Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 200
Airdream DSport review
by David Finlay (18 September 2012)
Citroen is nothing if not specific about the sort of person it expects will take ownership of the DS5. I'm not sure I qualify. Anticipated buyers, according to the official blurb on the subject, are 35+ (possibly), with a male bias (my bias is in the opposite direction, though I may be reading more into this than was intended), energetic business leaders (well, you know), sophisticated (hmm), style-conscious (collapse of friends in uncontrollable laughter), early adopters of new technologies (have you seen my phone?), creative and independent-minded (okay, I'll go with that), brand-conscious, aspirational and discerning (no, maybe, maybe).
If you can answer "yes" to more of the above than I can, this may be the car for you, particularly if you ticked the box for style consciousness. This is a handsome machine, looking rather like a vastly extended DS3 and none the worse for it. The inside is nearly as adventurously designed as the out, with references to aircraft practice such as the roof-mounted switches which I find, in my unsophisticated way, are more bother than they're worth because the logos on them are so difficult to read.
This is not the only area in which the DS5 loses as much in practicality as it gains in funkiness. Another example is the rear window, which is divided a quarter of the way down by a rear spoiler. This adds a lot to the already appealing silhouette, but the glass area left over can accommodate only a tiny wiper which clears only about a third of the available area. Not very useful when the window is wet or dirty.
Citroen reckons that the DS5 occupies a market space - quite a narrow one, you may think - between the Vauxhall Insignia and the Audi A4. Perhaps it does, but it feels less well put-together than either. Several rattles and shakings became apparent whenever the test car went over uneven tarmac, as if half a dozen bolts needed tightening.
Considering its length, the DS5 offers very little room for rear passengers. I'm rather tall, and in some superminis I struggle to sit behind the driver's seat when it's set the way I like it, but I can usually squeeze in somehow. In the DS5, the thing is impossible.
The luggage compartment of this particular car is also very small, at 325 litres, but that's not the DS5 norm. Most versions offer 465 litres, and the reason this one doesn't is that it's one of the Hybrid4 models, which in addition to a conventional turbo diesel engine up front has an electric motor and a battery pack at the rear, taking up space which might otherwise have been used to store a suitcase or two.
To compensate for the lack of practicality, Hybrid4 models are the most powerful in the range with a maximum output of 200bhp (though their extra weight means that straightline performance is roughly on a par with the non-hybrid 160bhp diesel) as well as being the most economical and the least CO2-emitting.
That's according to the official figures, at least. On the EU test cycle the DSport version can manage 68.9mpg, a figure I couldn't approach myself, though I wasn't unhappy about my measured 52.2mpg in a mixture of urban and A-road driving. The best CO2 figure of any of the Hybrid4s is 99g/km, which as I'm sure you know is below the threshold for paying Vehicle Excise Duty and the London congestion charge, but it applies only to the cheapest DSign model - the DStyle and the DSport are rated at 107g/km, which is still better than any other DS5.
The weight penalty of the Hybrid4 system amounts to over 150kg, and you can certainly feel it in the way the car drives. It's a great big lumbering old Hector, not at all sporting except in the sense that the admirably smooth steering reacts very quickly to driver inputs. That's nice in itself, but not very helpful because the rest of the car has difficulty keeping up with sudden turn-ins. A light touch on the wheel is advisable.
Of the four available modes in the Hybrid4 system, Auto (which leaves the car to its own devices) is the one I used most. It makes the automated manual gearbox select the highest sensible gear in any situation and therefore adds a certain sluggishness to the performance, but that matches the handling. Sport mode is more excitable and is best used if you're hunting for an overtaking opportunity.
ZEV mode switches off the engine and leaves the electric motor to do all the work for as long as there's enough charge left in the battery, though you'd need to have a good reason for selecting it because the car already does this whenever possible. Finally, you can force the issue of permanent four-wheel drive by selecting the mode that keeps both the engine and the motor running full-time.
That's certainly useful if you need to do a spot of off-roading, but it would be unwise to overestimate the DS5's potential in those conditions. Don't go rushing off trying to find Land Rovers to rescue, is what I'm saying.
The Hybrid4 DSport is the only DS5 - in fact, at the time of writing, the only Citroen of any description - costing more than £30,000, a fact I'd be more comfortable with if it didn't rattle over bumps. The hybrid system has a big effect on the price, but so does the level of standard equipment.
Items available on this car but not on the lower-spec ones include leather upholstery, heated sports seats with plenty of adjustment, front parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring and directional xenon headlights. Options include 19" wheels, metallic or pearlescent paint, a Safe Drive pack (including lane departure warning) and various colour options for the leather bits.