The sleek and much improved DS5 is a car for all seasons when fitted with the muscular and economical BlueHDi 180 engine. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The DS5 has long been an intriguing car but is it one you could actually buy? Choose this updated model - and in particular, look at this BlueHDi 180 diesel version - and you'll find that it's a classy choice that stacks up well on the balance sheet too. So what's stopping you?
It's odd the way that some cars seem to slip through the cracks of public perception. The DS5 is a case in point. Mention this model to most people and you'll be met with a blank look. All of which is a bit of a shame as the DS5 would seem to deserve better. Previously, this car bore a Citroen badge, which didn't really help it much in a market that tends to dismiss large, luxurious Citroen models. Now though, 'DS' has been launched as a brand in ts own right, a process coinciding with the introduction of the much improved DS5 model we're looking at here in frugal, yet powerful, BlueHDi 180 guise.
Is it a car you could realistically consider as an alternative to a BMW 3 Series / Audi A4 / Mercedes C-Class-style compact executive saloon? Very possibly, provided you're someone prepared to look at something a little different. Here you get a powerful 180PS BlueHDi diesel engine that returns the sort of fuel consumption figures you'd normally associate with a supermini. Life's too short to follow the crowd.
This engine is a development of the 150PS 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel, an additional 30PS being liberated, helping the BlueHDi 180 variant to polish off the sprint to 62mph in 9.2 seconds and keep going to 137mph. This automatic-only variant would probably be a little quicker than that if it was fitted with one of the latest generation of twin-clutch transmissions but instead it makes do with an older-tech six-speed auto, though to be fair, this suits the nature of the car really well. It's not a sporting model, although the 400Nm of torque on tap from just 2,000rpm means it'll feel really strong in the midrange. It's not a peaky engine either, with a broad draft of torque that gives the powerplant a languid but muscular feel. In the wet, all that torque can readily overwhelm the ability of the front tyres to transmit it to the tarmac but Citroen's traction control software is there to assist.
The suspension has been revised to better suit British roads, with early DS5 models provoking grumbles that the ride quality was never quite as cosseting as many expected from a big Citroen-derived product. This version gets revised shock absorbers that help reduce the floatiness at speed. The DS5 will never have the magic carpet ride of the old Citroen C6, but that car had the fearsomely complicated Hydractive suspension, something people praised when testing the car but were deterred from buying by its complexity. The DS5 runs a more strut and torsion beam conventional set-up.
Design and Build
The styling updates made to this improved DS5 aren't too dramatic, but serve to remind us what a striking-looking car this model really is. The front end introduces some of the styling themes of the DS3 and the revised grille features a DS logo in place of the traditional Citroen chevron. The headlights are different too, with xenon and LED options, while the light pods incorporate scrolling indicators. The bonnet panel has also been re-profiled, flowing into a set of chrome 'sabres' that run from the tips of the headlights to the front windows. At the back, there are tail pipes incorporated into a revised rear bumper assembly and shaper-looking tail lamp clusters.
We were big fans of the original DS5 interior, but this one moves the game forward with fewer buttons of the fascia thanks to a touchscreen media system. As before, there are some beautifully ornate seats on the options list, plus the latest 'watch strap' upholstery is available in two-tone black and deep blue, along with new 'DS monogramme' trim on the doors and central console. The most symbolic interior feature is the roof. With its three light wells, the ceiling of this car creates a unique ambience that can be tailored to individual requirements, day or night. The main controls are grouped on two centrally positioned consoles, one at a low level near the gear selector and one overhead.
Market and Model
Realistically, you'll need a budget of around £30,000 to get yourself DS5 with the BlueHDi 180 engine. This clearly isn't pocket change and you'd expect quite a lot of gear for your money. You'd get it too. Even the most basic trim-level gives you many of the things you'd have to pay more for on a German compact executive saloon rival: things like keyless go, cruise control, electric windows all-round, air conditioning and Bluetooth, plus part leather seats, sat-nav and a reversing camera.
The DS brand sees the DS5 not only as a Gallic alternative to compact executive saloons like BMW's 3 Series and Audi's A4 but also as a potential Crossover alternative. In other words, the kind of car that might also possibly appeal to buyers of top Nissan Qashqais - maybe even folk considering cars like Range Rover's Evoque or Audi's Q5.
Cost of Ownership
Expect around 65mpg on the combined cycle and under 115g/km of CO2 from a DS5 BlueHDi 180 diesel model. As for other aspects of running costs, well some might feel that spending over thirty grand on this DS model is about as sensible a fiscal decision as buying up Saddam dinars but let's consider the decision rationally. If you were looking at spending nearly £30,000 on the DS5 BlueHDi 180, what would the diesel alternatives from the premium marques be? You'd be looking at entry-level diesel Audi A4s and BMW 3 Series models, specifically the 320d SE and the A4 2.0 TDI 150. Over three years and covering 36,000 miles, these rivals would work out costing you similar money to this DS5. Given that the running costs are so close, do you really want to spend three years in an underpowered, underequipped German model or a punchy French car with all the toys? In a rational world, this should not be a difficult decision.
As long as you aren't expecting the TGV-like ride quality of French luxury models of the past, you shouldn't be disappointed by a DS5. Its BlueHDi 180 engine is certainly a gem. Yes, there are more involving driver's cars in this sector but none that come with quite the same sense of occasion. Where Saab was once the go-to vehicle for the independent thinker in this sector, the DS brand could well stake a claim with this gorgeous and much improved DS5.
This Gallic model is nothing like an equivalently priced Audi or BMW. It feels a good deal more special; a vehicle that's had some serious styling lavished on it. The figures clearly show that running one of these isn't markedly pricier than choosing a German alternative, even when you factor residual values into the equation. Having built a vehicle this intriguing and delightful, this fresh French brand has done all it reasonably can to tempt buyers away from ubiquitous German fare. It might take time, but if the DS5 is any indication, the DS marque is well on its way.