Road Test: Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 DStyle
If ever you find yourself down the pub, debating whether or not cars can be considered a form of art (I know, I know, not again) then wait for everyone to exhaust their arguments and throw in the hand grenade that is the Citroen DS5 Hybrid4.
The car’s combination of looks (stunning enough that you’d seriously consider buying one just to be able to look at it every day) and technology (cutting edge diesel hybrid drivetrain) mean that it walks so deftly the line between art and science that everyone will have to re-set their arguments back to zero.
Which is not to say that it’s perfect. The DS5, as a whole, suffers from two significant issues. One – its ride quality is just too harsh and jittery for it to ever truly live up to its luxury billing (especially in an era when the formerly-rough-riding BMW 3 Series now glides over obstacles like a limo). Two – it’s a Citroen.
Now, I count myself as a true fan of the great French marque, a Citroenista if you will, but the harsh fact of the market is that, against the German ‘Big Three’, Citroen is a brand with a lot to prove in the premium segment.
This DS5 Hybrid4 is bringing some seriously cutting edge technology to the party, though, and that might just be enough to allow it to jam a foot in the door. Up front lies Citroen’s familiar 163bhp 2.0-litre HDI diesel engine, which is, and always has been, a very fine unit. Behind, under the boot floor, lies a 37bhp electric motor, driving the rear wheels and fed by a stack of rechargeable batteries.
We’ve become used to hybrids ever since Toyota introduced the Prius, but the DS5 (along with its cousin, the Peugeot 3008 Hy4) is the first to tie the potential fuel savings of battery power to an already frugal, low-emission diesel engine.
The result is mostly rather pleasing. There’s a rotary control switch that watches over the hybrid system mounted between the front seats. Leave it set in ‘auto’, and the computer will effortlessly shuffle around power from the diesel, the batteries or both as needed. Keep an eye on the fighter-jet-style heads-up-display, which projects ghostly speed and sat-nav information onto the windscreen, and you’ll notice the frequency with which the speed figure turns a light blue, meaning that you’re running on pure electric power.
Flick the controller around to ‘sport’, and suddenly you remember that 200bhp is still quite a lot of grunt, even in a car weighing a not inconsiderable 1,800kg. Now the DS5 feels very fleet of foot indeed, and what other car can you think of that can combine 99g/km Co2 emissions (depending on which wheels you specify) with an 8.3-sec 0-100kmh time?
All of that is being done while you recline in a sumptuously comfortable seat, with optional leather trim that mimics the shape of a high-end watch strap, surrounded by a battery of instruments and buttons that make you feel like you’re the pilot of a rather avant-garde jet fighter. An F-15 by Hermés, if you like.
Sadly, there are still a few flies in this otherwise lovely ointment. The ride quality, although better than in other versions of the DS5 we’ve driven, is still too harsh-edged and you really need to keep to perfectly smooth roads for the DS5 to feel at its best. Fuel economy isn’t as god as advertised either; Citroen claims that you can hit just 3.8-litres per 100km on the combined cycle (a massive 74mpg) but we could only manage a test average of around 6.5-litres per 100km (43mpg). It’s so often the case that hybrid cars are never as economical in real world driving as they claim to be, but it’s disappointing that Citroen’s combining hybrid with diesel couldn’t liberate any extra efficiency.
Still, while the DS5 has to climb the steep hills of being too thirsty, too rough-riding and too French in a corner of the market that only seems to want German, the fact that it does so is testament to two things. On the one hand, its quality and technology are right up there with the Germans. On the other, it is a truly beautiful car and, in a world that seems to be a touch uglier every day, that’s a beauty that would be most welcome on the streets of Ireland.
Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 200 Airdream DStyle
Price as tested: €43,645
Price range: €33,195 to €46,695
Capacity: 1,997cc + hybrid battery drivetrain
Top speed: 210kmh
Economy: 3.8l-100km (73mpg)
CO2 emissions: 99g/km (on 17” wheels)
Road Tax Band: A. €160
Euro NCAP rating: 5-star; 89% adult, 83% child, 40% pedestrian, 97% safety assist