It’s rare that I get behind the wheel of a new car that I can’t easily categorise. And just to be clear, we’re not talking about the use of a secret design language foreign to the average man or woman on the street – I’m thinking sedan, coupé, SUV… You get the idea.
And yet, how to define Citroën’s new DS5 Sport Chic? Dimensionally, it could be a hatchback, or possibly a mid-size people-mover. It rides almost as high as some of the smaller SUVs, and yet to look at it, you would swear it was no taller than an average sedan. One thing is certain though – the DS5 is a stunning-looking vehicle.
Citroën has always been design-focused. Depending on your point of view, a Citroën can be ‘ahead of its time’, quirky or just plain ugly, and reaction to offerings in recent times has been, bluntly, mixed. Yet a recent crop of new models is turning heads again, and the DS5 could well be the pick.
There’s a lot going on, from the chrome accents that swoop from the bonnet right to the side mirrors, to the long, sloping roofline that curves and tapers majestically at the rear of the car. In less skilled hands, it might have looked busy or just plain brash. But the Citroën has the design language just about perfect. From virtually every angle, it really is something to feast your eyes upon.
Given the way it looks on the outside, you could expect to be disappointed by the inside. Not so. If anything, the interior is even more special. The passenger space is a touch compact, but has the appeal of feeling entirely passenger-centred. The beautifully upholstered leather seats mould themselves to the driver and passenger: hands, meanwhile, run over the stylish wheel, and are drawn to the many buttons that adorn the centre console, roof lining and high-riding central transmission tunnel. Rather than feel overwhelming, it could be a make-believe command centre where all your coolest science-fiction fantasies become a reality. Truly.
At this point, you could well be asking – is the Citroën’s appeal more than skin-deep? Is there substance beneath the surface, in other words? Yes, is the short answer. There are two power plants on offer: a 1.6‑litre turbo petrol, or a 2‑litre 120kW turbo diesel that serves up a serious helping of torque. While I can’t speak for the petrol variant, the diesel, mated to a modern six-speed automatic transmission, is highly responsive and ensures the Citroën is as much go as show. The DS5 will dispense with the 0–100km/h dash in around 8.5 seconds, but it’s in the mid-range space that the engine will really impress. Less positive is the engine note, which is a little on the crude side – not unusual in a diesel, but certainly less than welcome on a car that promises so much.
Given Citroën’s heritage, you might expect a pillow-like ride from the DS5, but it has sport in its title for a reason. The firm suspension Citroën have opted for makes sense when it comes to handling, but it can jar on certain surfaces. Likewise, while it feels pretty well controlled when negotiating more challenging roads, the DS5 – with its torsion-beam rear-suspension set-up – doesn’t feel quite as composed as, say, a smaller, more focused hatch might.
While the DS5 might not push all your buttons dynamically, the generous specification levels certainly act as a welcome distraction. There is virtually nothing lacking from a standard kit point of view. Satellite navigation, glass roof with electric blinds, nifty heads-up display for the driver, leather upholstery, climate air-conditioning and reversing camera, not to mention magnificent-looking 18-inch wheels – the list is seemingly endless. At around $62,900 for the diesel, the DS5 offers an interesting proposition indeed. There are some areas for improvement, but for those who can look past these, the rewards are impressive. After all, who doesn’t want to drive a great-looking car?[warning]
Model reviewed: Citroën DS5 Sport Chic diesel
Fuel economy: 5.9 L/100km combined cycle (manufacturer’s figures)
0–100km/h: 8.5 seconds
Overall: Finally, a great-looking new Citroën. More importantly, it offers a real alternative to more established Europeans, offering great looks and more than a touch of the unusual