When: April 2012
What: 2012 Citroen DS5
Occasion: Irish test drive
There's nothing on the road that looks like the Citroen DS5 - inside or out. However, its pricing puts it into contention with cars that boast status-friendly bonnet badges. The Citroen is good, but it's let down badly by strangely firm suspension.
Model driven: Citroen DS5 DStyle HDi 160
Pricing: €36,400 (DS5 line-up starts at €32,500)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Audi A5 Sportback, Range Rover Evoque, Volvo V60
CO2 emissions: 133g/km (Band B, €225 per annum)
Combined economy: 5.1 litres/100km (55.4mpg)
Top speed: 215km/h
0-100km/h: 8.5 seconds
Power: 160hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 340Nm at 2,000rpm
Inside & Out: 5/5
Few cars make it to production with as much concept car jewellery as the Citroen DS5 has. Given the reaction from everybody that sees it, it's a huge success. There's not a surface or visible component that hasn't been stylised to fit in with the rest of the car. Even at the end of our time with the car we were still discovering new flourishes. Highlights on the outside include that massive chrome section flowing from the windscreen to the headlights, the sculpting of the rear door panels and the shape of the side window behind the back door. In places it's fussy, but it's unapologetically unique.
The interior will split less opinion, as it's simply a work of art. That does rely a little on the specification of the car, but fitted with the optional 'Club Leather Signature' and the panoramic roof it's nothing short of spectacular. Citroen has cleverly given the DS5 its own switchgear too, which sets it apart from other models in the range. Crucially, the cabin is as good to use as it is to look at - and it's not short on space.
Engine & Transmission: 4.5/5
Citroen's 2.0-litre HDi diesel engine is well-proven, but it works particularly well in the DS5. The engineers have managed to isolate it from the cabin better than in lesser models and it provides effortless shove from low revs. Indeed it's all too easy to overcome the front tyres' grip when exiting a junction from standstill for instance. The traction control system is quick enough to rein it in though so it never feels like the engine is too powerful.
An automatic transmission probably suits the persona of the DS5 better than the six-speed manual gearbox, but the latter works well regardless and the lever itself is a tactile delight, mixing warm leather and cold aluminium to good effect.
Ride & Handling: 3/5
It seems Citroen doesn't really know what it's doing with the DS brand in terms of the driving experience. The original DS offered the clichéd magic carpet ride that all luxury car makers strive for, and with the DS5 - more so than the DS3 and DS4 - we'd expect that the route for Citroen to go down. But instead the chassis seems to be engineered for a sporting drive. While we love driving and can appreciate the flat cornering attitude and lively steering of the DS5, the loss in ride comfort is a compromise too far. The front end in particular seems to be too stiffly spring.
We really don't think that this car should try to rival the likes of the BMW 3 Series in terms of driver interaction. Indeed, the latest 3 Series is more comfortable than the DS5, which perhaps indicates what buyers in this sector want. The smaller DS models get away with erring on the sporty side; the DS5 does not.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 4/5
The Citroen DS5 will be a bit of a conundrum for buyers, as they'll not know where it sits in the marketplace. The starting price of €32,500 for the DSign model is reasonable for what you get, but to experience the DS5 as it's supposed to be you really do need to go for the version tested, the DStyle. The 2.0-litre HDi diesel engine is the best compromise between price and running costs too, though we're looking forward to trying out the four-wheel drive HYbrid4 variant later this year.
A word of warning on the gorgeous leather fitted to our test car: it's priced at €4,100. Nonetheless, it is sumptuous and the seats are capped with small aluminium plates too, adding to the quality feel.
Despite all this we've awarded the DS5 four stars as it is well priced against premium badged alternatives yet feels more special. The only other car around this price bracket that has such a feel-good factor is the Range Rover Evoque. The DS5 is also, on paper at least, quite efficient, with Band B emissions.
For the record, we averaged 8.2 litres/100km (34.4mpg) in our time with the car, which was spent mostly in an urban setting with a few forays onto the motorway.