If you’re bored with German cars then the DS5 1955 offers something more individual and distinctive.
The DS5 used to be a Citroen but in an attempt to move the DS brand perception more upmarket it is now a standalone brand, although underneath there are still Citroen underpinnings.
The company has certainly made an effort to inject a bit more flair and creativity into the styling than is traditionally the case with German brands. The exterior is distinctive, but it’s the interior where the designers have gone to town. You get four sunroofs and there are lots of buttons – in fact it’s almost the opposite of a Citroen Cactus, which has a minimalistic interior with hardly any buttons. The downside of having lots of buttons in the central area between the seats is that there’s hardly any room for storage of items such as mobile phones or drinks.
Our test car was a 2-litre turbodiesel mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox, and of course with front-wheel drive.
If the brand is pitching the DS5 1955 against German company cars, then it’s likely to spend much of its time on the motorway, and the DS5 is fairly civilised in this environment, although when you come to accelerate there’s not a huge response.
You’re conscious that the steering wheel feels quite large, there are hefty pillars to your left and right in front of you, and the view out of the rear window is bisected by the car’s spoiler.
When you’re on A and B roads, there’s little engagement in the handling department. Take a look at the side view of the car and you’ll see that there seems to be a lot of bodywork sticking out beyond the front wheels, which can’t help the handling. If the DS5 is aiming to compete with the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, two out of three of those brands are predominantly rear-wheel drive, so the front-wheel drive DS5 has its work cut out. Unfortunately the ride also isn’t as well cushioned as some Citroens of old.
There’s a ‘space saving’ electronic handbrake – even though it doesn’t seem to free up much space – and you’re never quite sure if the handbrake is on or off.
As is usually the case these days, there’s a touchscreen for many of the vehicle’s controls. Regular visitors to this site will be aware of our views about touchscreen infotainment systems – taking your attention off the road in front to look to the side for small icons on a touchscreen then having to reach across to press various buttons is not particularly convenient or safe. As a perfect example, to press the ‘destination’ button on the satnav in the DS5 it feels like you have to reach a long, long way. A system such as BMW’s iDrive, with its rotary controller and associated buttons located just where your hand is, is a much better idea.
The DS’s touchscreen also switched itself off a few times, which wasn’t particularly helpful when trying to follow satnav instructions. And when re-starting the car, the media system always defaulted to radio rather than keeping it as the last setting, such as playing your own music.
The official NEDC combined economy figure for the DS5 is 68.9mpg, equating to 105g/km CO2. On paper, this is impressive. However after a week we averaged 48.8mpg in real-life driving – around 70% of the official figure. Interestingly, when we tested the DS5 Hybrid, we averaged 45.5mpg – so our suspicions were correct – the extra weight of the hybrid system has a negative impact on economy, and the 2-litre diesel is more economical in real-life driving than the Hybrid.
In the wake of all the talk about diesel emissions, Peugeot Citroen claims that its BlueHDi diesel engines are some of the cleanest around in terms of emissions that have a negative impact on local air quality.
The price of the DS5 150 manual is £29,600, taking it right into base BMW 320d territory. Our test car had one option, metallic paint (£600), taking the total price to £30,200. There are three specs – Elegance, 1955, and Prestige. There’s also a 1.6-litre petrol engine, as well as the 120 and 150 diesels with 6-speed manual ‘boxes, a 180 diesel auto, and the Hybrid 4×4 200.
Citroen was no doubt struggling to compete with the premium German brands in the company car park, hence the creation of the DS brand. The DS5 has individuality and a certain amount of flair on its side, however it takes more than that to win over the corporate market. People who like elements such as the performance, efficiency, rewarding handling and the functional interior of a BMW 3 Series are likely to take a bit of convincing to switch to a DS. We like the design-led approach of DS, but it needs to be backed up by driving ability and efficiency that can challenge the German brands.
The 1955 Citroen DS was a genuine game-changer, in terms of design that still looks fantastic today, and also innovation. The 2015 DS5 may have some style, but underneath there isn’t a huge amount of innovative substance. Our suggestion would be to keep the creative styling approach, but combine this with taking a leaf out of the Citroen Cactus’s book – ie. make the DS lighter. That will result in a better driving experience, better efficiency, and better performance – and a better, more innovative car overall. In the meantime, the DS5 is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.