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Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 green car review

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29 November 2012 by Paul Clarke

Eco Facts

Model/Engine size: Hybrid4 200 Airdream EGS6 DSport

Fuel: Diesel-Electric Hybrid

Fuel economy combined: 68.9mpg (80.7mpg model now available)

Beating Spirit rating: 8/10

Introduction

The Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 DSport has an official combined economy figure of 68.9mpg, along with four-wheel drive capability, and cutting-edge design.

Summary

• Citroen has made a real effort with the design – on the outside, and with the spaceship-like interior

• High official fuel economy and low emission figures

• Difficult to achieve official combined fuel economy in real-life

• Lots of complex and heavy technology needed to achieve low emissions

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Background

Peugeot has already introduced diesel-hybrid technology in the form of the 3008 HYbrid4 , 508 Saloon HYbrid4 and 508 RXH ; now it’s Citroen’s turn with the upmarket five-door, five-seat DS5 hatchback. The DS5 is the third model in the DS-line-up, in addition to the DS3 and DS4.

Design & Engineering

Citroen has made a real effort with the design of the DS5, on the inside and the outside. Although the DS5 is basically a hatchback, it’s designed to look like a low, sporty crossover, with a number of interesting styling features.

Inside there are even more elements where the designers have been allowed to run riot, ranging from the curved switches for items such as the windows, to the aircraft-style controls running down the centre of the ceiling, including two compartments for sunglasses. Yet down below in the centre console there’s nowhere to put items such as your mobile phone or a drink – even though there seems to be enough space on top, and underneath there’s a huge 13-litre storage area.

The DS5 is well-equipped and has lots of controls on the dashboard – it all looks very impressive, if slightly overwhelming. There’s even a head-up display and reversing camera. The materials also feel high quality and the doors shut with a quality sound.

The DS5’s satnav system seems difficult to display a map without keying in a destination, and the control for the satnav would benefit from having a home and/or a back button.

Mechanically the Citroen shares the same hybrid technology with Peugeot, so there’s a 2.0-litre diesel engine up front with an electric motor in the rear axle, and the idea is that both power units work together to provide optimum efficiency – just like the petrol-hybrid powertrain in the Toyota Prius, but this time with the diesel-based system theoretically providing better economy on longer journeys.

One impact of the hybrid components is that the boot floor is raised, which eats into the luggage space – although we did still manage to fit two mountain bikes in the back (with front wheels removed). And an outcome of the low ‘coupe’ rear roofline and the thick pillars is that visibility in this area – as well as with the front three-quarter view – is poor. Even the view directly to the front is somewhat obscured by the rear-view mirror which seems to sit in the middle of the windscreen.

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Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 Driving Experience

The best way to describe the DS5 hybrid driving experience is to say that there’s lots going on.

The car has an ‘EGS’ transmission – an automated manual 6-speed gearbox – which, unless manually overidden, is always trying to select the best gear.

There’s also the diesel engine and the electric motor, and the control systems are always trying to select the best choice between these two powertrains.

The driver can also choose between Auto, Sport, ZEV and 4WD modes. Auto is as it says on the tin; Sport holds the car in gear for longer – when it can get very revvy; and 4WD means that the normal operating mode of front-wheel drive is supplemented by the rear wheels, powered by the electric motor. ZEV mode means that the car is powered only by the electric motor, so making it zero emission.

All this sounds impressive, and potentially it is; however there are certain issues to be aware of.

Firstly, you’re very aware that all these systems are constantly working together, so if you want a simple, straightforward and direct driving experience, this may not be the car for you. The EGS transmission also has huge pauses between gear changes, however in the hybrid model the electric motor helps to fill the gaps.

Secondly, if you’re expecting to be able to drive in ZEV mode for much of the time then you’re likely to be disappointed. The car usually starts in ZEV mode (when, apart from a small read-out on the dash, it’s difficult to know if it’s started or not). But despite all the technology, once you’re moving, the chances are that if you want to select EV mode, the car won’t allow you, as the battery won’t be sufficiently charged. This also results in certain economy implications; see the next section

When you decelerate, you can feel the brake energy regeneration slowing the car. This is fine in urban areas when you’re coming to an eventual halt, but we think it would instead be better to coast on faster roads, as the car requires extra energy to get it going again after deceleration.

