As much as it goes against the grain of my site ethos, it is fair to include the odd special car that has that certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to style, flair and all round class. For many years I have adored big French cars, this bang up to date model being no exception.
Big French cars… I love `em me! I’ve always been a fan of the ilk’s of vehicles such as the Peugeot 505, Renault 30 and Citroen CX. Smooth and sophisticated with lashings of weirdness, those French fancies of old offered something different to the usual British street furniture that would slumber at the kerbside. We had our Rover 3500 of course and Granada Mk2 that both offered that all important luxo-barge method of driving from A to B… or effortlessly right the way to Z on a full tank. But did either of them really make you stand, stoop or stare in wonderment when we were younger? Well perhaps the Rover maybe.
If you wanted left field transport that offered something alternative you had to go German for all out quality or French for the style. The Citroen CX for example is just one car I have idolised for more years than I care to remember. I’ve given up trying to educate my better half, you simply either get them or you don’t. They look like nothing else nor drive like nothing else while inside they are nothing less than an ergonomic disaster… or character for want of a better word. Magnified glass tumblers for dials and fragile thumb rocker switches for column stalks are just tips of the iceberg… its all so wrong but all so right for me – I adore them.
But one by one those cars of quirk have fallen by the roadside. SAAB for example went all sensible and faded away and Renault now make cars that no longer crumble in your fingertips like damp sugar anymore – oh where did it all go wrong? The main problem has been that there’s no market for idiosyncrasy anymore, and it was this that really killed off SAAB and force the French into making cars that wont drop to pieces after an hour and can be driven without spending three days pawing through the owners manual. Even the Italian cars of today seem to border on the boring and conventional where they were once famed for their whizz-bang nature – with the emphasis on BANG!
“With more cues of the past than in the pictures on the wall in the Sheffield Crucible dressing rooms, the DS5 unashamedly harks back to a time when Joe Le Taxi was merely a young man scootering around Paris learning La connaissance”
But a few years ago something rather strange happened. Citroen were rummaging away through some dusty office drawers and stumbled upon something very important. Something that had seemingly lost since the deletion of the XM… their mojo. Their “C” range of vehicles signalled a change in direction for them and then along came a new range of DS branded vehicles. The flagship DS5 was something I had not admired in a French car for many years. With more cues of the past than in the pictures on the wall in Sheffield Crucible dressing rooms, the DS5 unashamedly harks back to a time when Joe Le Taxi was merely a young man scootering around Paris learning La connaissance.
Well recently I have enjoyed spending some time with the DS5. Whatever you do, don’t call it a Citroen anymore – I did and a man looking like Maigret visited me in the small hours pointing a pistol at me. DS is now a stand alone brand representing the premium side of Citroen (damn… done it again) but owing the distinct lack of chevrons, quite a few people asked what it was. In point of fact, the DS5 has been a notable talking point in our neighbourhood with only the more informed locals correctly identifying the brand and model of the car. To be asked so many times is a good thing as it tells you people either like it or are merely curious – two important and valid reasons that customers buy cars.
“…you can tell the car was styled by one man alone or a very small and dedicated team rather than a committee. There’s very little conflicting detail when you walk around the car – something you’ll find yourself doing quite a few times upon first contact”
It looks imposing, especially in black, and the paint finish was up there with the best. The swoops and curves on the bodywork are plentiful, you can tell the car was styled by one man alone or a very small and dedicated team rather than a committee. There’s very little conflicting detail when you walk around the car – something you’ll find yourself doing quite a few times upon first contact. The rear light clusters even manage to squeeze in a subtle design trait that echo’s the original DS of yore and the way the rear door tapers out to the flanks is enough to catch your eye and think of the detail involved. Of course, you have the odd sprinkling of proper boldness too in the feature window ahead of the front doors – you literally can spend ages just seeking out details.
To turn around the phrase: the detail is the devil and its here some manufacturers let you down slightly with a lovely exterior spoiled by a humdrum interior, well you wont feel short changed in the DS5. The same echoing to the glory days continues, not enough to give you a migraine but all done with clever restraint and with a 21st century twist. The dials are odd looking but a lesson in legibility providing there’s not too much sunlight and the large analogue clock lives behind a pebble effect lens that’s simply gorgeous to glance at. The chairs are exactly that… chairs, and its so utterly comfortable to experience be it nipping to Waitrose or Wales – oddly enough something we both did in the week it lived with us.
“…in fairness it is a bit of an ergonomic frenzy at first”
The Prestige model is also blessed with a rather superb wireless with Denon speakers and sub woofer in the boot although the infotainment / satnav requires a little bit of getting used to. I will admit that jumping out of my Vauxhall Insignia in to the DS5 found me reaching for the book pack just to find out how to fiddle with the steering column adjuster. As with everything, once you settle into it everything just works and its here again you are reminded of French cars of old… just ask any classic Citroen (oops) owner. But in fairness it is a bit of an ergonomic frenzy at first. The buttons on the centre console take up so much room that your coffee cup holders are relegated to the door pockets, oh, and the handbook pack is so thick it doesn’t seem to fit in the glovebox.
