Citroen DS 5 review
The DS 5 offers an alternative executive car experience, but for most it won't beat German rivals
The DS 5 is the French carmaker’s first standalone model since dethatching itself from parent company, Citroen, back in 2014. Previously known as the Citroen DS5, the compact executive car competes with models like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, as well as more mainstream models like the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo.
It’s certainly distinctive. With a bold front end that ditches its predecessor’s double chevron grille and familiar Citroen face, it’s distinctly bolder than other models in this class. It’s a similar story inside, with loads of quirky details and a smattering of high quality materials on the dash.
Just two specifications are available – Elegance and Prestige – as well as a limited run special edition called the 1955 to celebrate 60 years since the original DS. All cars come with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, touchscreen sat-nav and dual-zone climate control, as well as Bluetooth, DAB and rear parking sensors. Upgrading to the Prestige gets you xenon headlights, an electrically-operate driver’s seat and a reversing camera.
Engine choices start with a basic BlueHDI 120, and progress through more powerful BlueHDi 150 and 180 versions. There’s also a THP 165 petrol and flagship diesel Hybrid 4x4, which claims to return as much as 72.4mpg.
Citroen hasn’t found as many buyers for the DS 5 as it would have hoped, with customers criticising both the firm ride and the high running costs of the diesels. But updates in 2015 made improvements to the suspension setup, still feeling firm but without crossing the line into discomfort.
The DS 5 remains a left-field choice, but it’s better than ever, and those looking for a quirky alternative to more mundane rivals shouldn’t discount it without trying one first.
Our choice: DS5 BlueHDi 150 Elegance
Engines, performance and drive
First impressions of the new BlueHDi engines are good. They’re quiet on the move, with a refined idle and a smooth note up to the mid-revs. Only when you’re accelerating hard do they take on more of a diesel-like roughness. All but the entry-level BlueHDi 120 offer enough punch for easy overtaking, and even the basic unit has plenty of power for longer motorway trips.
The BlueHDi 150 is our pick of the range, mixing performance and running costs for the best compromise. The BlueHDi 180 is quicker still, but the DS 5 is far from a sports car, so we don’t really see the benefit in a big and powerful diesel engine.
Elsewhere in the range there’s a 163bhp THP 165 petrol engine and flagship 197bhp diesel-electric Hybrid 4x4, which also offers punchy acceleration and four-wheel drive.
Unfortunately, the ride with the 19-inch wheels is very firm. The 17-inch alloys are much better, and updated suspension fitted from 2015 does well to soak up the worst lumps and bumps without feeling too uncomfortable. In fact, the new DS 5 is reminiscent of old Citroens – and that’s no bad thing!
MPG, CO2 and running costs
How much the DS 5 costs you to run of course depends on which engine you opt for. The Hybrid 4x4 is the most economical version, returning 72.4mpg and CO2 emissions of just 103g/km. That’s good, but a Passat BlueMotion knocks this below 100g/km – though it doesn’t come with four-wheel drive.
Next best is the BlueHDi 120, which will do 70.6mpg and emit just 104g/km. If low running costs and a reasonable list price are key, this is the model to go for. The more powerful 150 strikes a good balance though, returning 68.9mpg and just 105g/km of CO2 – a small price to pay when you consider the improved performance of this model. The 180 drops this to 64.2mpg and 114g/km.
The only petrol model - the THP 165 - will do 47.9mpg and emit 136g/km of CO2, though in our experience this is likely to be quite a bit lower if you do a lot of town driving or high-speed motorway cruising.
Unfortunately, no amount of fuel saving will offset the weak residuals of the DS 5, with no version retaining more than 40 per cent of its value after three years.
Interior, design and technology
The DS 5’s bold design and MPV-like profile certainly help its individuality. Concept car lines and bold chrome trims running along the top of the headlamps into the A pillar add to this uniqueness. It still looks like a family car, however, and is immediately recognisable despite Citroen removing the huge double-chevron grille in 2015.
A bold cabin is the DS 5's trump card. Not only is the fit, finish and material quality a match for mainstream rivals, but the design is also impressively stylish.
It gets a quirky but desirable cabin with all models benefitting from a funky analogue clock, neat metal inserts throughout and roof-mounted toggle switches. Options like the watchstrap leather and panoramic roof give a quality feel, though the sloping roof and awkward rear window can make the cabin feel a little claustrophobic. You’ll find space for passengers in the back is a little tight, too.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Due to the styling of the Citroen DS5, rear passengers may find their heads scraping the roof, but aside from that there's quite a bit of leg and shoulder room. The awkward rear window compromises visibility, too, much like the Honda Civic hatchback – meaning you’ll need to spec a reversing camera if you want to avoid car park scrapes.
How practical it is depends on whether you go for the Hybrid 4x4 or not. This is because the electric motors add a large battery pack, which is mounted underneath the boot floor, and reduces space to 325 litres. That’s small compared to non-hybrid versions, which get 465 litres, and miniscule alongside the new Volkswagen Passat, which boasts a total of 586 litres.
Reliability and Safety
The previous Citroen DS 5 was awarded a full five-star Euro NCAP award. It scored 89 per cent for adult occupant protection and an even more impressive 97 per cent for safety assist.
An eTouch service is available, which allows you to call and be located by emergency services if you break down or have an accident. Lane Departure warning and a heads-up display are also available.
The cabin feels extremely well put together and the engines and chassis have proven themselves to be reliable elsewhere in the Citroen line-up. Yet Citroen and DS still have their work cut out to convince buyers that it’s a safe ownership bet, as it finished a lowly 20th out of 32 in our 2015 Driver Power survey.