Citroen DS5 review
The Citroen DS5 offers an alternative executive car experience, but is mainly let down by its uncomfortable ride.
It’s more distinctive than these talented rivals, though. A quirky exterior and imaginatively styled cabin with plenty of luxury features aim to lure buyers in the DS5’s direction.
The most interesting engine option is the diesel electric Hybrid4 powerplant, which combines a 2.0-litre 163bhp diesel engine with a 37bhp electric motor, beneath the bonnet. There’s also a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and a non-hybrid version of the 2.0-litre diesel. The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine particularly impresses with 200bhp.
There are three trim levels to choose from in the Citroen DS5 range: DSign. DStyle and DSport. Each trim gets decent kit, including dual zone climate control, Bluetooth connection and keyless entry.
Citroen hasn’t found as many buyers for the DS5 as it would have hoped, with customers criticising both the firm ride and the high running costs of the diesels. So both those issues were addressed in early 2014 by a tweaked suspension set-up and a new 2.0-litre BlueHDi engine with a six-speed auto.
You’d have to be well attuned to the old one to notice any difference, though. New shock absorbers mean less pronounced vibrations, but the ride still feels too firm. The DSport shimmies over bumps in a way a 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class never would.
Our choice: DS5 BlueHDi DSport
The Citroen DS5’s bold design and MPV-like profile certainly help its individuality. Concept car lines and bold chrome trims running along the top of the front wings into the A pillar add to this uniqueness. It still looks like a family car, however, and a large double chevron badge is set into the grille.
A bold cabin is the Citroen DS5's trump card. Not only is the fit, finish and material quality a match for mainstream rivals, but the design is also incredibly stylish.
It gets a stylish cabin with its quality ‘watchstrap’ leather seats, neat metal inserts throughout and roof-mounted toggle switches. The low roofline and panoramic sunroof can make things feel a little claustrophobic, and you’ll find that space for passengers in the back is a little tight, too.
The minor controls can take a little getting used to, but this is a small price to pay for such a distinctive interior. There's seating for three in the back but some tall adults may find headroom a little limited.
First impressions of the new BlueHDi engine are good. It’s quiet on the move, with a refined idle and a smooth note up to the mid-revs. Only when you’re accelerating hard does the DSport take on more of a diesel-like roughness. There’s plenty of performance for overtaking, but the box isn’t as smart as it should be – sometimes it won’t change up when you think it should, or it’ll shift up too soon.
The Citroen DS5’s 113bhp e-HDi diesel and 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engines are both decent. A flagship 197bhp diesel-electric Hybrid4 also gets punchy acceleration and four-wheel-drive.
Unfortunately, the ride with the 19-inch wheels is very firm. 17-inch alloys are available as a no cost option and lower the emissions, although this does little to improve the ride.
Alternatively, the 163bhp 2.0-litre HDi diesel is also smooth and punchy. It’s every bit as efficient as the more expensive hybrid version.
Despite that, the Citroen DS5 still crashes into potholes and over bumps, while on the motorway it fidgets constantly. And that's not all, because refinement isn't quite up to class standards, with wind and road noise becoming an issue on the motorway.
The Citroen’s no match for the BMW 3 Series in corners, either, because while there’s not too much body roll, the steering feedback is just not involving enough
The new engine is a highlight of the package, with great performance and impressively low emissions, but when you compare the DS5 on price next to, say, the Vauxhall Insignia, it still doesn’t stack up.
The Citroen DS5 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. DStyle and DSport models are available with lane departure warning as an option.
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 still has its work cut out to convince buyers that it’s a safe ownership bet, as it finished a lowly 24th out of 32 in our 2013 Driver Power survey.
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.
How practical it is depends on whether you go for the Hybrid4 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.
On 18-inch wheels, the 178bhp BlueHDi engine can do 62.8mpg and will emit 118g/km – that’s down from 46.3mpg and 158g/km in the less powerful 158bhp 2.0 HDi.
The cleanest, but most expensive Citroen DS5, is the Hybrid4. Fitted with 17-inch wheels, this model manages 88g/km of CO2 and impressive claimed economy of 83mpg. Go for the larger alloy wheels, however, and the CO2 emissions and miles changes 102g/km and 72mpg respectively.
Petrol models offer benefits in the refinement and performance stakes, but will be costly to run and tax. All the diesels are great for running costs, but the 113bhp e-HDi is the cleanest after the hybrid.
Unfortunately, no amount of fuel saving will offset the weak residuals of the Citroen DS5, with no version retaining more than 40 percent of its value after three years.