Following its split from Citroen, DS is now a premium brand in its own right. To mark the occasion, it launched the DS 5 – a car designed to add a touch of class to everyday motoring. But is it as iconic as its predecessor of the 1960s? To find out, we took the new DS 5 and the classic DS for a spin.

Creating a car that’s an icon is a tricky thing to do. It’s something completely unplanned and designers can only hope their vision will capture the hearts of the people.

The original Citroen DS is a true icon of style and technology and choosing to use its name on a modern car was a bold choice. When Citroen first decided to give a three-door hatchback the Goddess’s title, many purists were shocked. Unlike the Mini and the Fiat 500 that have similarly been resurrected in recent years, though, the Citroen DS doesn’t really look like the original DS at all, in any way, shape or form.

Talking to the newly-created DS team, split from Citroen UK, it’s not necessarily about looks, it’s all about the spirit of the car. We decided to test whether Citroen had successfully transferred this spirit by twin-testing two of their cars. One, a 1961 Citroen DS ID19, lovingly cared for over the past 53 years by various owners. Despite appearing huge and robust, it is actually quite delicate with its various Bakelite switches, vaguely secured windows and a fibreglass roof. The second, a 64-plate DS5 Hybrid. A family car much the same with a luxurious, modern interior and some of the latest nifty Citroen tech. But it’s not a car that snatches your heart at first glance.

The DS range, which has proved itself as a strong competitor in the UK car market, is breaking away into its own premium brand and trying to cling to more of the old-school luxury seen in the older models. When the brand-new DS5 reaches showrooms later this year, it will be the first to lose all Citroen branding from its panels. No longer will it bear the chevrons on its bonnet, windows or wheels – from here on out, it’s all about d?esse.

It’s coming up to 100 years of Citroen and 2015 marks 60 years since the first DS was built, a poignant time for the brand to undergo such a drastic shake-up. Like Toyota and Nissan, Citroen – or, in fact, PSA, who own the French carmaker – are making their business threefold, Peugeot, Citroen and DS.

“The global strategy, which is PSA’s long-term strategy, is to have three brands and this clear idea about launching and creating a DS dedicated brand,” explained PSA Peugeot Citroen UK deputy director general and DS brand development director Arnaud Leclerc. “We want, like all the other groups, to move into the premium product brand. We want to have a dedicated premium brand.”

This wasn’t what the company set out to do when the DS 3 was first launched in 2010, but it’s gone from strength to strength. We put in a lot of calls to many Citroen dealers and every single one was singling long and loud about the success of this three-door hatch that has been outselling every other car in their showrooms.

Paul Burtoft, dealer principal at Auto World Chesterfield, was our first call and he raved about the car, which was outselling all others: “The DS 3 is our top-selling car. We probably sell two DS 3s for every other car, sometimes even three. It’s so well supported and quite a deal. We also do a lot of personalisation for people, whether that’s a different-coloured roof or something else – we’ve even had some people want to have images of their dog printed on the roof.”

Author: Rebecca Chaplin 

Photos: Jonathan Fleetwood

Sophie Williamson Stothert


September 11, 2015