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First drive: DS 5 2.0 BlueHDi 150hp. Image by DS.

First drive: DS 5 2.0 BlueHDi 150hp
Revisions outside and under the skin turn the Citroen DS5 into the new DS 5.

 



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DS 5

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France tries to go toe-to-toe with the Germans in the luxury car market but trips over its own shoelaces. That's how we sum up the revised DS 5, even without its Citroen badges.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: DS 5 2.0 BlueHDi 150hp Elegance
Pricing: From 27,140 (range starts at 26,980)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 105g/km (Band B, 20 per annum VED)
Combined economy: 70.6mpg
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 9.8 seconds
Power: 150hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 370Nm at 2,000rpm
Boot space: 468 litres

What's this?

It was a Citroen, now it's a DS. You see, Citroen and the PSA Group have decided that there's no point trying to flog cars to BMW and Audi buyers when there are still Citroen double-chevrons on the nose. Can't have our premium customers mixing it with the Cactus and Picasso hoi-polloi can we? So now, what was Citroen's DS range is now a standalone brand, and this, the updated DS 5, is its flagship.

It hasn't actually changed much. There is a new grille, with the angular DS badge front and centre, some new lights and some mild changes to the interior (mostly just a new touchscreen that Citr... sorry, DS says eliminates a dozen of the buttons that were previously there).

There are also some tweaks to the engine range that now lines up with three 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesels (in 120-, 150- and 180hp forms), a 165hp 1.6-litre THP petrol turbo and the previously-available diesel-electric HYbrid4. You can also now spec your DS with a new six-speed automatic transmission.

DS is claiming that it really can match the Germans when it comes to quality and craftsmanship and when you peer into the cabin you might actually start to believe that - the seats are wonderfully comfortable and clad in the nicest leather I've ever set buttock on. The actual physical quality of the materials used and of the fixtures and fittings is really excellent - genuinely up to German levels there. But there are problems too - there is just utterly insufficient legroom in the back; the cupholders, hidden down in the door pockets, are useless; and the roofline feels uncomfortably close to your scalp at times. Still love the little ejector seat glass roof panels over the driver and passenger heads though...

How does it drive?

The BlueHDi diesel engine is just excellent, at least in 150hp form. It revs smoothly and sweetly and even though the 370Nm of torque comes in at a slightly peaky (for a diesel) 2,000rpm, there's enough of it on stream from down low to keep things shoving along nicely. The six-speed manual gearbox has a pleasantly light shift quality and comes without the vague knitting-needles-in-Coco-Pops feel of PSA gearboxes of old. It does feel slightly wrong to be shifting gears yourself in a car this devoted to luxury and refinement though so the automatic we tried on a 180hp model should, by rights, have been better suited to the car. Oddly, it wasn't. It seemed reluctant to kick down (although it did so cleanly when it woke up) and the 180hp engine seemed much noisier than the 150hp, without all that much of an extra performance kick. Perhaps the auto will work better with the 150hp engine.

We didn't get a chance to properly establish fuel economy, but DS's official figure of 70mpg will probably work out to around 55mpg, maybe 60mpg if you're lucky, in daily use. That 105g/km CO2 figure means your road tax cost is negligible and you're in the 19 per cent company car tax bracket.

All good so far, and swishing along the autoroutes on the way out of Paris, the DS 5 felt suitably grand-tourer-ish. All comfort, all silence, all swift.

And then we got it onto a twisty road and then it all just went to pot. Ever since the DS 5 was originally launched it's been criticised for a chassis that's no fun in the corners and no good over bumps. Best not to even ask about bumpy corners.

While things have been improved, they're still nowhere near good enough. The vague, light steering makes cornering a less than accurate affair, and while the ride is much, much more gentle than once it was, lumps and crags still bamboozle it and the suspension makes far too much noise when it reacts - constantly banging and creaking away to itself.

These are not just the words of some cranky, handling-obsessed road tester either. The hugely frustrating thing is that Citroen knows how to do this right - anyone who drove the glorious old C6 saloon (proper Hydragas suspension, staggering depreciation) knows that it wasn't much cop in the corners but it was so comfortable that you occasionally forgot you were actually driving.

The switch from Citroen DS to just plain DS has seen some improvements come the 5's way, but it's still miles short of its German opposition.

Verdict

The launch event for the DS 5 was predictably snazzy and full of lights, dry ice and literal dancing girls. Tragically for DS, it took place as part of the 60th birthday celebrations for the original 1955 Citroen DS saloon - a car that's as much legend as mode of transport these days. DS was, of course, trying to make something of this, trying to remind the world that once, French cars weren't just as good as their German rivals; they were more exciting, more beautiful, better.

The problem is that, showing the new DS 5 alongside some of the original DS saloons merely served to underline that the original was really ground-breaking, heartbreakingly gorgeous and instantly desirable. It also came from a brand, Citroen, which had pioneered front-wheel drive, unitary construction and hydraulic controls. The company that had seen its name in lights on the Eiffel Tower. The company that could make an astounding creation such as the original DS, a car that was a premium saloon before the concept was ever even thought of, and yet could in the same showroom offer us the minimalist and frugal 2CV. In 1955, Citroen was the coolest car company in the world.

In 2015? Citroen makes some excellent cars. The C4 Picasso is good. The C4 Cactus has its flaws but it's interesting and funky. DS though? DS has a long, long way to go - either to reach Audi's standards or to reclaim that lost ground from 60 years ago. DS's execs know that - they've given themselves 15 years and two model cycles to reach the top, and we won't see the first purpose-built DS models until 2018. But to judge from the current DS 5, they're going to need every second of that time.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

2 2 2 2 2 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 21 May 2015









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2015 DS 5. Image by DS.
 

2015 DS 5. Image by DS.
 

2015 DS 5. Image by DS.
 

2015 DS 5. Image by DS.
 

2015 DS 5. Image by DS.
 

2015 DS 5. Image by DS.
 

2015 DS 5. Image by DS.
 






 

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