Citroen has completed its DS range with the DS5 and it just oozes French flair, says Andy Russell.

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Citroen DS5 DSport Hybrid4 200 Airdream

Price: £32,200 (range from £22,400)

Engine: 1,997cc, 163hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel driving front wheels and 37hp electric motor driving rear wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 8.3 seconds; top speed 131mph

MPG: Urban 67.3; extra urban 70.6; combined 68.9

Emissions: 99 or 107g/km (depending on wheel size)

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 10 or 12pc (depending on wheel size)

Insurance group: 28E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,530mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,871mm; height 1,539mm

I get a perverse pleasure out of driving a hybrid car – one that combines a conventional engine with an electric motor.

On the one hand in slow-moving and stop-start city traffic jams you have the satisfaction of knowing that while running on the battery-powered electric motor you are not wasting fuel, nor putting out polluting exhaust emissions. And on the other hand, being mischievious, I love to see people’s head turn as you silently glide by and creeping up behind people walking down the middle of supermarket car park aisles is a hoot… well, that’s what it takes before they notice you!

Hybrids are nothing new. Toyota has been building hybrids since the late Nineties and the Lexus range is virtually totally hybrid but they combine petrol and electric power.

Now Citroen and sister company Peugeot have taken hybrids to the next stage mating an electric motor to a diesel engine which makes them even more attractive for high-mileage users such as the fleet market.

The new Citroen DS5 – the final model in the dynamic and sporty DS range – is the first to get the 200hp Hybrid4 system combining a 163hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel driving the front wheels with a 37hp electric motor on the rear axle. For those who don’t want to take the hybrid route the DS5 also offers 114hp 1.6-litre and 163hp 2.0-litre turbo diesels and a 200hp 1.6-litre turbo petrol.

The hybrid system works well, seamlessly switching between low-speed, light-throttle electric power to diesel, charging the drive battery when braking and on the over-run. It has four operating modes – automatic, ZEV (electric-only zero emission vehicle), sport which uses both power sources for maximum power and 4WD which uses both to drive all four wheels for extra traction in slippery conditions.

Most of the time you’ll just leave it in auto mode and let the sophisticated technology go about its business with impressive results – one cross-city run saw 128mpg. But being mated to a diesel engine gives the best of both worlds if you do a lot of urban and open-road driving with real-world mixed motoring seeing 55-60mpg with a best of 69mpg as I mastered the most economical driving style – not bad given the power and brisk performance.

The Hybrid4 uses the six-speed electronic automated manual – effectively an automatic with the ability to take control of shifts via paddles on the steering wheel.

The DS5 is a big car, with distinctive styling giving it real French flair for drivers looking to stand out from the crowd and Citroen sees rivals including large mainstream family hatchbacks as well as premium executive models.

Firm suspension keeps the body in check on twisty roads but this big car doesn’t feel overly-sporty and nor does the ride make it a true executive. It’s generally supple but over-sensitive to poor surfaces especially with the DSport’s standard 18in wheels – 17in alloys are now a no-cost option and also cut CO2 emissions to 99g/km, so avoiding London congestion charge and dropping company-car drivers’ tax liability from 12 to 10pc.

The upmarket cabin certainly does live up to executive expectations but it’s a shame rear legroom is quite tight for adults with the front seats well back, and it’s not helped by a lack of foot room under the front seats.

Non hybrid models get a spacious 465-litre boot but, with the drive batteries housed in the back of the car, the hybrid’s boot is only 325 litres with the floor stepping up midway which compromises practicality. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold almost flat but again there is a step down from the raised boot floor so you can’t slide large items in and out.

At the wheel you need a pilot’s licence rather than a driving licence with the aircraft-inspired cockpit boasting big dials and a profusion of knobs and buttons, some obvious and logical, others not so easy to work out at first. And then there’s the controls on the centre console and a cluster of overhead switches for sunblinds and adjusting the DSport’s standard head-up display projecting vital information like road speed into the driver’s eyeline. A big rectangular analogue clock follows the curve or the dashboard torwards the screen – it looks classy but is difficult to see in certain lights.

The driving position has plenty of adjustment but rear visibility is hindered by large pillars and a split back screen with the smallest wiper I have seen.

The DS5 is well equippeed – even entry-level DSign includes six airbags, front fog lights with cornering function, daytime LED running lights, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic dual-zone digital air-conditioning, auto wipers and headlights, electric parking brake and Bluetooth with USB port. DStyle adds part leather upholstery, cockpit roof with three electric sunblinds, colour satellite navigation with live traffic information, rear parking sensors and reversing camera. Go for range-topping DSport and you get full leather, electric/heated front sports seats with massage function, brighter xenon headlights, front parking sensors and head-up display.

The DS5 is up against some serious competition but if you want something distinctive and love gadgets, gizmos and technology you’ll fall for its French flair.

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