I attended the Citroen Activer event on 12 May 2012, where Citroen introduced the new DS5 to the public just 48 hours after its release to the press.
Citroen re-established themselves within South Africa in 2009, and a lot has changed since its days of Imperial rule. Bad parts availability previously associated with Citroen is a thing of the past and this has done a lot to improve consumer confidence and vehicle residual values. Where most spares previously had to be flown in from France, Citroen now has a South African warehouse where 95% of all spares are available at any given time and they also deliver spares to their dealership network three times a day. To increase awareness and involvement with the South African consumer, Citroen started hosting what they call Activer Events. These events allow the public a unique test drive experience where safety features and driving characteristics can be demonstrated under safe and controlled conditions.
It was one of these Activer events which I attended at Gerotek test facility outside Pretoria. It covered the entire DS range, but most importantly, the new Citroen DS5.
After registration and a very professional and informative presentation by the Citroen Marketing Manager, we were off to the various activities they had planned for the day. First up, a skidpan and road hazard avoidance course, demonstrating the various safety features and driving characteristics while doing evasive maneuvers. Tests included emergency braking in wet and dry conditions whilst swerving out for simulated road hazards, emergency lane changes, fast u-turns and a slalom course. I was impressed with how effortlessly all three models performed under these conditions. Both the DS3, DS4 and the DS5 proved to have very capable suspensions, not once being unsettled by what was thrown at them. The ease with which these cars performed under the harshest of conditions will instill confidence in even the most frightful driver.
While doing my last hazard avoidance run with the DS3 this activity came to a very sudden end. As I slammed on the clutch and brake pedals the clutch snapped under my foot. An inspection concluded that a small plastic connector, connecting the clutch pedal with the clutch cable, snapped in half. The DS3 was disabled for the rest of the day and I was told roadside assistance would have to be called to take the vehicle to the nearest service centre for repairs. Although I felt very bad about breaking the DS3, I could not help thinking that this could pose very problematic should a DS3 owner ever have to do an emergency stop under real-life conditions. You do not want to be stuck next to the road with a disabled car after something like an emergency stop. I am not saying this will happen to you, but if it does, at least you can rest assured that all new cars from Citroen comes with 24 hour roadside assistance.
After a bottle of water and something to eat I felt better and we were off to the high speed oval for some simulated highway driving. Here too, all three the DS models performed above expectation. Smooth gearboxes, minimal road noise and an overall luxurious ride quality reigned. Even though I would have liked a more sporty exhaust note from the DS, I could not fault these cars.
The DS5 is aimed at competing with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-class and the Audi A4. Citroen clearly decided to break the traditional sedan mold and create something modern and funky for this segment. With a cockpit layout which includes multiple buttons on the roof and fold-away heads up display, the DS5 is as close as you and I would ever get to being inside a fighter jet. This car was intentionally designed to stir excitement when driving and interacting with the interior. Citroen is well known for creating gadget rich cars and the DS5 is no exception. Bluetooth, parking space assist, blind spot warnings, massaging seats and lane departure warning systems, to name just a few, are all standard in the DS5. These options are very expensive extras when ordered from competing manufacturers. The DS3, DS4 and DS5 all have interior material and build quality second to none. You get a sense that no costs were spared when Citroen designed the interiors of these cars. The soft touch surfaces and leather work is so meticulously done it is reminiscent of much more expensive cars from Italian manufacturers.
We ended the day with a light lunch and a quick thank you from the Marketing Manager. Citroen calls their Activer Events “The Ultimate Test Drive Experience”. I could not agree more.
I have to admit, although I’ve always thought Citroen builds beautiful cars, I never expected the overall quality experienced with the DS range. Anyone in the market for a new car will do themselves a favour by at least taking these cars for a test drive. Like me, you might just change your mind about this brand and the cars they build.
Thank you Citroen SA for a great day spent with great cars. This event proved to me that the French can engineer more than just beautiful cars.