The brand is just over five years old and came about by the desire of parent PSA to have a halo range which rekindles the chic of the first DS launched in 1955 as one of the Citroen luxury models.
It is even sold through DS Stores and DS Salons, not a humble traditional dealership. There are five models in the DS series currently topped by the DS5 but soon to be crowned with the DS7 Crossback SUV. The models lower in the series can get away with being different because they appeal to buyers who want and can afford to have a mechanically mainstream model at a modest price premium if it elevates their egos.
But move up-market into the DS5, and soon to show DS7 series, and that is where these bigger models face some very serious, longer established players. It is not possible to say if the DS7 will pull it off, but for now the DS5 is lacking and off the pace.
Styling is always love it or leave it in the eyes of buyers but in the case of the mid-range DS5 Performance Line we have been testing it’s a case of style over sporting substance as well.
The sweeping roofline over the four-door coupe-styled body looks like it will conceal occupants and it does.
The high waistline and deep pillars to the windows create blindspots all round when driving and parking and you rely on sensors and cameras more than you should have to.
The DS5 Performance Line comes with a sports styling pack of special wheels, decals and inside the leather seats have contrasting stitching matched on the steering wheel and gear gaiter and a leather wrapped binnacle to the instruments. Possibly more practical are the very bright intelligent LED beams with their non-dazzle directional control and scrolling LED indicators.
The eight-strong DS5 series comprises three trim levels – Elegance, Performance and Prestige – and a choice of 120, 150 or 180hp advanced diesel engine as well as a 165 petrol with six-speed manual or automatic boxes.
The over-reliance on diesels with their bad press, fuel and tax penalties may be hindering sales of DS5 even if the performance and economy of out 180 BlueHDi with its clever smooth 6-speed auto/ manual box is very good from our overall consumption figure. It has respectable but not rapid acceleration and cruises very easily at the legal limit on motorways with a maximum approaching 140mph but what we liked was economy edging towards 50mpg.
The stop & start system helps but the overall gearing and the wide power band are really major contributors to the economy. The powertrain was smooth and quiet even when pushed and the brakes were up to keeping it all tied down if required but the steering was a bit of a lose end with hardly any feedback and a big turning circle.
This combined with the stiff suspension and its damping meant it never felt agile or nimble but more like some vans I have driven a few years ago.
Secondary controls are scattered throughout the cabin on the fascia, console and overhead in a throwback to aviation-inspired design and they work well but need a lot of getting used to where they are. Instruments include head-up display and were very clear and comprehensive.
Heating and ventilation was very good throughout, the oddments space plentiful when you found each compartment and it is a good family car in that respect. The bootspace is good but not overly generous so you may struggle on a family holiday.
Access for front and rear seats passengers was easy with a decent amount of room and adjustment and the seats were big and comfortable with good support.
For its faults I liked the DS5 and thought it still has potential to be a good big car if the engineers can sort that suspension and steering, and bring it anywhere near where it should be to take on class rivals. This is one famous 5 where the story should continue.
|FAST FACTS||DS5 Performance Line|
|Insurance Group: 34E||Price: £34,050 ( plus £600 metallic paint )|
|Mechanical: 180hp 1,997cc 4cyl turbo-diesel engine, front wheel drive, 6-speed automatic/ manual transmission|
|Max Speed: 137 mph||0-62mph: 9.9 seconds|
|Combined MPG: 48.6 on test||C02 emissions: 117g/lkm|
|Bik rating: 25 %, £160FY, £140SR||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|
|Sizes: L 4.53m, W 2.13m, H 1.54m||Boot: 465 litres bootspace Kerb weight: 1,540kg|
|For: Comfortable seats, good economy, roomy, smooth powertrain|
Against: Very poor visibility, stiff ride, oppressive interior, bulky handling.