Green choice: Citroen DS5 2.0 HDi Hybrid4 road test

  • Top-spec DS5 with diesel-electric hybrid power
  • Ultramodern and attractive design inside and out
  • Crashy ride and slow gearbox spoil the experience

The Citroen DS5 is a curious car. It’s the top model in Citroen’s DS range, which is a collection of models with a more upmarket feel and more exciting styling than the rest of the Citroen line-up. In Hybrid4 guise it has green credentials to go with its futuristic looks.

It sits alongside two other DS models, the modish DS3 (based on the C3 hatchback) and the slightly larger and taller DS4 (based on the C4). On this basis you might naturally assume that the DS5 is based on the luxurious C5 saloon. In actuality, it’s based on an extended version of the C4’s platform and its appearance is an unusual blend of hatchback, coupé and estate.

The result is a car that’s genuinely interesting to look at, both inside and out. Here we’ve driven the top-specification Citroen DS5 available: the DSport 200 Airdream with the high-tech diesel-electric Hybrid4 system.

Hybrid powertrain

This combines a 160bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine to power the front wheels with a 40bhp electric motor driving the rear axle. A rotary control on the centre console allows the driver to swap between four different driving modes, from a low-speed all-electric mode using just the rear wheels to a ‘Sport’ mode which uses the electric motor to supplement power from the diesel engine for an extra turn of pace.

Handily for icy weather, it’s also possible to put the car in a four-wheel drive mode for low speeds and drive the front and rear wheels together.

Citroen claims average fuel consumption of 74mpg. As a DSport version (the highest of the three DS5 trims available) our test car had 18-inch wheels which nudge CO2 emissions over the 100g/km mark. Lower-spec versions with 17-inch alloys emit just 91g/km, meaning zero-cost road tax.

Jerky transmission

On the road, progress isn’t always as serene as you might hope since the diesel engine can be a little noisy when made to work hard and the automated gearbox is frustratingly slow and jerky, making smooth driving a challenge.

Of the driving modes, the Auto setting (which transitions automatically between the electric motor and engine as required) is the default choice. The Sport mode is a little all-or-nothing in its power delivery and serves to make the gearchanges jerkier than ever, so it’s best used when overtaking rather than for general driving.

The electric motor-only driving mode isn’t available when the air-conditioning fan is being used heavily, and with the heater working hard in the freezing January test conditions this was frequently the case.

Firm ride

Big Citroens traditionally have a cosseting ride, but sadly the DS5 doesn’t live up to expectations in this respect. While it’s very comfortable on smooth roads and dual carriageways, lumpy surfaces send shockwaves through the car and potholes are something to be avoided at all costs.

The firm ride doesn’t mean it feels sporting either as the DS5’s bulk and rather wooden steering doesn’t inspire confidence on twisty roads. It feels most at home playing the role of motorway cruiser, where it becomes a quiet, relaxing machine.

Overly firm suspension aside, the DS5 is a comfortable piece of kit. Our test car featured the optional Club Leather upholstery pack, and its electrically-adjustable heated seats looked classy and were enormously comfy.

Exciting interior

The cabin itself is an interesting place to be with a real sense of occasion. There are aviation design cues throughout such as a bank of jet-liner style roof-mounted switches and the roof is split into individual sunroof segments for front and rear occupants.

There’s also a very effective head-up display system, which projects the car’s speed and sat-nav directions onto a thin slab of glass above the instrument panel and helps the driver keep their eyes on the road.

As the top derivative in the DS5 range, the Hybrid4 DSport is the most expensive at £32,200 although you can pick up the same Hybrid4 setup in the lower-spec DStyle and DSign trims at £30,100 and £27,600 respectively.

Citroen claims impressive fuel economy figures for the car – an average of 74mpg for the DSport tested here and over 80mpg for the DSign trim version of the same car. However, over a journey of around 40 miles in cold weather on a mix of rural and urban roads, using a combination of the four driving modes, the trip computer returned an indicated fuel consumption figure of less than 40mpg.

Characterful but flawed

Overall the Citroen DS5 is a likeable car which is genuinely different to look at – in a good way – with lots of equipment and an interior that feels special. But its crashy ride, jerky gearbox and clumsy handling ultimately make it a difficult car to recommend.

Having said that, it has bags more character than many of its rivals and if you can live with its foibles, it’s an intriguing machine.


Also Consider:

Peugeot 508 RXH

Peugeot’s top estate uses the same hybrid powertrain as the DS5 Hybrid4, although it’s aimed at a slightly different market with an emphasis on practicality. It uses a very similar automated transmission.

BMW 3 Series ActiveHybrid 3

BMW’s mid-sized saloon can be had in hybrid form too, using a petrol engine rather than a diesel. It’s far more expensive than the DS5 Hybrid4: even the basic SE version costs more than £40k.

Volkswagen Passat

It’s not the most exciting machine, but the VW Passat does everything very well. Although it’s nowhere near as interesting as the DS5 to look at, sit in or operate, it’s the better car, from a rational standpoint at least.