Citroen DS 5 review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The DS 5 offers an alternative executive car experience, but for most it won't beat German rivals

Stylish design, well built cabin, efficient diesels
Hybrid4 compromises, firm ride, limited rear headroom

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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.

Disqus - noscript

Just had a couple of days with a DS5 auto diesel...

Plus - Acceleration. Gadget-fest.

Minus - Vision. Busy ride. Some ergonomics.

Summation - Designers should have a six-month parallel-parking sentence. They would learn that having gunslits for windows is a poor idea, and that rear TV and assorted proximity warnings are poor substitutes for clear vision.

Rating - In forward motion: 3.5/5. Parking: 0/5.

Been running a DS5 hybrid as a company car since Aug 2012. Love it. Averaging 59mpg, tax of £95/month (40%), very comfy.
200bhp when you need it
If you want to spend £50/month more on a BMW 3 eco then thats fine but otherwise why have anything else?

In what mind do the star ratings above average out to 2/5? You should have awarded it 3/5 by your own ratings, otherwise, just admit 'star ratings' are arbitrary and your conclusions are subjective!

Who wrote that? More to the point, who subbed it? Can someone sort out the unintelligible bits?

Quirky is what Citroen do. If you want a simple car don't buy one. Probably explains their low residual. My last one was an 18 month old XM in 1991. Great car, handled like a Lotus when on sport setting and I got it for less than half price and I loved it even though it kept punishing me with its irksome propensity for blowing up.

Ever heard of a proof reader? Or a spell check?!

This review was first published a year ago. It is now regurgitated at the end of February 2014. The model has now received modifications to the damper settings which are not mentioned here at all. Why not AE?

Had a DS5 2.0 Style for nearly 6 months now and loving it. The car is fantastic for going up and down the motorways. Very comfortable. The ride is not as harsh as the press would have you believe! Been in S Line Audi's with a harsher ride..I love the car as it looks completely different to the boring competition. Smooth, quiet, rapid when needed, and getting about 45-50mpg with normal driving....I would defintely say to people to try one before you slag it off!!

Had one on a week long test drive and almost chose one as a company car. I choose a new C4 Picasso instead for practical reasons, but I lust after the DS5.

this review fails to point out the one huge reason to choose a's looks! It is outstanding from every angle.

It rides no worse than a German rival, but that's the's not german so gets a rough ride by AE. having said that, it would be complete with hydropneumatic suspension.

I absolutely agree with the positives for this car.
Firstly, I'm not fussy about French cars due to the ones of old. I tested a 2.0hdi diesel auto and was absolutely gob smacked by it! It's a great car to look at, to sit in and to drive. I have just previously hired a new BMW 320d touring for a week, and although I really liked it, the ride was harder than the Citroën but agree that overall it did handle a little better. We're talking about a very close call here, but what put me off the BMW was it's hard ride and road noise! The Citroëns interior is absolutely gorgeous and I flexed and prodded everything from a quality and build point of view. It is superb. The BMW was not as nice inside and the quality of some of the BMWs interior was pretty disappointing. The DS5 has completely changed my previously blinkered view of the brand and from a looks point of view, it makes a 3 series look like a Model T! That's where I was suspicious about Citroën, the build and comfort aspect. How wrong I was. Ignore the AE review and go and test one for yourself. Where AE got TWO stars from 5 is absolute nonsense. Excellent car.

Last updated: 24 Jun, 2015