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Citroen DS5 review (2012 onwards)
What - Citroën DS5
Where - Nice, France
Date - October 2011
Price - £23,000 - £33,000
Available - March 2012
Key rivals -Audi A4 Avant, Volkswagen Passat CC, Ford Mondeo
Summary - The DS5 is a bold and innovative design in the best Citroën traditions. It drives well but isn't as sporty as its looks suggest. Instead, it's the comfort and the drama of interior that stand out.
Gallery: Citroën DS5
Read another Citroën review on MSN Cars
We like - Engaging design inside and out, competent on the road, good economy for a big car
We don't like - Larger wheel options spoil the ride, rear headroom, top models aren't cheap
If you're too much of a youthful, go-getting, trend-setter for its core range of family-focused cars, Citroën reckons it has the answer. The DS line consists of models with a little more panache and fire in their bellies or "French luxury" as Citroën calls it.
This DS5 is the third DS Citroën to emerge, unless you count the original Citroën DS circa 1955, a Galic groundbreaker that's still held out as a seminal moment in the brand's history.
The 5 joins the DS3 and the DS4, which are spruced-up versions of the C3 supermini and C4 family hatch respectively. But despite the obvious links, it would be doing the DS5 a disservice to suggest it's merely Citroën's C5 Ford Mondeo rival in fancy dress.
The car boasts the flamboyantly sporty styling cues that mark it out as a DS but the proportions are stockier than a C5's. The stubby nose, high window line and tailgate rear give it the look of a giant hot hatch. It's tall too though, with an upright driving position more akin to a crossover SUV than a traditional family saloon or estate.
It all makes the DS5 a tough car to pigeonhole and the waters are only muddied further by a raft of aeronautically inspired design features that have been thrown in. Toggle switches on the ceiling, a gear lever modelled on a plane's flight stick and a heads-up display all crop up in the cabin.
Five engines make the team sheet from launch. The two HDi diesels, a 110hp one and a quicker 2.0-litre 160hp option, are expected to take 85% of DS5 sales. A 1.6-litre turbo is the sole petrol option and the quickest DS5 thanks to its 200hp. It's expected to get just 5% of the action.
That leaves 10% of the mix that will go a third way, to another diesel but no ordinary diesel. The DS5 has been chosen to debut Citroën's innovative diesel hybrid technology. The Hybrid4 derivative has a 2.0-litre HDI 160 diesel engine powering the front wheels and an electric motor to drive the rear ones.
The two power options can work independently or in tandem to provide four-wheel-drive traction. Sport, 4x4 or zero-emission electric modes can be selected via a dial on the centre console as can an auto mode which picks the best settings for the driving conditions.
The diesel hybrid tech works a treat. It's smooth, punchy and only let down occasionally by the slow reactions of the self-shifting gearbox. In town, it's capable of running in electric mode for significant periods, if you're gentle with the throttle, and virtually silent while doing so. Even with diesel being burned, the refinement of the Hybrid4 is a couple of steps ahead of the THP 200 petrol option, which is quick but noisy at high revs.
Ride and handling
Citroën has consciously set out to give the DS5 a sportier personality than has been the norm in the French marque's up-scale products of late. The 200 THP model pushes the boundaries furthest with standard 19" wheels and sports suspension but its low speed ride is harsh as a result.
Things get smoother at higher speeds where the DS5 shows tight body control for a 4.53m-long car weighing a tonne and a half. It handles sweetly on flowing roads but starts to feel bulky and trickier to place on tighter, twisty stuff.
Models on smaller wheels without the sporty spring and damper settings ride better and that suits the DS5. It's better as a luxurious cruiser than it is hot-footing it up a mountain pass.
Luxury isn't a word we're used to dropping into conversations about Citroëns but the DS5 goes to great lengths to achieve a premium feel. The designers claim they scoured the globe to source the right materials and the cabin is definitely big on wow-factor with its upmarket trim finishes and adventurous design.
It might still be fractionally behind the best in terms of outright solidity but not by much. Half the battle of converting interested parties into DS5 buyers will be won if they can be tempted into the car.
Practicality wise, the boot space is a generous 468 litres and the adequate rear seat accommodation would be improved by more headroom and space beneath the front seats. The Hybrid 4 has a smaller boot to make room for its batteries but clever design means it doesn't sacrifice too much.
Economy and safety
The diesel hybrid is the DS5's efficiency standard bearer with emissions dipping under the important 100g/km mark and 74mpg economy - provided you choose the smallest wheel size. It's the flagship DS5 though and priced accordingly.
Economy minded customers who'd rather not spend £30,000 on their car can opt for the entry-level e-HDi diesel, which has stop-start assisting it to 114g/km and 64mpg.
Safety kit is plentiful and the usual core features are supported by some high-tech options to help shuffle occupants out of harm's way. The heads-up display keeps drivers looking at the road more of the time, which can't be bad. Then there's Citroën's Lane Departure Warning System, eTouch emergency assistance and full beam headlights that dip automatically when another car approaches.
With elements of saloon, estate, crossover SUV and, er, light aircraft, the DS5 is a family car with a refreshingly divergent approach. Citroën's proud tradition of innovation is reflected in the fresh detailing of the exterior and a swish cabin that's littered with talking points. It looks and feels a step or two removed from the broad cross-section of cars it could count as rivals.
A fluid, stable and comfortable performer on the road, the DS5 has a solid diesel engine range topped by the thoroughly impressive Hybrid4 model. The firmer, sportier 200 THP petrol moves away from these strengths and doesn't hit the same heights.
If you've become used to avoiding big cars from mainstream brands for their inability to excite, the DS5 is an option with genuine pizazz that might bring you back to the table. A lot will hinge on how residual values hold up but this is still a Citroën with premium pretensions and a real chance at success.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.6 THP 200|
|Engines, diesel||1.6 e-HDi 110, 2.0 HDi 160, Hybrid4|
|Power, hp||108 - 198|
|Torque, lb ft||199 - 251|
|0-62 mph, secs||N/A|
|Top speed, mph||N/A|
|Mpg combined||42 - 74|
|CO2, g/km||99 - 155|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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