Sunday 18 March 2018

DS5 has a look to love but is not yet the complete package

This decadently stylish hatchback is a return to form for Citroen, writes Kyle Fortune

The Citroen DS5 is the most interesting car I've driven in the past 12 months. There, I've said it. In a year that's seen me pop my rear in some fine cars that's quite a statement, but the DS5 really is something of a revelation.

It starts by sitting in the shapely, figure-hugging driver's seat, finished in the softest leather I've experienced this side of €100,000, in an interior that takes the mainstream to an entirely different level.

I'll admit I was sceptical when Citroen stated it would be reviving the well-loved DS badge. The first new DS, the DS3, is fun, while the DS4 is, well, a bit confusing, but this DS5 nails it, taking Citroen back to a time when it was a leader in avant-garde styling and technology. Styling more than technology in this case admittedly, as although the DS5 is decently equipped it brings little to the table in regards to revolutionary technology -- unless you count the pricey diesel-hybrid version that arrives later on.

No, this is a Citroen that's all about looks. Clichéd or not, the pictures don't do it justice; check out the sabre-like chrome highlight running from the headlamp to the A-pillar -- the detailing is magnificent. The surfacing is bold and the textures inside a tactile treat. It's as much an object to behold as a car, something you'll covet, in a way you won't have done with a Citroen, since, well the original DS.

That's not to say that the new car is without fault; some of the infotainment controls are ambiguous to say the least, but you'll forgive that every time you glance up and see the ceiling-mounted switches.

Like so much of the DS5 they've been beautifully crafted, not just feeling good to use, but to look at too. They're reminiscent of those in an aircraft, the entire driving environment enveloping you with a cockpit feel. That cabin is spacious, too, with the front seats generously appointed and those in the rear not short of space either.

Headroom might be tight for the tallest passengers thanks to the sloping roofline, but it's no worse than anything else in that department. The boot is also a good size and shape, giving the DS5 practicality to match its impressive looks.

It's decent to drive, too. Of course, the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine isn't going to be the biggest seller, but its 200hp and eager nature give the DS5 pace that's a touch uncouth given its designer feel and looks. It needs working pretty hard, but get the revs up and the DS5 is brisk. The steering is light, though accurate enough, so the DS5's demeanour is rather at odds with how it drives. Less frenetic, punchy diesels will suit it tremendously, giving it more relaxed pace and long-legged ability.

In the DS5, Citroen genuinely has a premium contender on its hands, this French hatchback is a viable, hugely interesting alternative to the German norm.

What's unforgivable, though, is the quality of the ride. Sure, to look its best it needs the biggest wheels that can be squeezed under its shapely wheel arches, but the result is a ride that's compromised at best, and borderline uncomfortable on the sort of underinvested tarmac we call roads here.

The suspension struggles to cope with even the merest ripple on the road surface. Which is a real shame, as Citroen used to be a byword for comfortable, cosseting suspension, its cars famously able to negotiate ploughed fields and foil assassination attempts thanks to compliant, supple and very cleverly designed suspension.

In putting all its efforts into the design, Citroen has forgotten to give the DS5 the magic carpet ride that it should have. Fix that and the DS5 wouldn't just be one of the most interesting cars I've driven all year, but one of the very best. As it stands, though, my posterior says non, even if every other bit of me is screaming oui, oui, oui.

Sunday Independent Supplement

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