At the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, Citroen announced that it was adjusting the status of its DS models. Formerly distinct from the other cars in the range, but still badged as Citroens, they would now be part of a separate brand altogether, with their own badging and marketing strategy. No major changes were planned for the cars themselves, but the opportunity was taken to update the flagship DS 5.
One of the developments concerned the interior switchgear. The current fashion in the motor industry is to reduce the number of buttons and switches the driver has to deal with, and DS has followed this practice. There are fewer things to prod and twiddle inside a DS 5 now than there were two years ago. But the earlier cars had a hell of a lot of them, and most can still be found in the new ones. The dashboard doesn’t look quite as complicated as an aeroplane’s flight deck, but you do get that impression.
Large aircraft have so many switches that many have to be placed on the roof, and the original DS 5 had several up there too, though perhaps more for styling reasons than for practical ones. This still applies in the current model, and frankly I’d be quite happy if the idea were abandoned for the next one. Reaching up to use them isn’t physically stressful, but it feels unnatural in a car. The switch labels are small and hard to read, so until you’ve developed in an instinct of what has been placed where you’re likely to devote too much attention to making sure you’re pressing the right thing and not enough to where the car is heading.
The original DS 5 received a lot of criticism – fairly enough, I think, since I was one of the ones doing the criticising – for very poor ride quality. DS took note of this and has made changes to the suspension set-up. It seems to think it has done a fine job, since it now uses the phrase “dynamic hyper-comfort” to describe the car’s ride and handling. This makes me wonder if the words “dynamic”, “hyper” and “comfort” don’t mean what I think they mean. The ride is certainly better than before, but it’s still not very good. Owners of long-ago Citroens with their famous ability to soak up road imperfections so completely you hardly knew they were there would be appalled.
And “dynamic”. Well, no. The DS 5 can feel slightly clumsy on country roads, though in fairness it was never meant to be a sporty car. Nevertheless, it looks as if it could do with being dropped an inch or two. The 18″ wheels on the test car don’t come close to filling the space available for them, and at every corner you can fit several fingers between the top of the tyre and the lip of the wheelarch. Unless there’s some geometry issue I’m not aware of, surely the car would be noticeably perkier, yet no less comfortable, if it rode closer to the ground?
The 178bhp two-litre BlueHDi 180 engine sounds gruff when asked to work hard, but it’s quite strong. Performance isn’t at all bad for a large car with a relatively small engine, and officially you can get 64.2mpg out of it, though I think you’d actually be doing well to get much over 50. CO2 emissions on the EU test are so low that Vehicle Excise Duty payments from year two onwards are just £30.
The only transmission offered with the BlueHDi 180 is a six-speed automatic whose beautifully smooth shifts from one ratio to another are possibly the car’s most impressive feature.
Since the bodyshell of the latest DS 5 is exactly the same as that of the very first one, there are still a great many horizontal and diagonal lines visible from the driver’s seat, including double windscreen pillars on each side, divisons between the four sunroof sections and, if you look in the mirror, a prominent rear spoiler. You may be okay with these, but I find them very distracting.
Luggage capacity isn’t bad at 465 litres with the rear seats in place (hybrid cars are much worse because space has to be left under the boot for various extra components) but it’s a little shy of the 480 offered by the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class. Front headroom isn’t great for anyone over six feet tall, and the rear is astonishingly cramped. I’ve found it easier to sit in the back of many superminis.
DS 5s have different trim levels from the closely related Citroen C5s. There are two of them, called Elegance and Prestige, the latter being £2290 more expensive. For that you get leather upholstery and instrument binnacle, eTouch emergency and assistance system, xenon headlights, blind spot monitoring, interior mood lighting, front parking sensors, a reversing camera, electric adjustment of the driver’s seat and a rear cupholder, none of them fitted to the Elegance.
Engine size 1997cc
Top speed 137mph
0-62mph 9.9 seconds
Fuel economy 64.2mpg combined
CO2 emissions 114g/km
Towing capacity 1500kg (braked)
Euro NCAP (2011) Overall 5 stars Adult occupant 89% Child occupant 83% Pedestrian 40% Safety assist 97% (tested as Citroen DS 5)
Information correct at publication date