Let me give you a bit of a history lesson. The year is 2009 and Citroen launch the premium DS Automobiles sub-brand in a bid to move upmarket and take on the likes of Audi. By 2014 the DS brand is now established as a money spinning entity in it’s own right so much so that Citroen feel confident enough to spin it off as a fully fledged standalone premium brand. That’s enough with the history lesson, we swiftly move onto 2016 and before our very collective eyes is the DS 5, which was launched in 2011. The DS 5 is billed as a large family car, it’s classically quirky French design at it’s very avant-garde best.
There is good quirkiness and bad quirkiness and the DS 5 is very much in the former category. At first sight you are not too sure if it is an estate or a saloon.
The designers mixed elements of shooting brake and hatchback styling but it also looks like a mini MPV. Which is probably due to the pedestrian impact criteria modern day automotive stylists have to take into account.
On the whole the DS 5’s styling works really well because it is distinctively unique. Step into the interior and things get more interesting. Again the styling is full of flair with some nice design details here and there, I like the way how the electric window buttons have been designed.
Sitting in the DS 5 confirms Citroen’s aspirations for this standalone brand, yes it really does feel ‘premium’ with plenty of soft touch surfaces. The designers say the interior was inspired by aviation cockpits.
Certainly sitting up front you have plenty of space on offer and the centre console and instrument binnacle seem to warmly wrap around you without feeling claustrophobic.
There is also a centre console located on the roof which is full of switches for operating the optional panoramic sunroof and heads up displays and even includes cubbies on either side for those important designer sunglasses.
The DS 5 starts at £26k and is available in just two trim levels Elegance and Prestige. There is so much kit available as standard, throw in optional extras and you have more choice than a McDonald’s fast food menu. There is also the diesel hybrid with 4×4 and in top spec Prestige trim it sits at the top of the DS 5 pile costing £35k.
The DS 5 is available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines ranging from a turbo-charged 4-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol which is available in two power derivatives, 165bhp and 210bhp.
Inevitably two diesels are also available, a 120bhp 1.6-litre turbo-diesel available or a 2.0-litre turbodiesel which is available in two states of power either 150 or 180bhp. All engines can be mixed or matched with a 6 speed manual or 6-speed auto transmission.
On test was the top spec Prestige BlueHdi 180 EAT6 6-Speed Auto to give it is fully loaded product identifier. And yes it is fully loaded with kit. At this price point a leather interior is standard throughout and the seat design not only looks great but it is equally as comfortable making long journeys over 90 minutes a pleasant experience.
The DS 5 is a cruiser lets make no mistake about that. Recent revisions has seen the suspension settings tweaked, the introduction of new shock absorber technology to soak up bumps and uneven road surfaces has been developed to make for a more compliant ride.
So we already get a kind of pre-notification of what the DS 5 is all about. To confirm it’s about driving in comfort, and yes it does exactly that with ease. However over rough and uneven road surfaces the damping could be more consistent, the DS 5 prefers smooth tarmac to best relay that driver comfort emphasis.
Another issue is that 6-speed automatic transmission, it’s shared across the Peugeot / Citroen family and makes it’s way into the DS 5. The EAT6 transmission is semi-automated, early example’s from even just a few years ago presented an awkward swaying motion to the gear changes.
The awkwardness of the past has gone the 6-speed auto changes gears in a smooth and liner manner when driving around an urban setting. But engage it with a bit more activity and the gear changes don’t seem as fluid as they are in low speeds.
Compared to dual-clutch gearboxes the EAT6 transmissions feels sluggish as though that 180bhp and 400Nm of torque is being kept on a leash.
And it also seems to add a bit of weight which you can feel through the chassis when you decide to get a bit more adventurous when presented with a series of decent corners.
However once up to cruising speed you don’t notice the deficiencies too much. The downside of the EAT6 transmission is that you are, in some ways, denied full access to the excellent 2.0-litre turbo diesel, it’s got plenty of power but it’s kind of like restrained.
The 2.0-litre BlueHDi has all the latest technology to make it more efficient, more responsive and more flexible but its advisable to go with the 6-speed manual version if you want to access that power.
Practicality is not too bad, the DS 5 looks bigger than it actually is, about the same size as a Volvo V60. Boot space is decent, 465-litres with the seats up and 1,288-litres with the seats down, not class leading but useful enough. However rear seated passenger taller than 6ft may be slightly less accommodated for as the rear part of the roof slopes down making for limited headroom.
There is plenty of technology on offer, too much to waffle on about but you do get a 7-inch touchscreen media centre with TomTom Sat-Nav, a nice speaker system, Apply Car Play or Android Auto allows you to mirror your smartphone onto that 7-inch display.
So does the DS 5 merit the premium brand image? Yes it does, you could say it sits in between the VW’s, Volvo’s and Audi’s of this world. So then it comes down to which brand you want, indeed at this point it get’s complicated.
Is the DS 5 better than an Audi A4 or Volvo V60? Yes and no. But let’s put it this way, don’t under-estimated the DS 5 it’s got more flair and character than any of it’s rivals.