2015 DS 5 UK review

The old Citroen DS5 was some way off the pace as an executive car contender. After a facelift, is it any nearer to matching a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class?...

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John Howell
17 Jun 2015 19:53 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 0:3

It’s no longer accurate to think of the DS marque as merely a part of the Citroen range. The company wants a slice of the lucrative executive market and its strategy is one of divide and rule. DS is now a separate brand and the most premium one in its portfolio.

This is the new DS 5, which is the brand’s first new model. Well almost. It’s actually a facelifted version of the old Citroen DS5, but nonetheless it’s now the halo model, which DS sees as a rival to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.

On the outside the old DS5’s distinctive design remains, but instead of Citroen’s familiar chevron grille there’s an understated DS badge at the centre of a chrome-edged grille. It’s flanked by new headlights that incorporate LED running lights designed in the new DS signature style.

There’s a selection of new or updated petrol and diesel engines, all of which meet Euro 6 emissions targets, plus a diesel-electric hybrid with all-wheel drive as well. The range has also been simplified to just two trim levels: Elegance and Prestige.

What’s the 2015 DS 5 like to drive?

We had a chance to sample all three diesel engines, which is a good thing; these will be most relevant to UK buyers as they are expected to form the backbone of DS 5 sales.

The entry-level BlueHDi 120 feels underpowered in a car of this size and runs out of puff at around 3500rpm. If it offered dramatically improved efficiency then this might be a price worth paying, but as the gains in fuel economy and CO2 emissions are relatively small over the BlueHDi 150, we’d advise you go for this more powerful engine instead.

While the 150 doesn’t feel that fast off the line, it offers plenty of mid-range shove between 1500rpm and 4000rpm. This is exactly what you need for building speed when joining motorways without the need to keep changing gear, and makes for a more relaxed drive. It's relatively efficient too, so company car tax and fuel bills will be similar to a 316d or C220 Bluetech diesel.

Both these engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox only, which isn’t that satisfying to use. The gearlever feels a little disconnected and vague and the change action, particularly on the 120 engine, is occasionally notchy.

If you want a diesel with an auto ‘box the BlueHdi 180 is your only option. Like the 150 it isn’t brisk in outright pace, but uses its six gears well to give decent real-world performance. The gear changes are generally smooth, but at low speeds a gentle dab on the accelerator can trigger it to change down too many gears, resulting in an unwanted flurry of engine revs.

The 180 engine is the most refined of the three, producing the least diesel thrum. The 120 and 150 engines are boomier and transfer more vibration into the cabin - most noticeably felt at the pedals. They quieten down at motorway speeds, but at this point you start to notice some wind and road noise instead.

In the past the DS5 was criticised for its harsh ride, and although Citroen has made adjustments to the suspension, it’s an issue that persists. The 5 copes well with light surface undulations, but the deep potholes and sharp ridges that proliferate on our UK roads send a shudder through the cabin. There’s a slight improvement with cars on the smaller 17in wheels, so avoid the larger wheels if you want to maximise ride comfort.

Through corners the DS 5 keeps body lean in check, but pick up the pace and it runs out of front-end grip pretty quickly. There’s not much feedback through the steering wheel to indicate the available grip level either, so the DS 5 is definitely happier when driven at a more leisurely pace. For those that want driver enjoyment, the 3 Series delivers more grip and better-balanced handling.

The steering has a weighty feel, something that's welcome on the motorway as it helps you keep within your chosen lane. It remains curiously heavy at slow speed though, making parking manoeuvres more of an effort than they need be.

What’s the 2015 DS 5 like inside?

Very similar to the previous DS5. You get large and supportive front seats with plenty of adjustment fore and aft, allowing adults of various heights room to fit in comfortably. That said, the height and reach adjustable steering wheel would suit taller people better if it extended rewards a few more inches.

It’s generally easy to see out of thanks to a large glass area. The only exception is the view out of the back, which is hindered by the roof spoiler running across the middle of the rear screen.

The cabin certainly feels premium and stylish. The German competition may still have the edge on perceived quality, but the DS 5 rivals the Mercedes C-Class for flamboyant interior design and makes the 3 Series seem rather functional by comparison. It also easy to use, with clearly labeled switches and buttons that are within easy reach of the driver.

One area of change is the addition of a 7.0in touchscreen to operate the infotainment functions, including the standard sat-nav. It’s simple to operate, but the rotary controllers used by both Mercedes and BMW to operate its systems can be less distracting for sifting through menus on the move.

Rear-seat passengers will find space is tight, especially if they are seated behind anyone tall up-front. Leg room is the main issue, but headroom for anyone over six-foot is limited too.

The 465-litre boot is a little shy of both the BMW and the Mercedes, but the 5 counters by having a more practical hatchback opening, giving wider access to what’s a usefully square space within.

Should I buy one?

We struggled to recommend the previous version when it was the Citroen DS5, and as it’s still largely the same car, the same faults remain. It’s quirky and stylish and if you are desperate to drive something that’s different from the norm then bare the 5 in mind. 

However, to drive, the DS 5 is someway behind its premium rivals and too cramped in the rear. Although it’s quite well equipped, it’s not significantly cheaper than the competition to offset these drawbacks - especially when you factor in its poorer resale values.

The DS brand is one to keep an eye on for the future but until then, stick with the BMW or the Mercedes.

What Car? says...

The rivals:

BMW 3 Series

Mercedes C-Class

DS 5 Elegance BlueHDi 150 SS

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from £27,140

Power 148bhp

Torque 273lb ft

0-62mph 10.9 seconds

Top speed 127mph

Fuel economy 68.9mpg

CO2 105g/km