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DS makes stand to be upwardly mobile

17:15 18 September 2015

DS 5 is the flagship of the DS Automobiles brand which now stands alone from Citroen in a move to take it more upmarket.

DS 5 is the flagship of the DS Automobiles brand which now stands alone from Citroen in a move to take it more upmarket.

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The DS brand has broken away from Citroen to move the range upmarket. Motoring editor Andy Russell drives the new DS 5 which aims to meet executive expectations.

Brand new image

Walk round the new DS 5 executive hatchback and you can be forgiven for not having a clue who makes it after its elegant avant-garde styling catches your eye.

It’s the product of DS Automobiles. None the wiser? It used to be a Citroen but now it is the French car-maker’s standalone premium brand, launched in the 60th anniversary year of the original, ground-breaking DS.

Think Lexus and Toyota, Infiniti and Nissan and you can see where Citroen is coming from… and, more importantly, where it hopes to be going.

DS Automobiles DS 5

Price: DS 5 Elegance BlueHDi 120 £25,980 (range to £34,890)

Engine: 1,560cc, 120hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 12.7 seconds; top speed 119mph

MPG: Urban 61.4; extra urban 78.5; combined 70.6

CO2 emissions: 104g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 18%

Insurance group: 25 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,530mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,128mm; H 1,539mm

There’s no longer a single Citroen double chevron emblem anywhere – all making way for the DS badge – and the DS 3 and DS 4 are following suit with new arrivals also moving the brand upmarket.

Looks the part

The DS 5 has the quirky flair we expect of a big French car. Compared to the Citroen-badged DS 5, its distinctive new face is a style statement for the breakaway brand with the grille’s DS wings design signature stretching out to the headlamps and chrome bars, dubbed sabres by the designers, along the bonnet edges from headlamp to windscreen.

The back end is broad and bold with twin exhausts each side of the low valance, adding a hint of dynamic coupe.

From any angle, the strong curves and contours are impressive. It’s going to take time for people to fully accept DS as a brand in its own right but it’s on the right road.

Under the bonnet

It’s diesel to the fore with 120hp 1.6-litre and 150 and 180hp 2.0-litre turbo diesels and a 4x4 diesel hybrid with a combined 200hp and urban driving on electric motor alone. There’s also a 165hp 1.6-litre turbo petrol.

I was dubious about the new Euro 6 120hp 1.6-litre turbo diesel, given the size of car, but it fits well with the DS 5 image – more relaxed than ultimately rewarding to drive.

It makes respectable progress and is suitably refined and, if you need to get a move on, stir it into life with the precise six-speed manual gearbox and let it rev but it gets gruff. On the other hand, let the speed build and the tall gearing makes it a marvellous motorway cruiser and helps economy with 55 to 60mpg in everyday driving and a best of 70mpg.

How it drives

There’s something very pleasing and positive about the way a big French car drives that makes mile-munching both relaxed and relaxing and this new DS 5 takes the experience to a new level.

The suspension set-up is not as firm as the original model, having been upgraded to make damping more measured and compliant. The result is the DS 5 wafts along, regardless of the surface, soaking up bumps and dips in the road more effectively without feeling soft and soggy.

Even though the set-up is now more biased towards ride comfort, the DS 5 still drives well – not as dynamic as German rivals but composed and confident through fast corners with good feedback from the steering and I love the feel of the flat-bottomed wheel.

Space and comfort

Despite looking big from the outside, the DS 5 lacks rear legroom compared to many rivals so carrying adults in the back with six-footers up front needs a little compromise. And the standard three-panel glass roof – two small ones up front and a large one behind, all with electric sunblinds – limits headroom in the back but it is a price some owners will pay for the standout styling.

The boot is deep but, at 465 litres to the parcel shelf, falls short of mainstream hatchbacks and saloons. It is not helped by the £550 Denon Hi-Fi audio upgrade which includes a speaker on the right hand side of the boot which eats into space and could be damaged by loose loads.

Rear seats split 60/40 but you have to lift the cushions for the backs to lay flat and there is still a little step up from the boot floor.

In the cabin

The upmarket interior is as eye-catching as the bold exterior with a quality ambience when it comes to materials, trim and fit and finish. It’s a splendid place to be with great attention to detail and the dashboard has had a minimalist makeover with the colour touchscreen interface giving access to all in-car functions which means 12 fewer buttons. But it’s also a little quirky with a lovely rectangular analogue clock looking good but at odds with hi-tech digital displays.

Banks of alloy switches along the centre console for electric windows and locking and the roof panel for electric sunblinds add to the feeling of an aircraft cockpit.

The biggest niggles are the lack of rear visibility – you’ll be glad of rear parking sensors and may want the optional reversing camera on entry Elegance model – and those with large feet may find the end of their shoe catching on the clutch pedal arm.

Final say

Time will tell if the standalone DS brand will move upmarket. On looks, styling and quality alone, the DS 5 – also well equipped even in entry Elegance trim for the price – is an attractive alternative executive car that stands out from the crowd for the right reasons… and that’s a big part of wooing customers.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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