Motoring: A review of the new DS 5 executive hatchback
10:15 20 November 2015
The DS brand has broken away from Citroen. Motoring editor Andy Russell drives the new DS 5 which aims to meet executive expectations
Walk round the elegant new DS 5 executive hatchback and you can be forgiven for not having a clue who made it. It’s the product of DS Automobiles. None the wiser? It used to be a Citroen but now it’s the French car-maker’s standalone premium brand, launched in the 60th anniversary year of the ground-breaking DS.
Think Lexus and Toyota, Infiniti and Nissan and you can see where Citroen is coming from, and, more importantly, where it hopes to go. The DS 3 and 4 are following suit with the new arrivals also moving the brand upmarket.
The DS 5 has the quirky flair we expect of a French car. Compared to the Citroen-badged DS 5, its distinctive new face is a style statement with the grille’s DS ‘wings’ signature stretching to the headlamps, and chrome bars along the bonnet edges from headlamp to windscreen. The back end is broad and bold with twin exhausts, adding a hint of dynamic coupe. From any angle, the strong curves and contours are impressive.
Under the bonnet it’s diesel to the fore with 120hp 1.6-litre and 150 and 180hp 2-litre turbo diesels and a 4x4 diesel hybrid with a combined 200hp and urban driving on electric motor alone. I was dubious about the new Euro 6 120hp 1.6-litre turbo diesel, given the size of car, but it fits well with the DS 5 image – more relaxed than ultimately rewarding to drive. It makes respectable progress and is suitably refined. If you need to get a move on, stir it into life with the precise six-speed manual gearbox and let it rev, but it gets gruff. On the other hand, let the speed build and the tall gearing makes it a marvellous motorway cruiser and helps economy with 55-60mpg in everyday driving.
There’s something pleasing and positive about the way a big French car drives that makes mile-munching relaxing and the DS 5 takes the experience to a new level. The suspension set-up is not as firm as the original model, having been upgraded to make damping more measured and compliant. The result is the DS 5 wafts along, regardless of the surface, soaking up bumps and dips in the road more effectively without feeling soft and soggy. Even though the set-up is now more biased towards ride comfort, it still drives well, not as dynamic as German rivals, but composed and confident through fast corners with good feedback from the steering - and I loved the feel of the flat-bottomed wheel.
Despite looking big from the outside, the DS 5 lacks rear legroom compared to many rivals, so carrying adults in the back with six-footers up front needs a compromise. And the standard three-panel glass roof – two up front and a large one behind, all with electric sunblinds – limits headroom in the back but is a price some owners will pay for the standout styling.
The boot is deep but at 465 litres falls short of mainstream hatchbacks and saloons. It’s not helped by the £550 Denon Hi-Fi audio upgrade which includes a speaker on the right hand side of the boot that eats into space. Rear seats split 60/40 but you have to lift the cushions for the backs to lay flat and there is still a little step up from the boot floor.
The upmarket interior is as eye-catching as the bold exterior with a quality ambience when it comes to materials, trim and fit and finish. It’s a splendid place to be with great attention to detail and the dashboard has had a minimalist makeover with a colour touchscreen interface giving access to all in-car functions, which means 12 fewer buttons. It’s also a little quirky with a lovely rectangular analogue clock; looking good but at odds with hi-tech digital displays. Banks of alloy switches along the centre console for electric windows and locking and the roof panel for electric sunblinds add to the feeling of an aircraft cockpit.
The biggest niggles are the lack of rear visibility – you’ll be glad of rear parking sensors and may want the optional reversing camera on the entry Elegance model – and those with large feet may find the end of their shoe catching on the clutch pedal arm.
Time will tell if the new DS brand will move upmarket. On looks, styling and quality alone, the DS 5 is an attractive executive car that stands out from the crowd, and that’s a big part of wooing customers.
Price: DS 5 Elegance BlueHDi 120 £25,980 (range to £34,890)
Engine: 1,560cc, 120hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Performance: 0-62mph 12.7 seconds; top speed 119mph
MPG: Urban 61.4; extra urban 78.5; combined 70.6
CO2 emissions: 104g/km
Size: L 4,530mm; W 2,128mm; H 1,539mm