Disappointing Sequel (Part One)

DTW assesses the progress and current state of DS Automobiles after a decade on the market.

DS Automobiles latest opus. Image: dailyrevs

The launch of the Citroën DS 19 in 1955 was unarguably one of the seminal events in the history of the automobile. In its conception, design and engineering, the DS was at least a decade ahead of any competitor and left observers slack-jawed in amazement at Citroën’s audacity in bringing such a revolutionary car to market.

The DS 19 was first and foremost an engineering-led design. Its hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension gave it a peerless combination of superb ride quality and sharp handling. Its dramatically streamlined and aerodynamic body was highly functional, allowing it to cleave the air quietly and efficiently, but was also strikingly attractive. The DS had none of the ornamentation of a traditional luxury car. Instead, its appeal lay in the quality of its engineering and its dynamic prowess.

A trailblazer for other advanced Citroën models; notably the smaller GS and the extraordinary Maserati-engined SM, both launched in 1970, the DS itself still looked and felt modern and contemporary after almost two decades when it was finally replaced by the CX in 1974.

Unfortunately, Citroën’s design and engineering prowess was not rewarded with a level of sales that would ensure consistent profitability. In reality, many potential buyers were frightened off by the complexity of the company’s designs. Citroën had been owned by Michelin since the tyre manufacturer bought the automaker out of bankruptcy in 1935. It finally tired of bankrolling the company’s innovative but profligate business and sold out to Peugeot in 1974.

Citröen DS21. Image: drive-my.com

By the mid-2000’s, Citroën’s glory days were a distant memory. The company had endured thirty years of Peugeot’s parsimonious management and its reputation for engineering innovation had been grievously undermined by a series of exceptionally dull and dreary cars; often little more than rebodied Peugeots, positioned as value alternatives to their (slightly) more upmarket stablemates. Their only distinctive attributes were the large discounts and cheap financing deals offered to move them off the forecourt of an often indifferent and apathetic dealership.

Citroën looked enviously at competitors with more prestigious brands that were able to sell essentially similar vehicles at a significant premium. BMW had maintained and burnished its own aspirational sporting credentials and successfully relaunched MINI as a premium manufacturer of upmarket small(er) cars.

Likewise, Audi was able to sell rebodied VWs with a few extra trinkets to people who were happy to pay a significant premium for the bragging rights that came with the four-ring badge, even on the Polo-based A1. Citroën’s B-segment supermini offering was the practical but resolutely dull C3, a car distinguished only by its extreme averageness in all respects.

Citroën looked at its own back-catalogue and recognised the enduring resonance of DS. Those initials(1) still epitomised Citroën’s former greatness as a builder of innovative and impressive cars. A plan was developed whereby Citroën would relaunch DS as a premium sub-brand, starting with a new supermini, the DS3.

The DS3 was officially launched in January 2010. It carried Citroën badging and the Double-Chevron grille, but the company made clear from the outset that the DS3 would be the first of a range of Distinctive Series(2) models. It was pitched against the MINI and would similarly be offered with a wide range of personalisation options, including dual-colour paint schemes.

2011 Citröen DS3 (c) dieselstation

The DS3 represented a soft launch for the new sub-brand and it was well received in the market. Autocar magazine rated the petrol engined 1.6 litre Sport as the pick of the range. Tellingly, the magazine said that Citroën’s “cleverest move with the DS3 has been not to aim this model too high”. In other words, it was not quite a match for the MINI Cooper, but it was usefully cheaper too. It quickly gained a following, attracted by its distinctive styling and personalisation options. A total of 53,223(3) and 72,876 examples were sold in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Citroën, of course, had much bigger plans for DS and in 2011 launched the larger DS4 and DS5 models, respectively C and D-segment semi-premium challengers. This is where things began to go awry.

The DS4 was what might now be described as a crossover-coupé. It featured hidden rear door handles and, bizarrely, impractical fixed windows in the rear doors to accentuate the coupé profile. The DS4 leant rather too heavily on the decidedly undistinguished underpinnings of the C4. In particular, the car’s ride was seriously deficient.

