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DS 5 review 2015

While the DS 5 is well equipped and put together, you still can’t quite convince yourself that it is no longer a Citroën

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What is it? Revamp marking launch of Citroën’s standalone premium brand.
Key features: Bespoke styling, upmarket interior, improved engines/chassis.
Our view: While the DS 5 is well equipped and put together, you still can’t quite convince yourself that it is no longer a Citroën.

The arrival of the DS 5 may at first glance seem nothing more than a refresh of a model first launched in 2012, but the big story about this model is not the car but its badge.

Nowhere does the word Citroën feature in the latest member of the DS line-up – not on the car, or in the literature.

The DS 5 is both the pioneer, and the standard bearer for Citroën’s plans for DS, now spun off on its own to be a premium sibling to the mainstream brand. Citroën dealers are already being obliged to set up separate DS sales areas or ‘zones’ in their showrooms while some have gone a step further and built bespoke facilities for DS, pre-guessing the plans of the brand itself which foresees the rise of DS ‘Stores’ in high-profile locations.

The aim, according to spokesman John Handcock, is to revive a tradition of premium vehicles in the French motor industry, harking back to the first DS that launched to surprise and then acclaim at the 1955 Paris Motor Show – it was a car both upmarket and technologically significantly ahead of its time.

And DS will be a big part of parent group PSA’s future plans – by 2020 those DS Stores are expected to be showing off six new DS models quite apart from the DS 3 and DS 4 that have already appeared in recent times, wearing DS badges alongside Citroën ones.

So how does the new DS 5 differ from both its predecessor and smaller siblings? Firstly it gets the new family look most obvious up front where the face is more dominant. The grille stands more vertically, it has the new DS emblem and a ‘DS wings’ design signature stretching out to the headlamps and finished in chrome, its look harking back to that 1955 car.

In profile the front quarters are no less striking, thanks to the chrome bars, dubbed sabres by the designers, that run along the bonnet edges from headlamp to windscreen base.

Being a premium-pitched car, the DS 5 includes LED headlamps with a bespoke signature to the daytime running lights, along with the scrolling LED indicators first seen on the DS 3 – these will be a DS staple.

Inside demonstrates clearly the effort that has gone into trying to convince buyers that a DS is equally as worthy of consideration as an Audi or a BMW. So there are three different leather options, topped by a semi-aniline hide that previously has been considered too good for use in cars. It can be specified in a ‘watch strap’ style, which is both striking and apparently popular, one in five pre-orders including it.

More basic considerations have not been forgotten and the dash is worthy of note. A complete redesign sees a great many functions entrusted to a new seven-inch touchscreen, which is quite easy to use and perhaps more importantly removes 12 buttons from the dash, giving it a cleaner, more stylish look.

One petrol, three diesel and a hybrid comprise the DS 5 launch engine line-up, and this will soon be extended by a high-powered 206bhp petrol unit. But this will make very little dent in the DS market, which is expected to be some 96% diesel, and 80% fleet buyers.

All the engines are, according to DS personnel, significantly improved over previous offerings. They all meet Euro-6 emissions requirements, and their CO2 ratings are better by up to 28%. Best of all, if one discounts the hybrid, is the 118bhp diesel, which offers combined cycle fuel economy of 70.6mpg and CO2 emissions of a mere 104g/km, which of course means useful savings in running costs.

During the launch event around Farnborough in Hampshire, The Car Expert reflected the likely sales performance with tests of the 118 and 147bhp diesels – the latter expected to account for the most DS sales. And in the few occasions that typically cluttered south-east roads allowed us to properly test the acceleration, they both came up to the mark, appearing eager but refined, travelling at motorway speeds in suitably hushed tones.

The pre-facelift DS 5 was criticised for its harsh-feeling suspension, and the designers appear to have taken note. The secret to what is a much more compliant ride are we are told pre-loaded linear valve dampers. But while much improved, the handling characteristics of the DS 5 do not feel particularly sporty, and the premium rivals it is aiming at do just that – while their performance credentials are hardly ever tested, they do always feel as if they could produce if required.

Which possibly sums up the problem the DS 5, and by implication the DS programme, has. While it is well equipped and very well put together, you still can’t quite convince yourself that it is no longer a Citroën. The DS 5 feels like a top-specification Citroën model. For DS to establish its image, it really needs an all-new model, one for which its mainstream parent really has no equivalent.

DS 5 – key specifications

Models tested: DS 5 Blue HDi 120 and 150PS S&S 6-spd Manual
On sale: July 2015.
Range price: £25,980-£34,890.
Insurance groups: TBC.
Engines: Petrol 1.6. Diesel 1.6, 2.0×2. Hybrid 2.0
Power (bhp): 162. 118, 148/177. 197.
Torque (lb/ft): 177. 221, 273/295. 221.
0-62mph (sec): 10.4. 12.7, 10.6/9.9. 9.3.
Top speed (mph): 126. 119, 127/137. 131.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 47.9. 70.6, 68.9/64.2. 72.4.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 136. 104, 105/114. 103.
Key rivals: Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Volvo S80.
Test Date: July 2015

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.