PSA Peugeot-Citroen wants to show the world that the French still know a thing or two about automotive luxury with its upmarket new DS brand.
WHAT IS IT?
An extensive facelift of Citroen’s unconventional DS 5 ‘liftback’ that hit Aussie showrooms in 2013, except it’s no longer badged a Citroen – simply a DS 5. That means it’s quirky on the outside and high-tech on the inside, but misses out on Citroen’s signature ‘Hydractive’ suspension that underpins the C5 sedan and wagon.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
DS is now a stand-alone premium brand, specifically targeted at Audi. PSA admits it needs the profits generated by a premium brand if it is to survive. By 2020, DS plans six global models: the replacements for today's Citroen-badged DS3, DS4 and DS5, plus two DS SUVs and a DS 9 sedan. Australia's Citroen dealers will offer dedicated DS areas in their showrooms, starting from a brand launch in early 2016 built around the facelifted DS 5, DS 4 and DS 3. It’s a massive task: year-to-date (end of June), DS sold just 126 cars (Audi 11,343) in Australia. DS models won’t use bespoke platforms but will rely on unique styling, advanced technologies and personalisation to compete.
Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI, BMW 320d Gran Turismo, Honda Accord Sport Hybrid, Jaguar XE 20d Prestige, Lexus IS300h F-Sport, Mercedes-Benz C250 BlueTec, Peugeot 508 GT HDi, Volkswagen CC TDI, Volvo S60 D4 Luxury.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Unusual and interesting enough to appeal, backed by great seats, loads of technology and brilliant economy. But DS’s first attempt at a premium car doesn’t ride well enough, or sound refined enough, to truly channel the iconic Citroen DS that inspired it.
Plus: Unique Citroen-esque styling; generous equipment; $10K less than its chief German competition; strangely desirable
Minus: Restless ride quality; vocal diesel; restricted rear headroom and visibility
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THIS is not a Citroen. You won’t find the Citroen nameplate or the famous double chevrons on the new DS 5. It’s the first model to be sold as a DS, PSA’s new upmarket brand positioned above Citroen and Peugeot.
DS executives acknowledge that establishing a ‘premium brand’ aimed at Audi is going to take much time and lots of money. More, it admits, than a facelifted version of an old Citroen model with a large chrome grille, swivelling LED headlights and a new name, which is what the new DS 5 represents.
The dramatically styled DS 5 mixes elements of a high-roof hatchback, or station wagon, with a coupe profile, so it’s a real crossover and, true to French form, utterly unconventional without any obvious rivals. The interior is just as imaginative and feels expensive, with clever use of materials and design details, and loads of equipment. The facelift brings a new touchscreen that takes care of so many controls there are 12 fewer buttons. Excellent seats do their best to disguise the suspension’s failings. One shortcoming of the concept-car styling is poor visibility, especially to the rear with its shallow screen and thick pillars.
When the DS 5 arrives in Australia early next year there’ll be just one version, the upgraded 133kW Blue HDi turbo-diesel, attached to PSA’s brilliant new EAT6 six-speed automatic that’s sourced from Aisin. Performance is acceptable – 0-100km/h takes 9.2 seconds – economy is exceptional and refinement superb when cruising. Yet at suburban speeds, there is no denying the DS 5 is a diesel.
According to the hype, the three main prongs of the DS brand are design, comfort and technology. The DS 5 passes on design and technology, but fails on comfort. It doesn’t help that it’s based on the same ageing platform as the DS4, Citroen C4 hatch and Peugeot 3008, and not the C5. That means a torsion-beam axle rather than a multi-link rear suspension, let alone Citroen’s Hydractive suspension. You can forget about the soft, cushioning ride of previous big Citroens; the DS 5 is fidgety and overly firm, despite new dampers that are claimed to significantly improve the ride quality. Massive 235/45R18 Michelins don’t help the cause. But steering that’s quick and delivers old-fashioned feel as the front end begins to push is welcome.
DS management knows the DS 5 is an interim model until genuinely new (and more refined) DS cars arrive in 2018. Yet somehow, despite the obvious limitations, the DS 5’s very uniqueness still makes it desirable.
Model: DS 5 Blue HDi
Engine: 1997cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo-diesel
Max power: 133kW @ 3750rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1540kg
0-100km/h: 9.2sec (claimed)
Economy: 4.4L/100km (EU combined)
Price: $60,000 (estimated)
On sale: Early 2016
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