For a brand so steeped in innovation and design flair, Citroën has recently brought out cars that have largely lacked the sparkle of their forebears. In an attempt to recapture some of this old magic, it has deployed its most famous model name - the DS - onto a new range of sportier and more luxuriously appointed cars. Combining the familiar double chevrons with a discrete ’DS’ logo might be heresy for some, but this is all part of the brand’s strategy to push some of Citroën’s models into an upmarket region (and justify charging higher prices than if it were to use just its standard logo).
Citroën announced the new DS range back in 2009 with the arrival of the DS3, a fairly convincing high-end hot hatch that sold well, followed by the bigger but more vaguely defined DS4. The new DS5 large hatchback is arguably the most impressive of the three, with an exterior that exudes originality, a genuinely high quality interior, and engine options that include a groundbreaking diesel/electric hybrid powertrain.
The DS5’s roots can be traced back to Citroën’s striking 2005 C-Sport Lounge concept. Key to both is a long chrome or dark chrome ’sabre’ detail that runs from the top of the headlight along the bonnet edge and abruptly stops halfway up the second window pillar. There is nothing quite like it on the road. Despite this dramatic statement and other frankly loud design details, the whole ensemble seems to cohere and doesn’t look overplayed - even in a variety of colour ways.
Out on the road, the car’s stance is pleasingly planted and looks balanced through corners and bends. Large black-accented gloss alloy wheels help this stance further, as does the slim wraparound tinted rear window - enhanced by a polycarbonate three-quarter window on each side with neatly built-in lip for extra aerodynamic benefit.
The DS5’s cabin is even better. The dashboard layout is designed to create a sporty cockpit feel - sitting low behind the steering wheel with a high centre console, you certainly feel it. The quality of some of the details is commendable for any car, let alone a Citroën. Case in point, the thumbprint-patterned metal finish on the door handles and centre console edges - the same as found inside the ultra-limited edition £1.2m Aston Martin ONE-77. Knurled air-conditioning knobs recall those on Bentleys and chunky metal-accented window switches have an Audi-esque touch about them. The seat pad - far from standard Citroën colour and trim - is fashioned in high-end leather to resemble a watch bracelet strap.
All conventionally-powered models offer a combination of firm steering and decent road holding to make for an engaging drive. The diesel/electric hybrid - only the second such model in the world after its sister product the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid - is also accomplished, registering an ultra-low 99g/km CO2 rating and offering four modes, selectable from a knob by the gear selector. Go silently up to 37mph in full-electric zero-emission mode for short urban distances, get snappier gear changes in ’Sport’ for twisty country roads, more power for all wheels in 4WD, or simply choose full automatic for fuss-free driving.