Autocar described it as follows: “…the DS4 feels unsettled and lacking in composure. Hit a short sharp bump and the relative crudity of the torsion beam rear suspension makes itself felt as the chassis thumps noisily. At higher speeds, the same kind of rough roads upset the DS4’s vertical body composure and can cause the wheels to part company with the tarmac entirely.”

For a car attempting to leverage the reputation of the original DS for its superb ride quality, this was a grave disappointment, one that no amount of decorative flourishes could overcome. The magazine’s verdict was damning: “The DS4 isn’t distinctive enough and is too short on practicality, refinement and dynamic deportment to deserve recommendation for other reasons.” DS4 sales started slowly and peaked at 30,214 in 2012. Thereafter, they declined steadily until the model was discontinued in 2018. Total sales amounted to 151,875 over eight years.

2011 Citröen DS4

The DS5 was, perhaps, a more serious attempt to recapture the spirit of the original model. It was launched at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2011. The DS5 was a striking looking car with a semi-estate monobox profile, but a lower roof line than a typical MPV. It was not dissimilar in size and shape to the 2008 Lancia Delta, and certainly more distinctive than the derivative DS4. The plush aircraft-inspired interior looked interesting and attractive.

Autocar tested the DS5 and remarked upon its conceptual similarity to the original DS. Everyone who saw it thought the design distinctive and appealing. The interior came in for particular praise, being imaginatively styled and tastefully executed, with high-quality materials and no signs of cost-cutting(4).

Once again, however, the car’s dynamic qualities were found wanting. The DS5 was based on a version of the ageing PF2 platform that underpinned the DS4 (and a number of Peugeot models) with the wheelbase lengthened by 115mm (4½”). The conventional suspension and beam rear axle produced: ”…a fairly mediocre ride that is at best settled but short of sophistication, and at worst plies an uncomfortable blend of vague, unsettling body control and an intermittently grimace-inducing lack of bump absorption.” There was no compensation to be found in the car’s handling, which was described as “…acceptable, yes, but merely average, generally.”

2011 Citröen DS5 (c) routier-exemplaire.

Citroën had settled on a poor compromise between handling and ride quality, neither being remotely good enough to make up for the deficiencies of the other. The DS5 fared even worse in the market than its smaller sibling. Annual sales peaked in 2012 at 23,083 then fell away rapidly. A total of 86,174 were sold over eight years before the DS5 was discontinued in 2018.

Notwithstanding the deteriorating sales performance of the DS4 and DS5, Citroën decided to relaunch(5) DS Automobiles as a separate stand-alone marque in 2015. In Part Two, we will examine the models introduced by DS following its relaunch and appraise its current state and future prospects.

(1) A contraction and homophone of Déesse, the French word for Goddess.

(2) Citroen’s 2010 reinterpretation of the DS initials.

(3) All sales data from www.carsalesbase.com.

(4) Other reviewers, (including DTW’s editor), noted areas where the quality of the interior fittings was found wanting and cramped front footwells caused by the unusually wide centre console.

(5) Although ‘cast adrift’ might have been a more apt description in the circumstances.

 

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

46 thoughts on “Disappointing Sequel (Part One)”

  1. So disappointing, and sad.
    Saxo and Elena might have been competent — I still see plenty around Normandy — but they weren’t real Citroëns.

  2. How the DS3 became the talk of the town (workplace) on release; everyone wanted one. From cleaner to chief executive, I’ve never heard so many people discussing a floating roof or funky dual colours. Out of the five hundred or so cars on site, I think we had but a couple of brand new examples, one yellow, one red from memory, so the bubble soon burst. But one female colleague has had nothing but a new DS3 every year until 2019, the last in a cherry red with soft roof. Mind you, she often forgets where she’s parked it and when I asked her once why does the car appeal so much she it was the colour. I replied with well at least cherry is different to all the greasy and black cars – she thought she was driving her last incumbent – a blue version. Memorable motor car? I don’t think so, Joe!

  3. “(1) A contraction of Déesse the French word for Goddess”

    Actually a homophone, rather than a contraction.

  4. A well deserved commercial failure for two cynical products in the DS4 and DS5. For all the MINI can be viewed as an exercise in stye and marketing but it also had a multi link independent rear suspension system and great handling in a size/class of car that usually had a torsion beam; in short BMW actually spent the time and money to make sure the car was good to drive and were justly rewarded with success.

