DS5 has flair of a concept car

MY Citroen reviews have followed a pattern, but this week I am reviewing the extraordinary new DS5 and as the company has thrown convention to the wind, so too am I.

Cars used to be easily categorised, particularly the family car segment. The advent of MPV, crossovers and SUVs has muddied the waters so the choice open to punters is seemingly infinite.

Manufacturers are devising new and fiendishly original machines with a singular appeal. The Skoda Superb and the Volkswagen Passat CC (reviewed here last week) are examples of this trend, cars with few competitors.

Citroen are further outside the box: the DS5 creates a new market. I call it the ‘sub-compact executive’ segment.

The compact executive market is populated by the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class; the DS5 slots into an area just south of those machines, somewhere between the Ford Mondeo and the C-Class.

Citroen’s aim is a highly desirable machine heavy on unique design features, with eye-catching styling, fantastic interiors and a bespoke feel. Most cars that achieve what the DS5 has achieved are nothing short of bizarre and never progress further than the drawing board, or concept production at best.

What Citroen has achieved is unique.

While its DS3 and DS4 models are based firmly on the standard versions of the C3 and C4, the DS5 bears little or no relation to the C5. But, despite this problem, the Citroen designers have contrived a car that is startling in its originality.

If the exterior is eye-catching, then the interior is mind-boggling.

Take the cockpit roof. It comes in three parts — glass sunroof, electric sunblinds and aviation-style cockpit, and when you marry it to the quirky upholstery and the thoughtfully designed switchgear and instrumentation, you have the feeling that rarely, if ever before, has a manufacturer put so much time and effort into the interior décor of a mainstream car.

There are shortcomings in the design as the split A-pillars are still meaty and impede visibility, particularly at junctions, while the high-set and narrow rear windscreen also negates rearward vision. Rear leg room is not extensive.

But these minor shortcomings are overshadowed by the ‘wow’ factor when you sit into the car. Many mainstream cars are blighted by the manufacturer’s beady eye on the bottom line, but you feel that the DS — and each of the individual interior components — was crafted for the enjoyment of the user.

You don’t have that feeling from many cars, but you do on this one.

With the 120 kW (160 bhp) two-litre turbodiesel and 320 Nm of torque, you have a unit with very strong mid-range prowess and a claimed 5.1 l/100 km economy figure over the combined cycle, which is in the 54 mpg ballpark.

It seemed to me that the exhaust note was tuned to have a more sophisticated sound, but while I might be wrong on that, you still won’t be disappointed by the noise it makes.

All of this is very good — particularly so for Citroen. But there’s a downside regarding the car’s behaviour on the road.

Sadly, Citroen has foregone the multi-link rear suspension one might expect from a luxury machine and the DS5 has a torsion-beam system instead, with the predictable MacPherson strut layout at the front.

The ride of the car is mediocre at best and unsettling when you press on. The handling is average and feels fidgety and uncomfortable when asked questions. All of this is terribly disappointing in the overall context of the car.

The DS5 marks a sea-change for Citroen. It offers brilliant exterior and interior design dynamics and a fine engine, but fails to cut the mustard with ride and handling.

It is a pity that Citroen, having taken so many strides forward with this machine, has failed to cap it off with the final characteristics that would have earmarked it as an instant classic.

I was truly smitten with almost everything about this car and am delighted that Citroen has created a smashing new niche for itself, but I left the car with the overriding impression that it might just have been so much better.


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