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Hybrid shows some joie d'esprit

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: October 18, 2012

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Citroen's avant garde DS5 is the most versatile, the most powerful and the cleverest of the French brand's desirable range of sporting DS models.

Bringing together elements of everything modern family motorists seem to like – Crossover, coupe, family hatchback and sports estate – it's an intriguing package that really does seem to offer something just that little bit different if you were about to opt for just another Mondeo-sized medium range model or German compact executive saloon. Especially if you opt for a version with frugal hybrid power.

Under the bonnet of this clever HYbrid4 model, you'll find a layout that combines a 163bhp HDi diesel engine driving the front wheels with a 37bhp electric motor that powers those at the rear making this, in theory at least, a four wheel drive machine. Like virtually all hybrids, this one comes only with an automatic gearbox, with a set of steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles should you wish to take control yourself.

With a combined output of 200bhp and a combined 450Nm of torque, 200Nm of it from the electric motor, you'll be expecting this particular DS5 to be pretty rapid. But if you are, then you're failing to take account of the 150kg weight penalty.

That's equivalent to the weight of a couple of extra passengers and it explains why this car is effectively no faster than an ordinary HDi 160 diesel variant with 40bhp less: rest to sixty takes 8.3s on the way to 131mph.

You'll need to be in 'Sport' mode with its quick gear shifts and active 4WD to be going this quickly, this one of four driving settings available via the circular controller down here where the handbrake would normally be, were that function not taken care of by this rather fiddly electronic handbrake button.

Back in 1955 when the original DS was launched, those two letters were a play on the French word deesse, or 'goddess'. They designated automotive beauty, again delivered here in a form that Citroen describe as 'moving sculpture'. That balance between fluidity and tension, compactness and space, efficiency, boldness and elegance.

Whatever else a Citroen might be, it ought to look, to drive – to feel – different. Cars of that kind established the French brand: the Traction Avant, the SM and, most of all, the DS. Cars of a sort we've seen little enough of from the marque in modern times. Until its owners PSA finally allowed Citroen to be Citroen again with a line-up of sporting DS models that have breathed fresh life into the franchise. The DS3 and the DS4 began the story. This DS5 won't complete it, but it's easily the most intriguing of the trio, especially with HYbrid4 power, an exquisite hi-tech feel matched to distinctive style, luxury and comfort. In thirty years times when Mondeos and Audi A4s are rusting in scrapyards, there'll be owners clubs for models like this one.

If that means nothing to you, then you probably won't get the point of the passion, the care and the sheer charisma that make this car what it is. It isn't perfect, with standards of both ride and handling that can't approach the class leaders. But the really memorable Citroen models of the past never were perfect. Greatness rarely is. And make no mistake, this car is a great step forward for a brand that has at last rediscovered itself, found that different spirit. And not before time.

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