    I find it quite heartening to see that despite the hyperbole it is actually not possible to build a brand entirely on marketing if the product itself is simply not good enough, and both the DS4 and DS5 were hobbled from the start on the ride/handling front with their poverty spec rear suspension systems.

  5. Good bye to bad rubbish, I´d say. What Citoen had to do was work on the core brand instead of inventing another. The DS5 was especially poor but matched by the unremarkable DS4 of which I have only seen one. At the very top was the poor managerial thinking that decided on a mix of over-styled trinkets and below-par engineering. If the Cimarron is a land-mark cynically poor product, DS is the Cimarron of brands.

  6. Blimey, I don’t know whether I should comment on the basis of the saying, ‘if you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say it’. The whole current range of both Citroën and DS are like a mouth ulcer to me: it’s a source of pain that I just can’t help touching, even though I know it’s a source of pain.

    I wrote a short ‘test-drive’ piece on an early-ish DS3 for this site a number of years ago now (how time flies) and recall how it flattered to deceive; basically a case of ‘fur-coat, no knickers’ as a female former colleague of mine used to say. I actually liked its style, or certainly really wanted to, but found it a pretty disappointing drive, with a thumpy ride and poor sound-proofing and refinement. I also really liked the style of the DS5, inside and out, but remember sitting in one at a motor-show somewhere and thinking, ‘no one’s going to buy this’, because it was neither one thing nor another, and the underlying mechanicals were just too unsophisticated for the price being charged. I had no idea so few were actually built and sold over such a long period – better than the C6, of course, but still very lame.

    The ‘great hope’ in my mind was the promised large saloon, but the DS9 is so obviously a redressed 508, using the China-only LWB version as its basis and, as such, a crashing disappointment. I find the all-too-knowing nod to the actual DS in the form of the high-mounted rear indicators irritatingly crass (if you’re going to do it, really go for it rather than be so half-hearted about it), and there are way too many feature-lines, panel bulges and ‘jewel-like’ trick-LED signatures. I think the interiors are part sumptuous (seats, colour pallette), part total mess (the dashboard).

    As for Citroën, the new C4 is a horror show, and even the interior, which at first seemed pleasingly simple and redacted in its design is spoiled in its execution with very cheap looking plastics and cack-handed integration of display and control elements into the dash’s core structure. Early reviews of how the car drives are also far from encouraging, with most reading like they are pulling their punches, and, for once, the guy from AutoCropley really letting rip.

    I seriously hope Stellantis (sp?) reviews its portfolio of marques and kills off at least DS as a result – if they don’t it will be a very serious sign of Tavares’s ego and arrogance by insisting on persisting with pouring significant investment into trying to make the new marque, which has so little obvious identity and currency, fly.

    1. Great metaphor, S.V. It´s a bit like rubbernecking at an accident (I never do this, but many do) one is compelled to slow down and look.

  7. How was the original DS pitched at the time? I understand Daniel’s description of it as a luxury car, but after two decades its replacement – the CX – was very much a large family car, not a luxury option. So had the DS become less upmarket with familiarity, or was the CX intended for a broader market?

    The DS4 was poorly executed, but in concept similar to the Toyota C-HR which seems so liked by many people. So Citroen were on to the right idea.

    1. How is the DS4 like the C-HR? The DS4 is a standard ICE car whilst the Toyota had a hybrid option; also the C-HR is in design terms innovative (like it or not) and the DS4 is a muesli of seen-it-before tropes.

    2. Good morning Gentlemen. Jacomo, Even I’m not old enough to remember the launch of the original DS, but I believe it was presented as a technically advanced large family car, as was the CX in 1974.

      I would, however, argue the original DS was a ‘luxury’ car specifically in the sense that it was brilliantly designed and engineered, and offered levels of comfort and refinement far above any competitor. It was luxury that was designed-in, so to speak, rather than being overlaid onto something much more prosaic, which is the problem that has afflicted all the new-generation DS models.

