard materials all look and feel very upmarket, and I didn’t touch one thing during my time with the car that felt like it had been built down to a price. Impressive stuff.

Not only that, but Citroen is planning Maybach-style DS-specific showrooms, with special configuration ‘salons’ for buyers to touch and see all the different trim options and colours. That’s going above and beyond the norm, and should be a major pull for buyers.

At launch the DS5 will be available with five powerplants and a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. The excellent e-HDi 110 and HDi 160 diesels, which should make up the vast majority of sales, are joined by THP 155 and THP 200 petrol engines. The 200 is actually more fuel-efficient and costs less to tax than the 155, so drivers in the anticipated 5% who’ll choose a petrol DS5 should think carefully.

The fifth power option is the Hybrid4 system that has already debuted in the Peugeot 3008. Combining the HDi 160 diesel engine driving the front wheels with an electric motor driving the rears it’s designed to give impressive fuel economy gains over and above a normal diesel model.

There’s a dedicated driving mode for zero-emission urban driving, using the electric motor only. In the real world, the DS5 is heavy enough to make it difficult to keep on the motor alone using the default ‘Auto’ driving mode, so it’s good to keep the electric-only ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) mode activated in town as much as possible.

What’s really striking about the DS5 is just how easy it is to get on with, whether it’s in town or on a mountain pass. It’s an incredibly friendly, forgiving driving experience that’s very easy to gel with straight off the bat, and with huge reserves of grip it’s also an accomplished performer on the twisty bits.

Where I have reservations about its drive is the ride quality. On largely smooth Cote D’Azur roads the DS5 was well controlled, stable and stayed relatively flat around corners. But on the odd rough patch, more typical of UK roads, it did seem to have a lot of suspension noise and jolts through the cabin. Time, and a domestic test, will tell whether it’s an issue.

On the whole, though, the DS5 is a very encouraging prospect. It’s likely to offer a lot of ownership satisfaction, and it’s definitely a stylish alternative to premium German cars. Once the new DS ‘salons’ arrive it should be a remarkable buying experience considering the price.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Citroen DS5 THP 200 DSport.

Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol producing 197bhp.

Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.

Performance: 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds.

Fuel economy: 42.2mpg.

CO2 rating: 155g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups
  • Airbags
  • Seats5

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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