Because of all the technology, the car is somewhat heavy (1856 Kg), and this impacts upon the car’s handling. It feels heavy to drive, and it doesn’t seem like there’s 200bhp on tap. This weight also impacts on fuel economy; see the next section again

Another issue is the car’s ride, which feels firm and slightly fragile over speed bumps and poor surfaces. The steering also has an artificial character; we’d prefer a more natural feel.

At higher speeds the car is reasonably quiet, but at all speeds the DS5 doesn’t have the instant reactions that you might expect from a 200bhp car, and the automated manual transmission doesn’t help in this area.

We did test the four-wheel drive system on a muddy hillside and it enabled the car to gain and maintain traction; we’d expect it to do the same in snow. But a word of warning – the front spoiler sticks out a long way and is very close to the ground, so don’t try any sort of off-roading with this car.

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Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 Economy and Emissions

The Citroen DS5 has very high official economy and very low emission figures. Although our test car, in DSport spec, had an already-impressive official combined fuel economy figure of 68.9mpg, with emissions of 107 g/km, there is now a DS5 model available that can achieve 80.7mpg and 91 g/km. This sounds unbelievable for a 200bhp, 4WD hatchback – and it probably is.

As with most modern cars, the DS5 hybrid is designed to achieve the lowest possible emissions in the official NEDC test. Unfortunately, trying to achieve such figures in real-life driving is virtually impossible. Overall, we achieved 45.5mpg during our week with the car. This is a long way short of the official figure of 68.9mpg, but it’s very similar to the figures that we’ve achieved with the three Peugeot variants with the same diesel-hybrid powertrain – in fact it’s exactly the same as the Peugeot 508 Saloon HYbrid4 – and therefore we believe it is a representative average of real-life mixed driving. With careful eco-driving you’re likely to achieve more than 50mpg.

Price, Equipment and Model Range

The DS5 is available with a choice of four engines – as well as the 200hp diesel-electric Hybrid4, there’s the THP 200, e-HDi 115 and HDi 160, with manual, automatic or EGS six-speed gearboxes. There are also three trim levels – DSign, DStyle and DSport.

The e-HDi 115 DSign costs £22,400, but this rises to £32,200 for the range-topping Hybrid4 DSport. Yes, it looks good, has 200 bhp, 4WD, and official emissions of just 107g/km CO2; however the average car buyer may struggle to get their head around justifying £32,200 for a Citroen hatchback, albeit one that is a challenger in the premium sector.

The DS5 has one particular trick up its sleeve – it has a Benefit in Kind rating of just 12%, making it very attractive to company car buyers. The sub-100g/km CO 2 models have a BIK rate of just 10%, as well as being exempt from VED and the London Congestion Charge.

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Conclusion

The Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 is a car that you want to like. It looks great on the inside and on the outside, it has four-wheel drive capability, 200 bhp, and the potential for 68.9mpg. It has a driving experience that is interesting, if you don’t mind the feeling of all the technology working away in the background.

However the main issue is that its hybrid technology is heavy and expensive. It doesn’t seem to have the ability to offer you zero emission mode for much of the time, and so in real-life use the weight penalty of the hybrid system impacts negatively upon the fuel economy, outweighing (no pun intended) the supposed fuel saving benefits of the system. Perhaps you won’t mind this, as you may be won over by the car’s many positive points.

If nothing else, Citroen really does deserve recognition for the efforts that it has made with the design of this vehicle, and overall you can’t deny that it is an interesting car – and making interesting cars is something that Citroen has done well at various points in its history. All in all, the Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 gets a Beating Spirit rating of 8 out of 10.

Car Facts and Figures

Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 data

Fuel economy extra urban: 70.6 mpg (78.5 mpg model now available)

Fuel economy urban: 67.3 mpg (88.3 mpg model now available)

Test economy: 45.5 mpg

CO2 emissions: 107 g/km (91 g/km model now available)

Green rating: VED band B – £0 a year

Weight: 1856 Kg

Company car tax liability (2012/13): 12%

Price: £27,600

Insurance group: 28A

Power: 163 (diesel) 37 (electric) system 200 bhp

Max speed: 131 mph

0-62mph: 8.3 seconds

DPF: Yes

Paul Clarke

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