ROAD TEST: Citroën DS5 THP 200 Sport
When Citroën revealed the DS19 at the Paris Motor Show back in 1955 it must have looked like a spacecraft that had just hovered in from Mars. In fact, renowned philosopher Roland Barthes went as far as calling it "the car that fell from the sky."
Performance is brisk, but at this price level we would have expected a better chassis.
With its radically aerodynamic shape and a technological entourage that included hydropneumatic suspension and fully hydraulic steering, the "Goddess" (as it became known) seemed light years ahead of its time.
Keen to capitalize on a somewhat legendary nameplate, Citroën revived the DS logo three years ago with the DS3 hatch and the range has since expanded to include the more practical DS4 and the DS5 that you see here.
Bold move, because using a name like DS can create much expectation.
One could overlook that when speaking about the DS3, a pocket rocket that competes with the Mini and Alfa Mito. But when a car like the DS5 comes along with its bigger size and premium positioning, that air of DS expectation starts to blow in again.
No fret, because the DS5 is a very charming car.
Granted, it hasn't exactly wowed the world like the DS19 did, nor has it sent any famous philosophers into an essay-writing frenzy, but it is a distinctive design that proves Citroën is starting to find its quirky side again.
Classy, well-made and futuristic are the words that come to mind as I recall the interior. It's literally brimming with charismatic little touches like the "watchstrap" design on the Bavarian leather seats and the LED lighting system that lights the cabin up gradually.
You'll find plenty of buttons in here, too many perhaps, and some are even located on an aircraft-style overhead console.
The THP 200 Sport featured here is lavishly equipped and even items like a reverse camera and full colour heads-up display have made it past the standard kit bean counters.
Another interesting standard feature is its three separate coverable sunroofs, meaning the driver and passenger each have their own and the rear seat passengers share one.
Premium gadgets like lane departure warning and automatic high beam assist are also on offer, but you'll have to tick the options list for these.
It's just a pity that for a car so big on details, they couldn't have added something as simple and useful as an extendable sun visor. Even a Kia Cerato has one of these.
As for the DS5's functionality, it is roomy enough to serve as a family car but it's not particularly spacious for a vehicle in this class and the boot size is also rather average, measuring 468 litres. Of big concern, though, is that the spare tyre has been replaced by a puncture repair kit.
So far the DS5 has impressed with its quirky style inside and out, yet I can't delve into any driving impressions without first mentioning what I feel is this car's Achilles' heel.
You see, rather fittingly, the DS19 that fell from the sky also rode as if it was wafting over the clouds, thanks to its hydropneumatic suspension.
Given that the DS5 looks a lot more like a cruiser than a sports sedan, one would expect the DS5, 57 years later, to at least have something vaguely resembling a cushy ride quality. Especially since the modern C5 sedan has the latest version of Citroën's hydraulic magic carpet, now known as Hydractive suspension.
This is where Citroën has cut some corners by building the DS5 around a stretched version of the C4's platform and with, wait for it, a torsion beam rear suspension system like you get on cheaper small cars.
It's hardly "tailored for driving pleasure" as the press release states.
The ride quality is relatively firm on all but the smoothest surfaces and while not necessarily uncomfortable, it's certainly not as cushy as I'd expect at this level - unless we were talking of a sporty car.
Yes, the Citroën has a set of flashy diamond-effect 18-inch wheels and it grips well enough through tight bends, but it's no sports sedan and no match for the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 that it competes with on price. The steering is also lacking a little in the sensation stakes.
Performance from the 147kW/275Nm 1.6-litre turbopetrol engine is satisfyingly brisk, though, and at Gauteng altitudes it dashed from 0-100km/h in a decent-enough 8.6 seconds. Power is channelled through a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox and if you want an automatic gearbox then you have to opt for the 115kW version of this engine.
Don't get me wrong, the DS5 is a highly distinctive and loveable car that'll generally leave you feeling like a million bucks. But with a price tag that nudges just past the 400k mark, I'd expect a more substantial chassis underneath me.
Given this car's classy appeal, it would have made a great cruiser and Citroën's existing Hydractive suspension would have suited it perfectly. In fact, at this price I would have expected it.
Citroën DS5 THP 200 Sport - R403 900
3-year/100 000km warranty
5-year/100 000km service plan