Many car manufacturers are resorting to hybrid petrol-electric and diesel-electric technology as a way to slash the fuel consumption of their cars. One of the latest to jump on the bandwagon is Citroen with its DS5 Hybrid4.
Though Toyota and sister-brand Lexus have been selling hybrids for 18 years, the DS5 Hybrid4 is Citroen’s first attempt – mating a 2.0-litre diesel engine with an electric motor for added power and improved economy.
Unlike many of the more recent hybrids, the Hybrid4 cannot be plugged into the mains to top up the batteries and instead relies on the diesel engine to provide the batteries with charge.
Rivals for this DS5 include the petrol-electric Toyota Prius and Lexus IS300h along with the plug-in Vauxhall Ampera and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
What is it?
The Citroen DS5 is the French company’s flagship machine, with prices rising to more than £34,000. Citroen may be known for big discounts and affordable cars, but the DS5 Hybrid4 has been designed to take on premium German rivals, according to Citroen.
This large five-seater hatchback boasts striking contemporary styling along with a plush interior. Buyers can choose from petrol, diesel and hybrid power, with three trim levels available – DSign, DStyle and DSport.
We’ve driven the mid-spec Hybrid4 200 DSport, which costs £33,700. Standard equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, sat nav, a heads up display, dual-zone air conditioning and leather upholstery. Also standard are 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
Four diesel engines are available, along with a turbocharged petrol model and the diesel-electric hybrid that we tested.
What is it like to drive?
Citroen may have a reputation for making cars that prioritise comfort over handling but the DS5 is not one of them. Even after a minute behind the wheel the DS5 feels slightly uncomfortable, with a jarring ride that magnifies every bump in the road – and seats that don’t live up to their plump looks. Despite the unyielding firmness of the suspension, the DS5 doesn’t provide any payback in the corners; an equivalent BMW or Ford would provide sharper handling as well as higher comfort levels.
The first thing you notice behind the wheel, though, is the crudeness of the diesel-electric hybrid tech. The car often pulls away on electric power alone to around 10mph, at which point the noisy diesel engine splutters into life. The ‘robotised manual’ gearbox also seems to take much longer to change gear and feels more jerky than the ‘CVT’ units in hybrids from Toyota or traditional automatic gearboxes in rivals from BMW or Audi.
Head for the open road and the ride remains overly firm, while the diesel-electric combo feels unresponsive, with the dimwitted gearbox taking several moments to respond to your right foot. Citroen may claim that this car can accelerate to 62mph in a brisk 8.3 seconds, but we’d be staggered if you could achieve this figure in reality; it often feels overtly slow for a car of this price.
With mediocre visibility the DS5 can feel unwieldy on the road too and allied with steering which doesn’t provide much feedback, this is not a car for keen drivers. Even on the smoothest Tarmac the suspension never really settles either.
What is it like inside?
The DS5 has a striking interior with an oversized transmission tunnel and, in our test car, attention-grabbing red leather seats. While the leather feels tactile and high quality, the rest of the interior fails to live up to the standard of premium German rivals.
The layout of controls is also baffling – the button to hide the heads-up display is unfathomably located on the roof, while the smattering of small nondescript buttons on the dash are hard to navigate on the move. The recessed screen for the sat nav also can’t compete with rivals from BMW, for instance, with garish colours and dated onscreen menus.
We found the dials unattractive too, with a smattering of analogue and digital readouts and red and blue details to show what the batteries are doing. Meanwhile, the oval steering wheel is particularly flat-bottomed, which can prove very irritating when negotiating bends.
Is it practical?
The DS5 is a large car, though this doesn’t really show on the inside. There is adequate room for those in the front seats, though the rear seats can only comfortable accommodate those around five foot 10 and under, with limited headroom and not much foot space either. The nearly flat floor in the rear does mean that there is sufficient leg room for a fifth passenger, though headroom is even more limited in the middle.
The boot is reasonably large, though quite shallow, although there is a useful storage area underneath the boot floor. Due to the DS5’s shape, it is hard to estimate the extremities of the car. The front and rear parking sensors, along with the reversing camera on our model proved very useful.
Should I buy one?
No. The DS5 Hybrid4 is not comfortable enough, has a dimwitted hybrid transmission, which makes it feel slow and unresponsive on the road, fell far short of its claimed fuel economy during our test and comes with a hefty price premium over its petrol and diesel siblings. Expensive Citroen models are also notorious for losing money very quickly once driven off the forecourt.
Those who have fallen for the DS5’s exterior styling or quirky interior would be better served with the cheaper HDi 160 model, while a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, Audi A5 Sportback would be a much wiser all-round purchase. While Citroen has been brave with the styling of its most upmarket model, it has tripped up on too many of the engineering basics to make the DS5 worth consideration for all but the most ardent Citroen fans.
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Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 200 DSport
List price: £33,700
Engine: 2.0-litre, four cylinder diesel, electric motor
Top speed: 131mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg (urban), 70.6mpg (extra-urban) 72.4mpg (combined)
Emissions: 102g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five stars