First Drive

2014 Citroen DS5 review

The latest version of the Citroen DS5 gets a new diesel engine plus revised suspension to address complaints about its uncomfortable ride. It needs them if it's to compete with the best in the executive car class

Words ByJohn McIlroy

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The Citroen DS5 has been a curio since it was launched in 2011. It features avantgarde styling, an outlandish cabin and some impressive quality inside, but it has always failed to deliver the sort of cosseting ride that made the Citroen brand (and, indeed, the original DS model) so famous.

Citroen insiders admit that customer feedback has been harsh about the tough suspension settings – particularly in the UK – so this latest version gets a revised set-up.

The DS5 also gets a new engine and gearbox combination that we're testing here; it mates a 178bhp 2.0-litre Blue HDi diesel engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. The gains are impressive; whereas the old edition pumped out 154g/km of CO2, the new model has more power and torque but emits just 118g/km.

What's the 2014 Citroen DS5 like to drive?

The new 2.0-litre diesel engine has more than enough power and low-rev grunt for car of this size, so it's easy to build speed swiftly when joining motorways. Once there you'll find the DS5 a refined cruising companion, although the motor does become a bit more raucous if you try to hurry it along country roads.

The automatic transmission plays its part in that; it's neither as clever nor as quick to shift as the eight-speed 'boxes found in Jaguars and BMWs, or even the dual-clutch systems you'll find in Audis and VWs. This hesitancy is also noticeable in town, particularly when pulling away from traffic lights or from standstill. The change up from first to second can be a little jerky, too.

Citroen has installed a new specification of shock absorber in a bid to sort out the DS5's ride quality. Sadly, the actual difference is pretty marginal; there's decent enough body control if you're cornering, but this is still a car that shimmies and thumps far too easily over sharp road imperfections, especially on our less-than-perfect UK roads. The amount of vibration that the DS5 also transmits back through the steering wheel compounds the problem.

Nor, it has to be said, does the rest of the DS5's set-up justify the stiff suspension settings; the steering remains pretty lifeless and vague around the straight ahead, so it's nowhere near as involving as a BMW 3 Series – which is similarly priced.

What's the 2014 Citroen DS5 like inside?

The DS5's cabin has always been a tour de force and it continues to offer something striking and different compared with any of the mainstream competition, although the layout is a little cluttered on first glance. There are a confusing number of small buttons to control the stereo, and they make the centre of the fascia look overly fussy.

However, there are plenty of dense, soft-touch materials that help give the cabin a premium feel.

There's decent enough space in the front cabin for two adults, but anyone over six feet tall could struggle for knee- and headroom in the back. The elaborate panoramic glass roof doesn't help matters, eating up rear headroom, although it does at least brighten up the cabin.

Should I buy one?

There remains much to like about the DS5; it manages to feel special inside, with some elegant materials and finishes, and a layout that dares to be different, even though it's confusing at times. It's good to see a regular automatic diesel version of the car offering the sort of CO2 figures that could bring it on to company car choosers' radar, too.

However, the executive market is extremely unforgiving and there are simply far too many other strong rivals offering comparable running costs, more practical cabins, better refinement and, most crucially, a more comfortable ride over long distances. This is the best DS5, but it's still not good enough.

What Car says...


Audi A3 Saloon

BMW 3 Series

CitroΓ«n DS 5

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£26,590

Power 178bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-62mph 9.2 seconds

Top speed 137mph

Fuel economy 62.8mpg (18-inch wheels)

CO2 118g/km (18-inch wheels)