When Citroen released details on the DS5 late in 2011, I looked forward to driving it not least because Citroen have produced some of the most interesting cars in the motoring industry, but also because I thought it was a very good-looking car. The only problem is I initially had no idea what kind of a car it was – whether it was supposed to be a saloon, a station wagon, an MPV, or a crossover SUV. But if you look at it a bit more, you realize that it is more of a stylish, upscale hatchback. Whether it’s a niche market that promises Citroen plenty of success remains to be seen, but on first impression the DS5 definitely gives off a classy vibe.
A year has passed since the DS5 went on sale, and so far the most popular model in Switzerland has been the Hybrid4 (accounting for 40.1% of DS5 sales in 2012), which is the model I was able to drive for a whole week. Step inside the car, and it definitely feels upscale with its leather trim and nicely laid out instruments. This test car had nice red leather seats with interesting stitching patterns on them, while other cool interior touches include a flat-bottomed steering wheel and aircraft-style roof-mounted switches for the three interior visors of the glass roof – two at the front, and one big one for the rear passengers.
A well-equipped DS5 Hybrid4 like this press car costs CHF 57,500, while the most basic version of the Hybrid4 is CHF 46,900. The cheapest DS5 you can have is the 1.6 e-HDI 115 which has a base price of CHF 35,250. The Hybrid4 is equipped with a PSA-built turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 163hp and 300 Nm of torque, while the electric motor for the Hybrid powertrain is good for 37hp, giving it a total of 200hp. Unlike most hybrid cars, this Hybrid4 doesn’t make use of an automatic or CVT transmission, but rather an automated six-speed single-clutch manual. The diesel engine powers the front wheels, while the electric motor powers the rear wheels, making it all-wheel drive. Acceleration to 100km/h can be done in 8.6 seconds, with its top speed being 211km/h. Although Citroen claims a highway fuel consumption figure of 3.9l/100km, in reality you will see north of 5l/100km.
Some standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and go, 18-inch wheels, as well as LED headlamps. Options on this car include: heated seats with a massage function; satellite navigation and a user interface displayed on a 7-inch monitor (with really nice graphics, it must be said); a reverse camera with front and rear parking aids; Bluetooth; as well as USB and auxiliary connectivity. The only thing that lets down an otherwise well-equipped vehicle is the sound system – it doesn’t have enough bass for a car of this price range, and Citroen's optional hi-fi system cannot be fitted either.
When it comes to driving, the DS5 Hybrid4 can be driven in four modes: ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle), Auto, Sport, and 4WD. ZEV mode enables drivers to drive on battery power alone, giving a nice and quiet ride. ZEV mode only works under 60km/h, after which the diesel engine automatically comes back to life. The engine will also kick back in when the electric motor doesn’t have enough power to get it over an uphill. Auto mode continuously switches between electric and diesel power at low city speeds, Sport mode sharpens up throttle response and makes the engine more vocal, while 4WD makes the diesel engine and electric motor work at the same time.
Being able to drive around using pure electricity is a pleasure, so I used ZEV whenever possible. However, the range for a fully charged battery is only four kilometres. ZEV was also my preferred mode because the default Auto mode made throttle response dull, and when you increase the pace the automated transmission gives jerky gear-changes. Sport mode is good for twisty roads or if you want full power all the time, with the engine providing plenty of torque while coming out of slow corners, and the gearbox shifting up and down when you want it to. You can select gears manually using the paddles behind the steering wheel, however it will change up if it thinks you’re holding on a gear for too long, and also change down if it thinks you’re using too high a gear – which can be frustrating if you want complete control of the transmission.
The steering is light, and although a flat-bottomed steering wheel seemed strange to hold at first, I quickly got used to it. Forward visibility is fine for the most part, but the rear window is obstructed by the roof spoiler, and the tiny wiper it has provides minimal help when it rains. It does absorb bumps pretty well and is a good car for highway cruising – with wind noise being at a minimum, and having enough torque for overtakes. I can foresee the brake pads lasting longer in a Hybrid4 than a regular DS5 too, thanks to the slowing-down effect the Hybrid/regenerative braking system has when you let go of the accelerator.
Interior space all depends on how big the passengers are, there’s adequate head- and legroom for average-sized adults, but taller rear passengers might not feel the same way. It’s a shame that the trunk space is compromised because of mounting the Hybrid system at the rear – you can only pack light if you’re planning a trip with family and friends.
Service intervals are every 30,000km, with the battery said to last the entirety of the hybrid system’s life (i.e. 250,000km or 15 years). While the DS5 is definitely a nice-looking car and has a good ride, the gearbox in the Hybrid4 doesn’t do it any favours, it could really use a smoother automatic transmission. With that said, you can get a normal automatic transmission in the 2.0 HDI 160 FAP model, and it costs less with a base price of CHF 39,400. It also has the same diesel engine fitted in the Hybrid4, and it will have more boot space thanks to the absence of a Hybrid system. If you can live without battery power, the 2.0 HDI 160 FAP should be the DS5 you go for.
By Alex Kisiri