Is the BMW 3-Series still the car to beat?
There are serious alternatives to the mighty BMW 320d. Question is: do you dare to be different?
Posted: 11 Jul 2012
The Evoque, bluntly, is just too slow. It's fine in town, where you can mooch around with the surprisingly punchy manual six-speed, delving into a BMW-matching 280lb ft, but try to hoof it, and the Evoque's 1625kg and bluff aerodynamics drag it down in a lazy conspiracy. Don't get into any traffic-light drags: with a 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds, you'll get destroyed by brisk tortoises. The ride is excellent on the standard dampers (higher-spec Evoques get adaptive items), the resistance to lean surprising and the lack of 4WD all but unnoticeable. But 148bhp really isn't enough to provide the kind of urge to keep you sane, let alone amused. You'd get annoyed with this after a bit, and although the £29,710 189bhp version is better, it only comes in mostly unnecessary 4WD format. It's a quandary not easily answered here.
Meanwhile, the DS5 is again a surprise, but this time for the wrong reasons. The engine and transmission are innocuous enough to go unnoticed - punchy, but not fast, slick, but not involving - arguably a good thing in a car like this. But where I was expecting something soft and graceful, the antithesis of the 3-Series's perceived thrusting dynamics, the DS5's ride is actually annoyingly harsh. On a smooth road, the Citroen almost gets away with it, translating the stiffness transmitted through the good-looking but ride-exploding 19-inch wheels into a flat and grippy attitude, but it feels like a vortex of mixed messages. You're sat in a lovely escapist pod, expecting beautiful isolation, and you find yourself shoved back into a world filled with potholes, speedbumps and expansion joints. Because, believe me, you feel every one. It's better on the smaller wheels, but you can't help but feel that if Citroen were keen to offer something genuinely different, then it needed to go the whole hog and embrace the waft.