| First Drive | Nice, France | Citroen DS5 |
Model tested: Citroen DS5 1.6 THP 200
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Volkswagen Passat, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series
CO2 emissions: 155g/km
Combined economy: 42.2mpg
Power: 200bhp at 5,500 - 6,800rpm
Torque: 203lb.ft at 1,700 - 4,500rpm
In the Metal:
When Citroen returned with the DS badge it promised more avant-garde design and in the DS5 it's really fulfilled that. There's nothing out there that looks like it, from the bold 'sabre' of chrome running up from the headlamps to behind the A-pillar, to the scalloped bodywork under the cabin's windows it's a riot of details that creates an interesting, attractive whole
The drama continues inside, with the cockpit-like driving environment beautifully finished and hugely stylish. Some of the controls take some learning - it not immediately obvious what dial or button does what - but the detailing, quality and tactility is superb. The roof-mounted console, head-up display and, if optioned, watch-strap aping leather seats, are smart touches in a clever, comfortable and highly individual interior.
Powered in 1.6 THP guise by the BMW partnership 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine the DS5 is brisk, though that eager four-cylinder unit does need lots of revs. It's enjoyable to drive though, the DS5's high levels of grip and stability making it a surprisingly entertaining car on a testing road. What's not so enjoyable is the ride. Big wheels don't help, but the Citroen DS5 is firm to the point of uncomfortable, it crashing and bumping around town - all but the smoothest of roads unsettle the car and jiggle passengers unnecessarily.
That's hugely disappointing, as otherwise the DS5 has a lot to offer. The steering might be light on feel, but it's quick to turn in (though we'd prefer a proper round rather than flat-bottomed wheel). Grip levels are high, giving the DS5 decent ability in the bends, too. The gearshift isn't the last word in accuracy, but well placed pedals allow heel-and-toe shifts to keep the eager petrol engine's revs high. It's all rather entertaining really, until you hit patchy tarmac.
Citroen has a reputation for magic-carpet ride quality (particularly in association with the original DS), so it's a shame that some of that suppleness hasn't managed to be incorporated into the otherwise fine driving DS5. Mate a smoother ride with either the petrol (or even better, one of the torque-rich turbodiesel choices) and the DS5 would make a convincing grand tourer with some back-road ability in reserve.
What you get for your Money:
Equipment levels and pricing have yet to be confirmed, but given the quality, distinctive style and certain ample standard equipment the Citroen DS5 will be a very competitive choice. As an alternative to the established - and somewhat staid in comparison - premium players the DS5 offers a distinctive, well-priced alternative.
The third DS model won't be the last in the line-up. Citroen has achieved impressive sales with its new 'brand', and more cars will follow. It's making specific variants for China, and we can expect more models to join the existing DS3, DS4 and DS5 soon.
There's a great deal to like about the Citroen DS5. Striking individuality, an excellent, high quality, stylish interior and decent space add up to a convincing mainstream and even premium alternative. With one proviso - Citroen has saddled it with suspension that's just too firm and uncompromising. Sort that out and it'd gain a star for a resounding 4.5-star score, but for now it's merely 3.5 stars, which is a shame as the DS5 is otherwise one of the most interesting cars we've driven in a long time.