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Citroen DS5 hybrid looks the business, but fails to close the deal

The Citroen DS5 is a great looker, inside and out, but the diesel hybrid is beset with more than a few significant shortcomings

The Citroen DS5 is a great looker, inside and out, but the diesel hybrid is beset with more than a few significant shortcomings

  • by Alan Douglas
 

DISAPPOINTMENT is such a difficult thing to cope with. It isn’t just confined to the younger generation. A five-year-old at least has an outlet when things don’t quite work out as hoped. They can burst into tears, stamp their feet or throw a tantrum. That behaviour is acceptable from a toddler but it’s out of order for a grown-up. All we can do is hold back, keep our thoughts to ourselves and, in the words of the song, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and start all over again.

I’m rarely disappointed when I get my hands on a new car. As an enthusiast, I delight in experiencing the latest technology and can’t wait to twiddle the knobs, zip through the gears and become part of the machine on the open road.

And I’d been looking forward to the top-of-the-range DS5 from Citroen. The stylish entry-level DS3 and bigger brother 4, with their innovative colour schemes and great looks, have been winners for Citroen, lifting it back into the forefront of fashion for which the French company has been known since the heady days of the original DS Pallas and even the quirky 2CV.

The DS5 is especially dramatic, with stunning looks and great street presence. Its interior looked simply breathtaking, with an aviation-inspired 
cockpit roof featuring overhead controls and switches on a central panel, finished off with an aircraft-like cabin. Get in here and you’re the captain of your own machine – a bit like the wee boy who sits in his pedal car and dreams of leading the field in Formula One.

I was upbeat when the car arrived. In the flesh it looked even better, in stunning white pearlescent paintwork and chunky 18-inch alloy wheels. Even the delivery driver, a man who is usually pretty non-plussed at what he hands over, said he’d had a lot of attentive looks on the drive north.

The car is aimed at the executive end of the market, business user-choosers who want something that will stand out from the crowd yet reward them with everyday-use driving pleasure. Certainly, its styling puts the likes of Passat, Insignia and A4 very much in the shade. This is a great looker, inside and out, and it knows it. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and that’s when the disappointment came.

This isn’t the standard DS5. It is the diesel hybrid – the first from Citroen to combine a 200hp engine with a 37hp electric motor delivering power to the rear axle which means low CO2 emissions, improved economy and performance when you want it.

It’s all automatically controlled for best efficiency, but you can override that by calling up one of several operating modes: ZEV, which uses the electric motor for speeds up to 37mph; SPORT, which combines both power units for extra speed and acceleration and 4WD, which sends power to all four wheels – diesel to the front and electric to the rear – when the going gets tough on rough ground or if there’s poor grip.

On paper, that all sounds great – in practice it’s overly complex and, for the majority of users, a waste of engineering, effort and money. It’s an example of creating one car to do everything but failing to do anything particularly well. On the road I found it lumpy and unresponsive and more than a little annoying. At night, the array of lights and controls became pretty incomprehensible, and even after a week with it, I still found some of its assets unreachable.

In the first few days I even had to look up the manual to find the fuel gauge. The auto box was strange. Rather than the conventional PNDR settings, the tiny lever is labelled RNAM but at night there’s no light indication of what setting you’re in and, in standby mode with the engine off, it’s hard to tell that power is available, which can be confusing at traffic lights.

I’ve spoken to others who have driven the conventional two-wheel drive diesel version with manual gearbox and they have loved it. It looks just as good, is crammed with the same extra features inside, gets almost the same economy and is up to £10,000 cheaper.

Why would you go for this over-complicated version and risk disappointment?

VITAL STATS

CAR Citroen DS5 DSport Hybrid4 200 Airdream

PRICE £32,200

PERFORMANCE Max speed 131 mph; 0-62 mph 8.3secs

MPG 69mpg combined

CO2 EMISSIONS 107 g/km

 

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