      The DS3 was the ‘least worst’ of the new gereration because expectations for a small and not very expensive car are lower, and Autocar’s “not aim too high” comment nailed it. The later and larger models were progressively more disappointing , because the benchmarks against which they were being measured were higher.

      I won’t scoop myself regarding Part Two of this piece, but you can see where this is leading.

      Returning to the original DS, its interior was actually slightly austere, with few of the embellishments now generally associated with luxury:

      Put simply, beautiful wood veneers on the dashboard and door tops may be pleasant to look at, but great suspension allied to really comfortable seats is ultimately much more important in a luxury car.

      What constitutes ‘luxury’ as opposed to ‘premium’ is a subject about which Richard wrote insightfully on DTW a while ago. I think I have reprised his argument correctly, but I’m sure he will correct me if I’ve misunderstood.

    3. The DS’ project name was VGD (voiture à grande diffusion) which made it a vehicle sold in large numbers. The first DSs were very anything but luxurious with no armrests and acres of painted metal in the interior. Nevertheless there was need for a simplet stripped-out model in form of the ID which sold in much larger numbers but was downright primitive in some aspects like its unpainted GRP roof and the near-absence of wheel covers in its ‘Normale’ version.
      The DS moved into the land of luxury with the 1965 Pallas version and the new, larger engine. A DS 23 i.e. Pallas was a very expensive car, very luxurious and among the fastest on the road, being able to keep up with BMW ‘Neue Klasse’ 2000 tilux or Benz W115 which both had exceptionally bad aerodynamics.
      The CX was positioned below the DS when it appeared and moved upmarket only after the DS was dropped.
      The interesting thing is that the DS sold better with age and its highest production numbers were reached in its last years when it constantly sold more than 100,000 per year which was quite an achievement for a car in that class, let alone of that age.

    4. Oops I’ve triggered Richard.

      Note to self: do not criticise the Toyota C-HR (or any Opel). They are BEYOND REPROACH.

  8. Nice analysis, Daniel. The DS5 still looks beautiful to me but sadly, its ride was unanimously and rightfully bashed. I heard that PSA introduced new shock absorbers for the model around 2015 and they were a real improvement, to the point that these new dampers inherited the part number of the first ones, whose production simply ceased. But the company forgot to tell the press about it.

    Of course, there were other problems: the THP petrol engines were affected by bad valve cover design and had timing chain issues; the hybrid version had a semi-automatic gearbox that was as clunky as it gets, and so on.

    I like the new DS9 more than I should do. Soon it will be reviewed by the press, who (rightfully?) will see it as another half-hearted attempt to do the job. At the comments section of some U.S. websites, I see some people demanding it to be rebadged as a Chrysler and brought to the U.S. A new, badge-engineered 300C? Come on…

    Which brings us to the point you probably will be addressing in the next article: DS faces a gigantic brand overlap at home: Lancia and Chrysler are/were supposed to fill the same market gap, and arguably Alfa Romeo, too. Four guns to shot three Germans, none of them actually posing a risk…

    1. Thanks Eduardo. Like you and S.V., I really liked the look of the DS5 which, I thought, captured the spirit of the original DS with its flowing lines rather well. I see a white one around town occasionally and always stop to look at it. The early road test reports were a real disappointment. You couldn’t help thinking “How could Citroën have f**ked this up so badly? It’s not rocket science to achieve a decent compromise between ride and handling these days and the DS5 just needed to be tilted in favour of the former.”

      I’ve obviously no experience of the DS9 but I drove a 300C around New England for three weeks in 2015 and found it a thoroughly amiable thing, comfortable and undemanding. The idea of a rebadged DS9 masquerading as a Chrysler repels me. If they do it, they will clearly have learnt nothing from the Chryslers dressed up as Lancias and vise-versa debacle.

  9. Although I will admit to a certain initial liking to the DS3, the whole DS separation from Citroën was and is just silly and cynical. The DS products that followed the DS3 have been -with the external styling of the DS5 and certain interior details of the rest of the bunch- an affront to the name. The latest DS9 -wheels slightly too large, DLO too small- is no better.
    Another thing that has managed to raise my neck-hairs was the almost Stalinistic rewriting of history in publicity material that took place for a while by deleting the DS from Citroën history as if it had never existed because it was needed elsewhere to promote the new separate division. Thankfully Citroën has come to their senses since but that was simply not on.
    Like many, I would welcome the arrival of a real new Citroën DS in spirit, styling and engineering but this is not the way to do it. One wonders what Messrs. Lefebvre, Bertoni, Bercot, Magès et al would think of the current DS gang….

