Test Drives

DS 5 2016 Review: DS is not a Citroen

Singapore – When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar. That joke isn’t funny because we both know the door is still a door (noun) and not ajar (adjective). The door hasn’t stopped being the thing that you use to variably allow access to what’s on the other side, and we both know it. But hey, marketing works the same way. Just look at the blatant abuse of the word ‘sport’.

That’s a story for another day, but here, you should know that this car before you is definitely not a Citroen. It’s so un-Citroen in fact, that there’s not a single ‘double chevron’ logo to be found anywhere on the machine.*

The kicker here isn’t weak wordplay, but rather branding. ‘DS’, named after the Citroen DS, has been spun off as its own sub-brand since 2015. The new brand is aimed at being more luxurious, design-centric (since the original DS is seen as one of the most beautiful cars ever) and generally more upmarket than your normal, garden-variety Citroens. 

In Singapore the first new, non-Citroen-badged DS cars have landed, the DS4 Crossback and DS5. 

Yet underneath it all, the DS 5 here is the face-lifted version of the vehicle that was launched as the Citroen DS 5 in 2011. Now there’s revised styling and a new drivetrain at least, so it counts as a rather major update.

It still looks like a concept car that escaped into the wild, with flourishes like the sex-tagonal tailpipes and c-shaped tail-lamps (C-Metisse Concept, DS concept). The DS 5 is essentially a large hatch, although Citro, I mean DS’s styling has always dictated it has the elements of an estate, crossover and hatch.

If you didn’t like it before, you won’t now, since the DS 5 still carries its essential design through with things like the love-it-or-hate-it silver ‘eyebrow’, but it’s still bursting with the same individual imagery that, to us at least, doesn’t have the ideological burden a Mini Countryman has, for example.

The major burden it did have, the drivetrain, has now been solved just as with the latest mainstream Citroens. The first DS5 had the old single-clutch automated gearbox that’s thankfully, finally phased out as it should’ve been a decade earlier, at the very least. Even the diesel hybrid DS5, while admirable in efficiency, had a drivetrain which took real effort to accept.

Thankfully the new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine and six-speed automatic gearbox are a huge step forward. The engine itself uses urea injection, hence the name ‘BlueHDI’, and it’s the same as found in the Citroen Picasso.

Instant diesel grunt is enjoyable and practical around town. Below 60km/h the 300Nm of torque makes putting the car where you want it easily enough, while the six-speed gearbox needs no minding whatsoever.

Despite having the same driveline as the five-seat Picasso, the DS5 is, despite it looks, a good 1.5 seconds slower in the 0-100km/h sprint. The DS 5 is obviously heavier (by 180kg no less) but the 13-second timing is notably slow, at least on paper. In real life the diesel torque makes this a non-issue, besides the fact that most of us aren’t madly-accelerating taxi drivers.

Claims towards luxury are upheld, with the DS5 exhibiting decent refinement – the diesel chatter seems a bit further removed in the car’s more insulated cabin.

It also handles in that solid, dense way some luxury cars do. This gives you a bit of a workout at the wheel, but the handling and ride are good, with the impression that the chassis can take much more than the drivetrain delivers, plus no outright crashiness comes into play, despite the car’s weight.

Like before, an aviation influence is seen in the car’s cabin: The controls and surfaces loom close – some might find this claustrophobic, others may see it as inviting. We found it charming, and it’s considerably nicer than the interior of a real-life small plane is, although visibility, thanks to the thick pillars, isn’t as good.

DS Alternatives: More normal looking five and six-seat MPVs include the Citroen Picasso, Honda Jade RS and VW Golf Sportsvan

If sunroof count is an obvious indicator of luxury, then at sunroof-to-price ratio the DS5 wins, since it has two. Both are fixed, so you can’t open them, but the forward unit is bisected by the central ‘pillar’ which has light controls and two small storage bins mounted on it.

A large haul of standard equipment improves the tone further, like xenon active lights, blind spot indicator and a new infotainment system that is much improved. It has a capacitative touch screen (like a phone), Apple CarPlay and navigation too.

It’s not really a luxury vehicle, at least not yet. The price tag puts paid to that, but it does feel unique and well-appointed for the asking price. DS design isn’t mature enough to be called luxury just yet, we feel, but at least it’s begun the journey toward this goal.

So brand change or not, the DS5 is improved but essentially the same cool-looking and differently-shaped five-seat MPV. As a large purchase, buying an automobile may not be solely motivated by cold, hard logic. Joie de vivre to temper that, which the DS5 has, comes as a refreshing alternative.

*To smart asses out there, yes, there still are logos of manufacture on components like windows and hoses. It’s the same with Hyundai’s Genesis.

Engine 1,560cc, 8V, in-line 4, turbodiesel
Power 120bhp at 3500rpm
Torque 300Nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 189km/h
0-100kmh 12.9 seconds 
Fuel efficiency 4.1L/100km
CO2 114g/km
Price $139,988 with COE

Also Consider: Citroen Picasso, VW Sportsvan

about the author

Derryn Wong
Has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. Is particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.