Citroën DS5: Turning Heads Since 2011

The Citroen DS5 isn’t new for 2014, as it was unveiled back in November 2011 for Europe, but considering the marque’s variant change history, you can expect the current variant to remain unchanged for at least the next three years. (click to enlarge)

When it comes to the French, everything bearing the mark of the country of love and romance has to somehow bear some semblance to the artistic flair of its countrymen. Citroën is one such company that has had such a colorful career in the automotive industry, creating many iconic variants in its long history of car-making. Who can forget the quirky but piquant Citroën 2CV from the 50’s, that looked more like a service vehicle for WWII than a basic people mover which it was originally built for? And if you’ve ever watched Roger Moore’s James Bond in “For Your Eyes Only” you’d remember the feisty yellow 2CV featured in the movie. Also, don’t quote us but our writer has this niggling feeling that the Citroën DS 21 had something to do with the design of Darth Vader’s iconic helmet. In the not so recent past, car enthusiasts were ecstatic over the chic and sporty Citroën ZX, which, with its simple 2.0-liter SOHC 8-valve engine, managed to let the ZX (manual) clear the century sprint in around 9s, which was plenty fast for a family hatch back in the day. And lest we forget, many iconic variants from the Citroën stables have graced our roads for years, namely the BX, Xantia, Xsara, C4 Picasso etc.

Alas, in this country, those who chose the brand for its innovation and quirkiness factor had to pay a huge price, for over the years Citroën has had the misfortune of being known as one of those brands that many would love to own and drive but few know how to repair or afford to maintain. To own a Citroën, you’d have to be relatively well to do with another car as your daily commute that was reliable, sitting in the garage. Well-loved pre-owned Citroëns were freely available at bargain prices for those who didn’t mind taking the time and resources to learn how to properly maintain one. The fact that the dealership changed hands every now and then, added to the woes of owners and put off many would be owners. Can we blame them? After all, with the stiff price penalty imposed on those who don’t support the national car project, it’s rather hard to find that true blue fanatic with coin to spare to take a Citroën home.

All that’s about to change, with Naza Euro Motors Sdn Bhd at the helm of the marque. To successfully market a brand, one does not only need deep pockets but an acute knowledge of how the automotive industry in this country works. These days, marketing savvy takes precedence over technology, hype replaces engineering with the current breed of car buyers. Please don’t get us wrong, there is nothing wrong with this scenario at the moment, but as a marketer, if you do not see the trend unfolding before your very eyes, it doesn’t matter if you have the best car with top drawer design and engineering; if you don’t know how to present the car to your audience, you might as well take those marketing ringgits and flush them down the sewer. Past stewards of the brand in this country from the last few decades did not do enough to market the brand; what happened to headlining challenges like that of trying to overturn a ZX to win a prize?

Citroen DS5: A Head Turner, everywhere you go

Now that the writer has gotten all that out of the introduction box, it’s time to take a look at what the DS5 is all about. The DS5 isn’t new for 2014, as it was unveiled back in November 2011 for Europe, but considering the marque’s variant change history, you can expect the current variant to remain unchanged for at least the next three years. The DS5 is the third variant that was launched under Citroën’s premium sub-brand DS, to denote its luxury underpinnings and is in fact a C-segment contender, fashioned with a mix of hatch and shooting brake styling cues. It is one of the most visually stunning variants from Citroën, or from any other maker, to grace the local streets with a decent price tag of only RM188,888.00 on the road for private registration. From every angle, the DS5 shouts premium to the beholder. Throughout the two days that the reviewer had the car, it didn’t fail to turn heads at every junction that he’d stopped at. There is no mistaking it, the DS5 is indeed a looker no matter where you bring it to. White (Citroën calls it Blanc Nacré) goes really well with this car as it allows you to appreciate every bit of trim on its sporty body.