    1. The second sentence should read: “with the external styling of the DS5 and certain interior details of the rest of the bunch excepted- an affront to the name”. Sorry for the typo.

    2. I might be blinkered but if something as wild as the DS came along we might not recognise it as a car at all. If the total span of car progress is measured on a scale of 1-100, the DS moved the game on from, say, 20 to 70 (which is a leap of 50 units). We are at the stage where the average family car is smoother, safer, faster and more efficient than a DS which is the consequence of DS raising the back in 1955. Still referring to my scale of 1-100 we are near 95. There simply isn´t the room in design space for a car to make as much progress as the DS did. We need a paradigm change. Tesla is not it. It´s a refinement of the passenger car and doesn´t even look that modern.

    3. Richard, I recall LJK Setright once writing something like that if Citroën had been allowed to contribute their trajectory of innovation unfettered, their modern offering would make an egg look inefficient.

      The downfall of Citroën really is a modern motoring tragedy. To think we were moaning about the Peugeot influence in the eighties and nineties when we had the BX and XM. We didn’t know we were born!

    4. Indeed. The BX and XM are very Citroen despite the PSA bits involved. You can´t say that about the current cars, either sold as Citroens or DSs. Evidently PSA thought it could do what VAG does, which is sell the same tech with different badges. GM does it too. And Fiat…. So why doesn´t it work with Citroen? It´s evidently a special case since technology was so critical to the brand´s conception.

  10. Where to start? The DS3 was in no way superior to the competition. Only thing had going for it was the price and that’s pretty much it. The DS4 was an overwrought hatchback with a dated interior. I’m surprised by the positive reactions here to the DS5. To my eyes it looks unelegant and bloated and it’s shape reminds me (sorry for saying this) of a dead fish.

    Please PSA, withdraw this brand from your portfolio.

    1. You didn´t hear me being nice about the DS5. It didn´t ride well and its interior was dark and cramped. It looks like a deep sea fish. Renaults Espace was better in every way by 100 percent.

    1. Hi Andy. Slow-witted as ever, I thought you were about to launch into a trenchant defence of DS Automobiles.

      Now I get it…😁…brilliant!

    2. Why, thank you Daniel!

      Slightly more on topic, I can’t believe how PSA allowed such disappointing cars as the DS4 and DS5 to be launched. As has been pointed out above BMW cracked the MINI relaunch and has gone from strength to strength (though don’t get me started on the downhill plummet of the styling of MINI2 and 3) whereas DS could have been an excellent left-field alternative to the German Big 3. Why did they ever think they could get away with it?

    3. Andy: it´s being kind to PSA to think DS could have worked if done right. In principle, Citroen was already the “left-field” brand and to make it work would have involved ensuring Citroens were more than an agglomeration of odd shapes and painted-out A-pillars. As long as PSA insisted on identical technology, Citroen was always going to be little more than strained styling and a lower price. DS had to remain relatively cheap too or else Peugeot would have been eclipsed. Although we might not think so, Peugeot has always seen itself as “a cut-above”. It was once the French Mercedes (admittedly that was back when VGD was le President) and so DS could not take that notional crown. Only VAG has really made empty styling work to support a multi-brand portfolio and even then it´s a strain to manage the internecine instincts of each marque. GM´s portfolio collapsed gradually when the divisions lost their engines and the production faclilities became general purpose; Fiat have smothered Lancia, Autobianchi and Alfa. Chrysler lost Chrysler as a luxury brand and Plymouth evaporated at some point… Ford eventually gave up Mercury and Lincoln´s not thriving; Toyota has invested gazillions in Lexus which is a mixed success. British Leyland… a death row of brands culminating in Rover´s transformation into MG. Have I missed anyone? Bentley was suffocated by Rolls-Royce and was only reborn due to a rare event in car-firm marriages, divorce.

