Thursday 29 September 2016

DS 5: luxury at a price for Citroen's go-it-alone new brand

First drive: DS 5

Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30

DS5 from rear
DS5 from rear
DS5 Interior
Citreon's new DS5

Going it alone can be a lonely, long but sometimes rewarding journey.

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That is what Citroen is hoping for with its upmarket wing, DS.

It is easy to dismiss the idea out of hand. I've heard the criticism many times: Why would you buy what is effectively an upgraded, up-specced Citroen?

I think it is a good question and, a bit like Ford pushing their Vignale 'upmarket' brand of Mondeos, it begs an answer.

The cynic in me echoes a lot of what the critics say.

Concentrate on what you are good at and improve, but don't go getting fancy ideas about yourself. A Ford is always going to be a Ford; a Citroen is always going to be a Citroen.

That is just how things are.

The realist in me allows the argument that standing still is terminal and that there is a demand for upmarket versions of existing mainstream cars.

Maybe not so much here, but the figures suggest a higher proportion of buyers in Europe and China, especially, are prepared to spend a good deal more on such motors - as well as feeling they are being treated extra special.

I think it is going to take a while longer in Ireland. But every journey starts with the first step, so Citroen has marked the singularity of purpose with this DS 5 flagship, based on the same platform as the Citroen C4 and Peugeot 3008.

It has been revised with new front looks, DS Automobiles branding, added spec and trim as well as latest Euro6 engines. It looks particularly well, I must say.

It is 60 years since the company first unveiled its original DS - at the 1955 Paris Motor Show - believe it or not.

So, appropriately enough, it now has a DS5 1955 Limited Edition: the car on test. This comes in Ink Blue, has its own 1955 badging and is based on Elegance trim. There is a big spread of spec but it also gets 'watch strap' leather seats and LED Vision headlights.

This 1955 Limited Edition with the BlueHDi 180 diesel engine and automatic transmission costs from €44,345. Road tax is €200 on emissions of 114g/km. The DS5 range starts from €36,045.

The cabin borders on sumptuous; it's more than comfortable and the structure is such that as a driver you have everything you need to your left (along an impressive looking central console) and to the front (where information is well displayed and easily accessed).

However, I had a major complaint about finding the key gear slots - such as Reverse. I was relying on a small red R appearing on the screen because I could not see it on the gear-stick guide. While I'm at it, I did not like the idea of the switches for the windows being placed either side of the console either. It would be much handier to locate them conventionally side by side so one could open or close both at the same time.

I was not surprised, though, to find it to be such a good engine. It was quiet, powerful and smooth.

I was a bit disappointed that the handling/ride wasn't sharper. Yet on the open road to a wet and windy Enniscorthy, it was an easy, comfortable drive. I liked the flat-bottomed steering wheel, there was lots of room in the rear seats and the boot is a fine size.

This was a real effort at style and, one hopes, substance.

Price is a big call on a car like this, though, and at nearly €45,000 for my Limited Edition version it requires a leap of faith when comparisons can, legitimately, be made with compact executives from Germany.

No, it didn't bowl me over though it was strong on spec, comfort and drive. And obviously I'd have residual-value concerns. But I have to salute the effort and wish them bon voyage.

Indo Motoring

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