From the front, the unmistakable chromed double chevrons that make up the corporate emblem of the brand sets the tone of the car’s fascia, giving the DS5 a persona of a powerful cat ready to strike at the slightest provocation. Two long, chromed strips start from the base of the A pillars and truncate at the inner tips of the headlights, which when viewed from the front looks like a pair of menacing eyebrows, adding to the take-no-prisoners demeanor of the car. The frontal air dam is a split affair, framed by the imposing front bumper which serves to break up an otherwise oversized ‘mouth’ which could make it resemble another French make under the PSA umbrella. A large C-shaped black colored indent on either side houses the front blinkers and fog lamps, complementing the overall fascia of the DS5 and giving it that premium, racy look that goes really well when set against white.

The writer mentioned shooting brake in an earlier para. Well, just take a look at this baby’s front quarter profile and you will know what he means. If not for the rear door handle the DS5 would really look like a two-door sports coupe wagon ala shooting brake. From the imposing frontal design that draws your eyes to the B-pillars and on towards the sloping roof and truncated C-pillars, this machine is a pure feast for the eyes. The 18-inch Canaveral alloy wheels with black gloss diamond-effect wrapped in low-profile Continental ContiSportContact 3 rubbers (235/45 R18) fill up the tyre wells perfectly with just enough clearance for bumpy roads but nothing more. The wheel arches wrap around the wheel, following the contours of the wheels perfectly until the very tips, which is rather unusual but aesthetically pleasing, as if the car came with a custom body kit (which it doesn’t, and doesn’t need anyway).

Around the rear, two large gum drops make up the tail lamp combo of the DS5, and in my opinion, complement the front of the car very well. The entire design deserves praise as there is a genuine cohesiveness about it. Again, it is worth mentioning that the tail lights look great, but especially so when set off against a white body. Twin chromed trapezoidal tail pipes set against a glossy black lower lip of the rear bumper stand out really well and again, Citroën designers paid careful attention to make use of contrasting colors to show off every bit of kit and curves of the DS5. It might seem that the writer has dedicated too much space to the good looks of the car, but surely anyone who happens to see one on the road will know what he means. All in all, the Citroën DS5 hits the right notes on all counts when it comes to external styling. It looks so good that you don’t need to add anything on it to make it look better, for instance a body kit, spoiler or bumper canards, plus it already has a stonking set of 18-inch wheels so just think of the DS5 as a machine that comes pre-loaded with sportiness from the factory.

Citroen DS5: Entering the Cockpit

Now before anyone accuses our dear reviewer of getting his inspiration from the country’s recent headlines stemming from a certain national aircraft carrier, the writer returned the DS5 way before any of it happened, so any and all references to airplanes has nothing to do with the missing aircraft. He explained: From the moment that he opened the front door and stepped inside the cabin of Flight DS5, the writer was gob smacked to say the least. A quick glance at the door panel revealed a familiar name in the audiophile industry, “Denon”. Nice touch. The seats and interior trim were swathed in “Red Club Leather with bracelet confection”, the kind of leather finishing that one would normally find in ridiculously expensive imported Continentals. The seats look like they were built to last years of use and abuse.

Get behind the gorgeous D-shaped steering wheel and you will be greeted by numerous switches and dials around the wheel, in front of you on the dash, on the center console and another console on the roof chockfull of switches. If you’re a control freak you will surely welcome the layout of the DS5’s cabin which allows you to control a host of features right at your fingertips and all within reach of the driver. There’s a massive moonroof that runs the length and breadth of the car’s roof and is split three ways so there are individual blinds for each zone; driver, front passenger and rear passengers. It stands to reason that as a driver, after a while you might get tired of the moonroof, but new passengers aboard the flight might feel bored, so what better way to entertain them than by letting them open up their individual blinds to stare into the sky as you drive them around, while you, who’ve been exposed to one too many instances of heat stroke on your noggin, prefer to keep the sun out.