  11. From where I’m sitting (as a car-mad 8 year old the launch of the DS19 took me to another planet) it seems that every left-field, boundary-pushing (and ultimately niche-market) manufacturer that is absorbed by the mainstream is doomed. The process is slower in some cases than in others, but they gain nothing positive in the process. Citroen is a classic example, as was SAAB. In which light, one might see the decision of the Jowett board to simply cease manufacturing motor vehicles to have been a wise and honourable move….

  12. Daniel: could you use your Photoshop skills to show how the title image would look if the car was parked 20 metres to the left? Or if the car was equipped with a chameleon camouflage capability?

    1. Here you go, Richard, not camouflaged, but enhanced:

  13. For a moment, I’d forgotten we owned a BX. The BX was fabulous. we loved it. It had an appetite for rear exhaust silencers for some reason. We would need one every 9-10 months. It’s main problem (for me) was that it handled far too well. Many times I’d find myself thinking that I’d been too enthusiastic in a corner before looking down to see I was approaching 100MPH on the twisty, rural, Lincolnshire roads where I live. We sold it and bought a 2CV. That stopped me going as fast. The BX was very reliable, as was the Visa that preceded it and the 2CV that followed it.

    The later Citroens were very uninspiring cars, but then, for me, most recent or new cars are. A sea of dull shapes, often in dull colours does not inspire me to open up the wallet.

    1. Hi Stevo. Wow! I never thought of the BX as a performance car and I know the roads of Lincolnshire you describe somewhat, so I’m very impressed by your bravery!

      Buying a 2CV to slow you down is a brilliant strategy!

    2. While the BX is not exactly a performance car (*), the handling on curvy roads really is exceptional. I remember my uncle, who had several Golfs in succession, but for a while also drove the BX of his deceased father-in-law. He was no ambitious driver by any means, always 5 to 10 km/h below the limit, but he said that he really had to be careful when switching back to his Golf not to take corners too enthusiastically.
      Another incident I remember was our local police pursuing a faulty BX driver and losing control of their car (they usually had something like Omegas or Sierras at that time) in a curve…

      (*) I was once tempted to buy a BX 16 valve, which actually comes quite close to a performance car. 160 hp for one ton was quite a good ratio. It would have been detrimental to my driving licence.

  14. DS automobiles put me in mind of the words of Shakespeare.. « It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. »
    Those responsible for the way the cars look will be retiring in the coming decade, not soon enough to stop the rot I fear.
    The 50th anniversary of the SM was marked with the unveiling of some competent renderings of ugly « hommages » to what is probably the most beguiling of automobiles. Hommages? Homards would be a better description.
    It is a tragedy that we will never see such over-engineered brilliance again. Lancia and Citroen core values are impossible fantasies today. The cars we mourn were commercial suicide but the world was lucky to have them.

    1. Hi Rob, you’re almost certainly right, but I retain a forlorn hope that, in the EV era when o to 60mph times and top speeds become largely irrelevant because of the power and torque delivery characteristics of electric motors, there might be a renewed focus on high levels of real comfort. This would be especially relevant in cars with automous driving capabilities . Sadly, this would require far more vision and bravery than DS has shown so far.

  15. I realized after posting that I failed to add spaces to the paragraphs, so my first post looks like a monstrous block for which I apologize. I’m sending it again, hopefully looking less massive now. Please feel free to erase the previous post. By the way, I don’t know how my name will show up, but I’m César Grau, accidental engineer and lifetime car lover, writing from the outskirts of Barcelona, Spain.

    Hi everybody! Long-time reader and at the beginning I might have sent a couple of comments. The reason being that I usually check DTW during my short breaks at work (hush, hush, don’t tell…) so spending time beyond that for writing comments is not quite proper in my case. But hey, it’s a slow morning and the subject is interesting!

