By Andy Enright
The Citroen C-SportLounge was a design study that arrived at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show and at first glance, seemed to be nothing more than a waste-of-space show car. Whereas once motor show design studies actually led to a production model, in recent years they've become a cheap stunt to grab attention if nothing else is particularly new. People have tired of those tricks and many dismissed the C-SportLounge prototype as a dead end. Citroen Design Chief Jean-Pierre Ploue's study was all dramatic one-and-a-half box proportions, with a dipping waistline and an open-ended roof graphic. It was clearly never going to get anywhere near production.
Except it did. The DS5 was the result and while it's never been a big seller in the UK, it's a bold and interesting choice that might work even better as a used car. Here's what to look for.
A 'Different Spirit'. The meaning of these two iconic letters is the meaning too of the brand they represent. Today, the DS range defines what a Citroen should be, just as it did back in 1955 when the first car to wear this legendary badge was launched to an adoring throng at the Paris Motor Show. It was futuristic, it was innovative and it stood apart from the mainstream. As does its modern day successor, this car, Citroen's DS5, which first appeared before the world's media at the 2011 Shanghai Motor Show.
The first cars to roll into UK dealerships arrived at the start of April 2012, with three trim levels, DSign, DStyle and DSport, and a choice of four engines; a 1.6 200PS petrol powerplant, a 110PS 1.6 diesel, a 160PS 2.0-litre diesel and a 2.0-litre diesel/electric all-wheel drive hybrid, the so-called HYbrid4. The DS5 quickly received a number of industry plaudits, being named Top Gear magazine's Family Car of the Year and was also voted Car Design News' Car Design of the Year by an international panel of automotive designers and industry experts.
The range received a tweak almost immediately in July 2012. In order to drop the HYbrid4's emissions from 107g/km to 99g/km, smaller 17-inch alloy wheels were offered as a no-cost option on DStyle and DSport versions. Two new Signature packs were also announced for the DS5 HDi 160 DStyle & DSport models. The Sport Signature and Dark Sport Signature packs were priced at £650 and brought lowered suspension (by 7mm), black door mirrors and grey or black 19-inch 'Cairns' alloy wheels for the Sport Signature and Dark Sport Signature respectively.
On all DS5 THP 200 versions, the striking Dark Sport Signature was fitted as standard with the Sport Signature pack available as an alternative no-cost option. Completing the July changes, the DS5's e-HDi 110 Airdream EGS6 powertrain was renamed e-HDi 115 Airdream EGS6 to reflect a slight increase in power from 111hp to 114hp. The drivetrain's performance figures, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions were unaffected.
In October 2012, the HYbrid4 came in for yet more attention, with new management software, improved energy recovery when decelerating and braking, plus a new battery management system dropping CO2 emissions down to as little as 91g/km. In 2015, the DS5 received a modest facelift, more economical engines and lots more equipment.
What You Get
Back in 1955 when the original DS was launched, those two letters were a play on the French word diesse, or 'goddess'. They designated automotive beauty, again delivered here in a form that Citroen describe as 'moving sculpture'. That balance between fluidity and tension, compactness and space, efficiency, boldness and elegance. The cabin's even more avant garde than the bodywork. Someone's really thought about the inside of this car - and they've not felt themselves to be constrained by convention in creating it, with a wraparound dashboard, aircraft-style overhead switchgear, an analogue clock, square instrumentation and a novel panoramic glass roof on plusher models like this one, split into three sections, each with their own blinds.
Model for model, you're looking at a saving of up to a couple of thousand on comparable diesel Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class diesel rivals. So it's well priced: you've got that. But is it also well equipped? Well you be the judge. Even entry-level models come with daytime running lights, front foglamps with a cornering function, electric folding mirrors, keyless entry and start, digital air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth compatibility for your mobile 'phone, auto headlamps and wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. To this, most variants also add niceties like a 'cockpit'-style glassworked roof with its three powered blinds, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, full or part-leather upholstery and the eMyWay satellite navigation system with live traffic information and European mapping. Options include a massaging driver's seat and a 10-speaker DENON hi-fi.
Safety-wise, a 5-Star Euro NCAP rating is justified by the usual twin, front, side and curtain airbags, along with the usual electronic assistance for braking, traction and stability control to try and ensure that you'll never have to use them.
What to Look For
The DS5's diesel engines are tough and reliable and even the fearsomely complex Hybrid4 seems to have surprised owners with its reliability. Owners have reported some knocking sounds coming from the front suspension. The initial batch of DS5s had satnav that couldn't handle seven-digit UK postcodes and even after a recall for software updates, they still were unable to be input. You'll need software version 2.8 and higher on the navigation system for this to be operable.
(approx based on a 2014 DS5 1.6THP) Parts prices aren't exorbitant for a car in this class, with a set of replacement front brake pads costing £54 with rears retailing at £38. A set of front brake discs will set you back £115. An air filter is £12 and an oil filter £14.
On the Road
Under the bonnet of the clever HYbrid4 model, you'll find a layout that combines a 163bhp HDi diesel engine driving the front wheels with a 37bhp electric motor that powers those at the rear making this, in theory at least, a four wheel drive machine. Like virtually all hybrids, it comes only with an automatic gearbox, with a set of steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles should you wish to take control yourself. This is PSA's 6-speed EGS system, as already used in e-HDi models across Citroen's line-up.
With a combined output of 200bhp and a combined 450Nm of torque, 200Nm of it from the electric motor, you'll be expecting this particular DS5 to be pretty rapid. But if you are, then you're failing to take account of the 150kg weight penalty that comes with all the batteries and everything else required for hybrid motoring. That's equivalent to the weight of a couple of extra passengers and it explains why this car is effectively no faster than an ordinary HDi 160 diesel variant with 40bhp less: rest to sixty takes 8.3s on the way to 131mph.
So, it's a false economy? The entry-level diesels certainly look to be better used buys. They're reasonably quick off the mark, with the 120PS cars getting to 62mph in 11.5 seconds and the 160PS models clocking a mere 8.5 seconds to the sprint benchmark. Both engines are pleasantly refined, but the big caveat regarding the DS5's driving manners is that the ride is firm. Possibly even firmer than you might expect from a German car. There's certainly not that lounge-room waftability you might expect from Citroen which is a bit of a shame. That would have really set it apart.
The DS5 is an interesting left-field used pick, espcially if you've lately found yourself a bit discouraged at what you can buy in this sector. You might have had your heart set on something a bit stylish and a bit different but thought you'd run out of options. Well look again. The DS5 isn't going to be for everyone, but if you want a car that will make your neighbour's BMW 3 Series look about as imaginative and adventurous as a week in Torremolinos, you know what to do.