There is ample legroom for driver and all 4 passengers as the DS5 is a true 5-seater, but the reviewer couldn’t shake off the feeling of being a little too snug in the driver’s seat due to the earlier mentioned plethora of driver-centric dials and switches surrounding him. Plus, on initial contact he felt that his vision of the road ahead was slightly compromised by the low slung roofline. However, after bearing in mind the shooting brake aspirations of the DS5, our writer began to realize that this car was never meant to be a spacious cruiser but more like an oversized sporty hatch/estate. And oh, there is a built in massager in the driver’s seat, perfect for those long drives from PJ to KL through bumper to bumper traffic. There’s also driver’s seat ventilation and 2 memory presets, along with electric lumbar support adjustment, so there’s every reason to tailor the driver’s seat position and function to your liking. There’s also a pretty neat color HUD (heads-up display) that reveals vital information as you drive, allowing you to keep your eyes focused in front as you drive.

The rest of the cabin feels reassuringly solid and well built, with nary a loose thread hanging about. Build quality levels were as good as you’d expect from a Conti, never mind that certain parts were finished in the country to earn it CKD status and with it a lowering of its asking price that was around the 200k mark in fully imported guise. The audio system consists of a Denon CD RDS MP head unit with 6 speakers to boot. Although its controls are rudimentary, if you’re a serious music lover you will definitely appreciate its minimalist design which puts audio quality above features. True enough, the Denon system managed to impress the writer’s fussy ears, though the crown (in his humble opinion) still belonged to the premium audio system in the Lexus ES, but not by a large margin. The Denon had a very dynamic soundstage, but in terms of warmth and detail those weren’t its strongest suits, preferring to deliver a slightly harsh, albeit accurate tonal representation with clinical precision.

Citroen DS5: Mech Talk

There are no surprises in the motivation department of the Citroën DS5, with the continued usage of the BMW-PSA derived 1.6-liter turbocharged Prince engine, tuned to produce 154bhp @ 6,000rpm and 240Nm of torque at a very early 1,400rpm. Transmission duties are undertaken by a 6-speed slushmatic with torque converter. This combo, harnessed to a body with a kerb weight of only 1,420kg, propels the DS5 to 100km/h in around 9.7s, on to a top speed of 202km/h. Now in terms of performance the DS5 was never intended to be a scorcher. But it is quick enough to get you in and out of traffic without fuss, thanks to the spooling up of the turbo to start the ball rolling as early as 1,400rpm and up. Gear changes are smooth, and the power delivery is adequate and very linear, thanks to the electronically controlled turbocharger that relegates turbo lag to history books forever.

The suspension though, could have been better sprung, and the writer felt a little letdown by the choice of trailing arms at the rear, or in Citroën speak, “Flexible transverse beam”. The front is served well by MacPherson struts and are comfortably damped, but the rears are a mixed bag. Overall ride quality is firm yet supple, but owing to the harsh conditions of daily commuting in this part of the world, the rear dispenses with bumps a little too harshly for his liking. Thankfully, the fronts were more composed, which ironically exposes the trade-offs in the rear setup in order to lengthen the cabin and shorten the overhang. Having said that, cornering was pure joy with the DS5 thanks to the car’s nimble handling on sharp corners and long bends. Part of the reason for this must surely be the choice of Continental CSC3s and 235mm treads fore and aft. In terms of cabin noise, the DS5 lives up to its European heritage, cossetting its occupants with little noise intrusion even up to 140km/h.

Citroën is one of those marques that never fail to impress with every successive generation, in terms of its avant-garde design language and solid build quality. If nobody ever buys a Citroën then the reviewer need say no more, but even with its poor perceived residual value, Citroën manages to impress enough people to garner a loyal following through the generations. Our writer knew a friend who owned a ZX, and though the guy spoke adversely and swore like a woman scorned about ownership costs, when it came to the ride and handling it was always two thumbs up from him. And to quote an acquaintance who used to own an Alfa, when asked if he knew how much value the car would lose, his simple and smug reply was, “I can afford it, can’t you?”. So in the end, owning a Citroën or Volvo or Alfa, is not about residual values but about the joy of driving, and the celebration of man’s achievements in automotive excellence. So, shouldn’t you consider a Citroën DS5 for starters?

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