    I think the problem with Citroën and by extension DS is that the attributes that traditionally made the Citroën name, mainly its great suspension designs and ride and its technical, out of the box innovations, are just not that distinctive anymore. Citroën slowly let go of its hydro pneumatic suspension beginning in the 90s by reducing the number of platforms that used it, until finally abandoning it all together for the last C5 generation. In fact, to me that C5 represented the last nail in the coffin of the Citroën hydro pneumatic suspension by being the first and now only Citroën to have it as just an option. The sad or happy fact, depending on your view, is that most cars already handle well and have decent suspensions without such complexities. The focus on ride or handling for a car are down to marketing and where in that spectrum its manufacturer wants to position the car, or even the entire brand, not on its technical prowess. Most manufacturers can move easily between those two extremes even if the subtleties of the actual result depend on how much care, cost, etc. they put into the car’s development.

    In any case, even cars criticized by the press for poor handling or ride are actually alright for most people. I mean, the difference between modern cars in this area is way smaller than when the DS came out. As for Citroën’s lack of out of the box technical innovation, the sad truth is that in the same way as the modern airliners have developed, the modern car is the result of years and years of optimization. Go back a few decades and jet airliners had all kinds of designs, two or four engines under the wing, two or three engines in the back, one in the back, two under the wing, and even a short lived over-the-wing attempt. It was a great time to be a plane spotter. Now? They are all Airbus clones scaled up or down as necessary. And that’s ok, because that’s apparently the optimal way to design an airliner. Same thing happened in Formula 1 before regulations specified engine configurations (only V10, only V8, only hybrid V6,… ). You could already see In the 80s and 90s a convergence to an optimal engine type at the time (V10) and any deviation from it, like those “heavy” V12s, suffered accordingly.

    Optimization and convergence to a restricted set of technical solutions has happened to cars too. For various reasons, the transverse front engine, front wheel drive configuration is the optimal, with an inline or V engine. Forget boxers and the extra cost and complexity of their two cylinder heads, or V4s for the same reason, or even longitudinal engines for FWD cars. I think Richard Herriott made a good point; the car as we know it and enjoy is a very mature idea and has converged into a few optimal technical solutions depending on their specific use so any innovation is necessarily a small one, until the big one that breaks with the concept as we know it, such as self-driving vehicles or whatever the future holds for us.

    Finally, as for Citroën today, I quite like what they’re doing by focusing on a good, relaxed ride and a totally non aggressive, almost “happy” design language inside and out. We already have more than enough cars that look aggressive and want to be sport cars. Whenever I see a current C3 (and there are lots of them here in Spain) I smile and want to embrace it and just drive it in a relaxed manner (like the way I do 90% of the time, mind you) while at the same time struggling with my car enthusiast essence that lives for great handling and sharp steering and the sort of spiritual communion with the car that comes from enjoying all of that along a perfect mountain road (the other 10% of my driving, whenever possible).

    1. Hi César, and welcome to DTW! Delighted to hear you’re enjoying the site and thank you for your comment. Your name displays as ‘cesargrauf’ (without spaces). I agree with you that we need more friendly and unaggressive designs, not least to encourage drivers to behave better. Citroën is at least trying to do something different, but DS looks largely pointless to me.

    2. Oh, I should have added that your original comment fell foul of our spam filter because, I suspect, of the large block of text (spam is often in such form), but your second comment posted fine.

  16. Hi Daniel, thanks for your kind words. I read DTW every time I can and it’s a source of great joy, thanks to the quality of the writing and that of the comments and the general focus on the actual automobile as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, rather than just its performance or speed. Whenever I read DTW I know I’m surrounded by a group that appreciates and celebrates all things automotive. I hope to participate more here in the comments section.

  17. Could the new Ami be a hint of what is to come for Citroen, though? More toward ‘personal mobility’ than automobiles. Although as a vehicle, it probably isn’t that different from what the likes of Aixam have produced for some time.

    Linda Jackson, previously of Citroen, is in charge of brand distinction in PSA/Stellantis now. It will be interesting to see what she proposes. (Discontinued Shortly?)

    (would the C6 have fared any better as, say, a DS 6, and with some of their budget for a more bespoke interior – or would the result have been largely the same?)

    1. Hi Tom, Bugger! Why didn’t I think of ‘Discontinued Shortly?’ as the title for my piece instead of ‘Disappointing Sequel’? On second thoughts, I might have laid myself open to accusations of prejudging the issue. Very witty though, well done.

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