It is hard to imagine the impact the original Citroen DS had on the world when it was first shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1955. For a world still reeling from the effects of two World Wars within a single generation Citroens bravery could have been judged as foolhardy. Yet, they took 12,000 orders for the car on the first day, a remarkable achievement, and one we are unlikely to ever see again.
So the new Citroen DS-range designed for an edgier, younger, more style-conscious consumer than is traditionally Citroens target demographic has a heritage many would kill for. Is the DS5 a worthy successor, or an unworthy pretender?
The exterior is estate-car-neat and coupe-stylish; a winning combination and one that looks good, especially in the discreet grey of my car. The swooping chrome trim on the front wings and sills add a touch of drama to the proceedings, something that the falling rear roofline adds to.
Im not convinced that the bulging A-pillars work very well, but they are bold and confident, something that many new cars lack. The sporting credentials of the DS5 are reinforced with the 18-inch Canaveral alloy wheels, rubber-band tyres, twin-exhaust pipes, and bifurcated rear window (complete with the smallest wiper blade you have ever seen).
The overall result is excellent; it isnt as stylish as the original DS (what is?) but its an original design that looks brilliant and youll never be mistaken for the pilot of a German executive drone.
The baroque interior is, sadly, less brilliant. The seats, quilted in the optional Alezan Club tan leather on my car, are multi-adjustable and are comfortable and supportive and everything a seat should be except their relationship to the pedals and steering wheel is just wrong, something that isnt helped by a wide centre console and a narrow foot well. The result is a splayed-legs driving style that traps your left knee between the huge steering wheel and the console. It can be avoided, but only by having the wheel artificially high and even then one stabs at the clutch pedal with an awkwardly twisted ankle.
Elsewhere things are better; its stylish, decently roomy, and well finished. Its quiet too, making the DS5 a very effective long-distance, high-speed cruiser. There are toys a-plenty and the ergonomics are good, if a little self-conscious. It all works, but only just. If you like simplicity, a la Audi, then you wont like the Citroen. Yet, it does feel luxurious and the split sun-roof adds a welcome touch of airiness.
That sloping rear roofline does hamper rear headroom a little, but legroom is fine and the boot is big enough for even the greediest of families. Oh, and the optional Denon sound system is brilliant.
Just dont press the Citroen-logod switch in the roof when you are bored waiting for your son to finish playing football; its the eTouch emergency assistance system button to Citroen
The DS5 drives very well indeed, thanks to firm suspension, perfectly weighted steering, and a lovely gear-change. Throw in a torquey engine (251 lb/ft at just 2,000rpm) and a quiet cabin and you soon find yourself travelling significantly faster than you might have intended. The DS5 surges and swoops and sweeps along beautifully and provided one of the best drives of 2012 across a wet and gloomy north Wales that was free of traffic, speed cameras, and roadworks.
There is a price to pay for this inch-perfect handling in the ride, which is very firm indeed and had this Francophile yearning for the Good Old Days when Citroen suspended their cars via hydro-pneumatic suspension. It works well enough, but can become crashing and jolting over poor road surfaces. Blame the modern consumers desire for low-profile rubber and sporting suspension.
Automatic windscreen wipers and lights are often an unnecessary frippery, but they actually work in the Citroen; providing a turn-on-and-forget experience that others would do well to emulate.
The 2.0-litre HDi engine is a brilliant piece of engineering, being quiet, economical (I managed just over 40mpg, and I wasnt taking it easy) and powerful. The cars top speed of 134mph comes courtesy of 163bhp, having passed 62mph in 8.5 seconds.
As ever, though, its the torque that astonishes. Overtaking is a doddle, no matter what gear you are in, and across fast A-roads fifth gear becomes a virtual automatic gearbox that is good for anything but the most last-chance overtaking opportunities.
Colleagues report that the petrol engine is even better to drive, and almost as economical, something that is worth bearing in mind if you dont do mega-miles.
Value for Money
The DS5 range spans 10,000 between low twenties and low thirties, and so sits slap bang in the middle of the competition. Its Band F, so the road tax isnt too onerous, and the running costs should be low for its class too.
Resale values, often a concern with French cars, seem strong at the moment.
The DS5 was, for me, a frustrating car. Flashes of brilliance (engine, noise insulation, looks, performance, handling) were completely overshadowed by that appalling driving position. Maybe its just my odd shape (tall, with long legs) but I found it very, very hard to get comfortable.
If you can get comfortable and you really should check; the DS5 is not a car to buy without taking a long test drive then it is a cracking car and one that I much preferred to the over-rated BMW 3-Series
Would I buy one instead of an Audi A4
or Volvo V40
though? Probably not, but as a grumpy, middle-aged man the DS5 isnt intended for me anyway; bright young things will love it, and that, surely, is the point.