Thanks to the split panoramic roof design and the roof blind switchgear in the middle of the ceiling I found myself childishly thinking I could be piloting Concorde. Every time I reached for the blind button I could never make up my mind if I was either Brian Trubshaw or Andre Turcat – the former and both sadly deceased Concorde test pilots from either side of the Channel. But just like that now grounded swan of the sky, the DS5 also is a joy to be at the helm of. The revisions to the suspension have changed the ride comfort from shocking to sublime in one fell swoop thanks to some cleverly designed new type of damper system. Unremarkable handling spoilt by over light steering and a huge wheel gains lost points thanks to a superb long distance ride comfort – a cruising car not a go kart is probably the best summary I can think of.
“…under the wonderful and sci-fi exterior its strictly conventional in terms of its mechanicals. And that’s a good thing too because running the car day to day should be no more expensive or at least on a par with most of its rivals despite what potential owners may wrongly perceive, but be warned… it doesn’t come cheap in top trim spec”
Press on hard through the curves and there’s notable body roll and racing starts brings some front end ducking and diving*. But as mentioned already its set up for the long haul or fast cruising. If you expecting a feeling that would be found with the long gone hydro-pneumatic system Citroen (damn… not again) were famed for, you may be in for a disappointment. There’s no self levelling or function to change a wheel without using a jack either, under the wonderful and sci-fi exterior its strictly conventional in terms of its mechanicals. And that’s a good thing too because running the car day to day should be no more expensive or at least on a par with most of its rivals despite what many potential owners may wrongly perceive, but be warned… it doesn’t come cheap in top trim spec.
*Note: I recently drove the HDi180 Performance line model and actually found the roadholding rather good albeit at the slight sacrifice of its ride comfort
The automatic six speed gearbox feels a bit sleepy unless you prod the sport button and if you shout full ahead down to the engine room the 2.0 180PS diesel emits that famous HDi clatter which doesn’t really fit in with the comfort on offer. But when driving in sensible mode or bowling down the M4 at the required legal maximum there isn’t that much to complain about when it comes down to refinement. Rear comfort mirrors that up in first class but there’s only average legroom on offer and taller passengers might feel a pinch in the headroom owing to the raked roofline. And thanks to the raked roof, over the shoulder visibility isn’t brilliant either. Around the back its got high boot sill but totally fold flat rear seats – something many rivals fail to offer these days.
“What’s cleverly been achieved by PSA is a credible antidote to the family car norm. It doffs its cap to the past yet reaches into the far and distant future with charm and conviction. Its a fair way away from being perfect but a cats whisker from being ideal”
There really isn’t that much to point and moan about with the DS5 in all fairness. Some of the trim quality would have the Germans in stitches, especially the plastic trim that surrounds the electric window switches and I have already mentioned some of the functions and buttons are respectively hard to fathom or are simply too small. But as already touched upon its mainly forgotten once a little time has been spent. The only other thing I can report is that it didn’t seem as economical as I had imagined it to be… an overall average of just over 50mpg was the best I could muster. But overall? its a lovely car. What’s cleverly been achieved by PSA is a credible antidote to the family car norm. It doffs its cap to the past yet reaches into the far and distant future with charm and conviction. Its a fair way away of from being perfect but a cats whisker from being ideal.
The Humble Opinion
I wasn’t disappointed and can honestly say I’d probably be happy to buy one with my own money. Its unconventional but it doesn’t scare you and despite the funky and wonderfully detailed styling treatment it has a conventional driveline under the skin. This is so useful towards whole life costs and it shouldn’t be unreliable as those HDi units are so well proven.
Lovely to waft along in and you’ll not be bored of people asking what is it. To create a different car is easy, what’s hard is making the whole thing work and gel together and I think PSA have really pulled it off. I found the whole DS brand separation a little hard to comprehend at first but you know? I think its starting to make sense.
However, depreciation is bound to be savage and its not everyone’s cup of tea – you either get it or you don’t. But what I will say is this… don’t dismiss on what you see or think without tangible first hand experience, get behind the wheel and just enjoy it. Outside and in its just beautiful. For a long distance family car I reckon little touches it for style – the renaissance of those big French cars has returned.
Being seen… IS being different!
MODEL TESTED: DS Automobiles DS5 Prestige BlueHDi180
Price: £33,740 RRP List ex options
Power Unit: 1997cc 16v HDi Eu6 transverse turbo diesel
Driveline: FWD Electronic 6 speed auto with sport / winter setting & traction control
Power / Torque: 180PS / 400Nm
Performance: * 0 – 60 in 9.2 seconds with 137mph max
Fuel Economy: * 62.8mpg combined (50.4mpg on test)
*Manufacturers or Govt claimed data
- Superb long distance comfort
- Amazing attention to design detail inside and out
- Well equipped
- Impressive level of tech and excellent audio system
- Dozens of cues and styling touches that keep you noticing day after day
- You feel special and sophisticated behind the wheel
- Passengers seem to adore the interior ambience
- LED headlamps that steer with the wheels are amazingly effective
- Expensive in top model trim
- Depreciation is bound to be harsh
- Road noise on rough roads and wind noise from mirrors on blustery days
- Handling isn’t anywhere near sharp enough compared to rivals
- Steering wheel width is rather large and cumbersome
- Some minor plastic interior materials feel cheap and brittle
- Coarse engine when hurried through the gears
- Rear space is miserly for taller people
For more information on the DS5 range CLICK HERE