Citroen DS5 2.0 HDi DSport (2014) review

Published:20 January 2014

Citroen DS5 2.0 HDi DSport (2014) review
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This is the Citroen DS5. Of course it is: it looks like nothing else on the road. Harking back to the first car to wear Citroen’s DS moniker, the DS5’s swooping roofline and standout road presence make it one of the most head-turning cars on sale in the UK. Then again, that might be because the are so rare…

Haven’t you tested the Citroen DS5 before?

Yes, but that was Citroen’s bells-and-whistle model, the ‘Hybrid4’ DS5. That car uses a 37bhp electric motor to power the rear wheels while a turbodiesel drives the fronts, offering an eyebrow-raising total of 200bhp and 332lb ft. Unfortunately, there’s two other sizeable numbers involved: the first being 1856 (kilograms) and the other being 33,360 (pounds sterling).

This DS5 is far more mainstream under the bonnet. The rear wheels are not driven, the engine a vanilla 160bhp turbodiesel four-cylinder, and the weight figure a less obese 1689kg. Moreover, this 2.0 HDi model in top-spec ‘DSport’ trim is £28,615 – saving you almost £5000 over its hybrid sister. Of course, you can pay £28,760 for the DSign-spec Hybrid4 with its electronic transmission, but it misses out on the DSport goodies and still carries all that extra heft.

Crunch the numbers and the good news doesn’t end with the price. Because of the hybrid’s lardy weight, the regular diesel DS5 is only 0.2sec slower to 62mph (8.3sec plays 8.5sec). Of course, the claimed economy figures are miles apart (72.4mpg trumps 55.4mpg), but we suspect real-world results would significantly close that chasm. Incidentally, our DS5 2.0 HDi test car managed a 45mpg average.

Is this lighter Citroen DS5 finally as good to drive as it looks?

Yet again, it’s nowhere near. We appreciate that the DS5 isn’t going to be in the same buying crosshairs as similarly sized compact execs like the BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class, (and comparable niches like the BMW 3-series Gran Turismo and Audi A5 Sportback), but that’s little excuse for the erratic dynamics.

The DS5’s major weakness has always been the lumpy ride – spec the visually essential 19in rims and is intolerably harsh. Downgrade to pathetic 16s and it’s still a meal-maker of small surface imperfections. Our test car (shod with 18in boots) rode downright uncomfortably, faithfully transmitting every road ripple from Tarmac to trouser. The massage seats that come as standard on DSport spec are a necessity for occupants to even make it to the chiropractor in one piece.

Though there’s less mass for the attractive flat-bottomed steering wheel to attempt to carry through curves, the DS5’s steering remains disconcertingly numb.

How does the 2.0-litre HDi engine handle the DS5’s prodigious heft?

The derv simply isn’t up there with the best diesel four-pots you’ll find in the Audis, BMWs and Volvos that the DS5 is priced against. Upon start-up, there’s an unwelcome clatter apparent inside the DS5’s rather stunning cabin, and plenty of vibration is transmitted through the controls, especially the woolly six-speed manual gearstick of our test car (though the shifter is itself a thing of beauty worthy of exhibition in the Louvre).

Although it’s reasonably spritely if you are prepared to give the engine its head (ruining the fuel economy, of course) the 160bhp, 251lb ft DS5 is still nowhere near fast enough to justify the brittle chassis set-up which points to far more incisive manners. Dial back your maximum attack, though, and the car simply doesn’t settle on its springs as you’d hope, leaving it caught between a rock-hard ride and a hard place.

Verdict

There are few cars which we yearn to be good (and easy to recommend) as the flair-festooned Citroen DS5. Even fewer miss the mark by quite this margin. The DS5’s well-appointed cabin is dotted with concept car stardust, and on the outside the DS5 remains, two years on from launch, one of the most outlandish-looking designs on British roads. But we can’t put its dynamic and practicality flaws down to mere idiosyncrasies – the DS5 remains off the pace in all areas bar style, and, therefore, will stay a less-spotted sight on our shores. What a missed opportunity to celebrate past glories.

Specs

Price when new: £28,615
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1997cc 16v in-line four-cyl turbodiesel, 160bhp 3750rpm, 251lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 8.5sec 0-62mph, 134mph, 55.4mpg, 128g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1689kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4530/1871/1539

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