Ben Griffin reviews the New DS 5, the spiritual successor to the DS from 1955 and the first to go it alone without the Citroen badge in the UK.
Our review headline may mention Citroen for search purposes, but this is technically the first standalone car from the upmarket DS brand, which split away from the French manufacturer in 2014. It has undergone a nip and tuck to make it look even prettier. We decided to see if it’s any good.
The New DS5 looks fantastic. It’s a classy thing, but without sacrificing the quirky “look-at-me-I’m-fun” design ethos the smaller DS 3 exudes.
New exterior revisions can be mainly seen around the front bumper, such as a new front grille, lashings of chrome, a ‘sabre’ styling line across the bonnet and LED headlights with Xenon bulbs.
Labelling the DS 5 is a tad difficult as it’s bigger than a typical hatchback, has the profile of a tourer and there’s definitely a crossover vibe. Size-wise, it is larger than the DS 4 and shares a few similarities but the DS 5 has more presence. The new DS 5 also swaps the Citroen chevron with a DS badge.
The inside is definitely plastic-heavy, but the design is fantastic. The button layout is extremely logical and there are no awkward shapes or any unnecessary clutter to detract from the form over function approach.
We particularly like the airplane-style switches, which can be found on the centre console and ceiling, and the wonderfully chunky gear knob. Little details like that make you feel like the interior was designed with care and attention, not comprised of a load of leftover parts.
The New DS 5’s larger size means those around 6ft and below will have to find something other than legroom to complain about, while the naturally high roofline means only Marge Simpson’s hairdo will be a problem.
The folding rear bench can be split 1/3 and 2/3 so you can accommodate awkward items more easily while preserving some rear seating. Storage areas are present throughout the cabin, including a centre console that is so large you could get lost in there. Two ISOFIX fittings in the rear seats make it family-friendly.
Boot space is 465 litres, which is almost that of the new Honda Civic Type R and ahead of most the hatchback and crossover competition. The VW Passat’s boot is, however, 100 litres bigger, so there are cars in the price range better suited to carrying things and stuff.
Performance & handling
Two diesel engines, one petrol and a hybrid make up the available engines. All focus on frugality rather than straight-line thrills so look elsewhere if you care about making the blood flow.
The entry-level, 120hp four-cylinder BlueHDI 120 S&S diesel is a tad gutless at very low revs, but the 300Nm of torque means it can overtake once wound up without putting the fear into you. Paired with the six-speed manual, which is a joy to use, it’s a satisfying drive.
It has light steering (via an unusually large steering wheel, bucking the trend of its French cousin, Peugeot) and agile handling, both of which let you make quick steering adjustments and good body control. You would be hard-pressed to know the car weighs 1,605kg. The suspension is an improvement on the old setup, offering good pothole-soaking abilities.
The steering feel is somewhat vague, but the car discourages fast cornering so rarely will you ever discover its tendency to understeer near the limit. This is a car that likes to take its time to let passers-by soak in the French styling – lazy and comfortable, not sporty and precise.
Bigger diesels like the BlueHDI S&S 180hp give you markedly better acceleration (0 to 62mph in 9.9 seconds versus 12.7 seconds for the 120hp variant) and the petrol boasts a nicer engine noise and only slightly worse fuel economy than the 180hp diesel, but we never felt we needed the extra power.
Road noise is quiet enough at 70mph so you can hear yourself think. Meanwhile the automatic gearbox is occasionally laggy, but that’s only really noticeable if you hoof it.
Economy & environment
There’s no real gas-guzzler in the range. The BlueHDI 120 S&S six-speed manual, for instance, narrowly misses out on free tax, thanks to CO2 emissions of 104g/km while managing and impressive 70.6mpg combined.
The more powerful BlueHDI 150 S&S six-speed manual comes in at 105g/km and 64.1mpg. Least ozone-friendly is the THP 165 S&S EAT6 auto but that’s still only 136g/km of CO2, meaning it costs £130 to tax.
Best of all is the Hybrid4x4 200, which manages 103g/km and 72.4mpg, but it costs substantially more so it will take a long time to recover the cost compared with the two diesels.
Equipment & value
Three trim levels – Elegance, 1955 Limited Edition and Prestige – keep it simple when choosing how many extras you want and all offer a good standard roster of goodies.
Elegance includes 17-inch alloy wheels, Hill Start Assist, cruise control, keyless entry and start, 7-inch Touch Drive interface, automatic dual zone climate control, rear parking sensors, trip computer, analogue clock (remember them?) and an automatic electronic parking brake.
Bump up a rung or two and you can enjoy larger alloys, body coloured detailing and LED interior mood lighting. In short, Elegance is the pick of the bunch as it has most of the good stuff and, better still, it’s the cheapest.
While the interior is solid enough at its most basic, the various leather and other interior options are worth considering, as this is the car’s best feature and they make a huge difference to the look and feel. We would also consider the head-up display for convenience and the Blind Spot Monitoring system if you regularly drive on motorways and dual carriageways.
We did rather enjoy the back massage function, available for £500 as part of the Electric Comfort pack. Whether it has any actual medical benefit, we are unsure, but it proved amusing and comfortable in equal measure.
Hill Start Assist is a great standard extra as it will help nervous drivers from rolling backwards into a car. The DS 5 also has driver and passenger and lateral airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP rating to boot. Various safety options can make it even safer than it already is.
We were surprised just how comfortable and smooth the New DS 5 is. You don’t drive it so much as glide from A to B while admiring the funky interior. It’s still a Citroen at heart, yes, and hardly a cheap one at that, but it would be a shame to pass up on it over badge snobbery.
Driving dynamics are secondary to aesthetic flourishes, but by no means is that a bad thing. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the DS 5 is a car with abundant character and charm. The DS 5’s exterior and interior styling makes most cars in its price range look more tired than a FIFA shredder.
Better handling and performance can be found elsewhere, but there is little in its price range that will make commuting or day trips as comfortable and luxurious. The Elegance spec and entry-level diesel are more than good enough to keep the price reasonable.
The DS 5, then, is able to sit in a unique spot in the market for those who want to be different and like their motoring to be served with a touch of French passion. It’s by no means perfect, but there’s enough good to forget the bad.