(Pocket-lint) - The Citroën DS is heralded as a design classic. It was revolutionary at its 1955 launch, some 60 years ago. Looking to reclaim the premium heyday of French motoring, Citroën has split out DS Automobiles as a separate branch, offering a premium take for the PSA group, with this new brand.
Of course the DS name was revived in 2010 and has been applied to a range of cars we've seen before, including the old DS5, DS4 and DS3. This isn't so much a new car as it is a flagship for this new brand.
But to think that DS is to Citroën what Lexus is to Toyota would be wrong. Run your eyes over the exterior of the new DS5 and it's very much the same as the car formerly known as the Citroën DS5, and DS Automobiles has told us that DS-only badged DS4 and DS3 models are due to appear soon.
This is the challenge that PSA now faces: convincing car buyers that DS is something to get excited about.
Well, part of the aim has already been fulfilled. We've been impressed with DS models we've seen previously and we can understand why they are being moved away from the rest of the Citroën to be a more distinctive group. The whole aim of DS is to be exciting, to be a little bit more outrageous and to be a little more fun. And 550,000 DS models have been sold globally, so it's something of a success.
To the new DS5 then, and it exhibits those interesting design quirks that we saw before: there's the aluminium sabres running along the bonnet, there's the full glass roof, with split front shades and a central roof bar offering driver and passenger sunglasses hidey holes - essential for cruising down Autoroute du Soleil.
From the horizontally split rear windscreen to the refrigerated cubby hole that's large enough to lose a bottle of Louis Roederer in, no one could accuse the DS5 of being boring.
But this story is really about the front of the car. It's had a facelift to reflect this new branding, and gone are the Citroën chevrons. There's now just a central DS logo sitting in front grille ringed in chrome. Squint and you might spot the inspiration from the front of the original DS.
We like the looks. The DS5 is pitched as compact, but premium. That glass roof and sweeping windscreen give the interior a spacious feel. Sit in the driving seat and some of the central controls feel like they are some distance away, more like an MPV than a large hatch, but it's nice and roomy in the front. The rear is a little more cramped, so this isn't really a family holiday car - but then it's still a hatchback rather than a saloon.
At the same time, the centre console/"transmission tunnel" (most of which we think is that refrigerated cubbly hole) is surprisingly high. It can make gear changes in the manual version a little unusual. The interior changes have reduced the number of buttons by 12 for a cleaner interior, but there's still some controls behind the gear stick, so less accessible than they might be.
The quality of the cabin is high though. It's not stretching French premium quite into German luxury, but there are design flourishes we really like. The seats are comfortable, the leather is great quality and the headrests are interesting to look at.
There are only two trim levels on this new DS5 - Elegance and Prestige - but you get things like keyless entry, a 7-inch touchscreen, satnav, Bluetooth, folding door mirrors, automatic lights and wipers as standard on both trims. There's the option for LED headlights and scrolling indicators, just like you'll find on the latest Audi.
There's a heads-up display as an option for Prestige for £300. This isn't projected as we've seen elsewhere, it's on a translucent panel that raises from the top of the driver display hood. You can also change the position of the information on that display, which is a nice touch.
All these things come together in DS's new language. It's about being the avant-garde, it's about dynamic hypercomfort, it's about making you think differently. As we found with the last version of this car, there's plenty to love. The DS5 does feel a bit special and now there's perhaps a feeling that DS is going to leave Citroën and Peugeot as the "every day" cars, dare we say slightly boring, while DS makes a new case for French automotive flair and desirability.
There will be a choice of petrol and diesel engines, and good efficiency, especially across those diesels, with low emissions meaning no excise duty for mosy. We suspect that diesel will be the most popular choice, and to us, the BlueHDi 120 feels a little underpowered, especially when you want to kick it up a kill; the BlueHDi 180 gives you a much more satisfying drive when you put your foot down.
We tested both manual and auto gearboxes and the first impression is that the new DS5 is going to offer you a pretty smooth ride. The autobox might not click through with quite the speed of the best out there - it's 6-speed where some are moving to 7- or 8-speed so it spends a little more time doing the "autobox yawn" as you accelerate. The higher ride and softer suspension means the DS5 doesn't quite feel as dynamic racing into corners as something like the Audi A3, but we still found it fun to drive.
Yes, the DS5 - starting at skyward of £25k - is asking a fair whack, but you get a lot of car with a good level of specification for your money. Step up to the Prestige level from £29k and there's probably few options you'll want to add to a car that leaves a great first impression.
The new DS5 from DS Automobiles will be available from 1 July. Just don't call it a Citroën.