Just as we’d expect the British Prime Minister to be seen swanning his way up The Mall in the back of a Jaguar for an audience with Her Royal Majiness, we’ve grown used to seeing the French President wafting up the Champs-Élysées in the back of a big Citroen.

That association was put to the test in 1973’s The Day of the Jackal, with de Gaulle’s armoured Citroen DS sustaining machine gun fire and ultimately making its escape with occupants intact thanks largely to its huffy-puffy suspension.

Despite being launched back in 1955, the original DS is still regarded as something of a design zenith, and over the last 60 years it’s accumulated accolades ranging from most influential design, most technologically advanced, and even the most beautiful.

Citroen believes the DS badge has sufficient cachet to sustain itself as a brand in its own right.

To begin with, the current Citroen DS line-up such as the popular DS3 will migrate across to dedicated ‘DS zones’ within existing Citroen dealers, but in time the company expects to launch a series of new DS stores and salons across the country, into which will be wheeled a full range of new cars.

Each will offer a suitably daring design – the new DS brand’s tagline is ‘the spirit of avant-garde’ – and the first of the models to embody this ethos is the new DS5.

Although technically it’s not new – more accurately a face-lifted and de-chevroned Citroen DS5 – but whichever way you look at it, it’s certainly got a lot going on.

New headlights, sequential indicators, and bold chrome ‘sabres’ that run along the top of the wings are set to be a recurring theme for much of the DS brand.

The multitude of chrome elements work best against a dark paint choice, and having driven a DS5 in the rather fabulous Ink Blue through traffic, it’s clear other drivers found its squat rear-end, appealing light motifs and suggestive tail-pipes to be the most interesting shape on the road that day.

Similarly design-heavy is the interior: said to be inspired by a fighter cockpit, it’s dominated by a massive centre console punctuated by funky electric window switches, a theme repeated in the roof console and its three-section sunroof with individual electric blinds.

There are suitably squidgy materials in all the right places, the contrast stitching picks out the alluring lines, and some of the details such as the ‘watch strap’ inspired seats are, frankly, nothing short of delicious.

As a piece of design, it’s desperately appealing. But it is not without its ergonomic compromises.

As a piece of design, it’s desperately appealing. But it is not without its ergonomic compromises.

That high-sided central tunnel eats into knee-room for tall drivers, as do the chunky door grabs, and neither the seat nor steering wheel have quite enough travel to adjust your way to comfort. Long-legged drivers may find it a challenge to operate the clutch without clouting the steering wheel with their knee, and that jet-inspired sunroof has a hefty price to pay in terms of headroom, too.

The ventilation controls are tricky to read in sunlight, the central vents are too far away to be directed at the driver, and there’s nowhere to store a phone: most smart-phones won’t fit in the cubby under the armrest or the tray by the gear lever, the only other place being a coin tray by the driver’s right knee that habitually empties its contents onto the floor when you pull away.

The driving experience is not without its issues, either.

The stop/start system activates at inopportune moments, while the automatic gearbox can be inappropriately lethargic when pulling out into traffic and occasionally indecisive. The hybrid is smoother to pull away – positively presidential, in fact – but press on and its transmission lumbers languidly from one ratio to the next.

While the initial ride quality is good, the DS5 can still crash noisily into pot-holes and make a bit of a fuss over cat’s eyes and drain covers. And although the DS5’s chassis resists understeer far longer than you’d expect, describing it as a spirited performer may be a bit of a stretch.

Engines are turbodiesels of either 120, 150 or 180hp, a turbo petrol unit with 165hp, or a hybrid model. The latter uses a 160hp diesel engine to drive the front wheels, while a 40hp electric motor drives the rear. The observant will realise that delivers four-wheel-drive capability, but it also gives 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds, CO2 emissions of just 103 g/km, and economy of up to 72.4 mpg. Plus a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mode that’s good for sneaking up on pedestrians.

The manual 150hp diesel is expected to be the popular choice – no doubt helped by the fact the six-speed box has perhaps the best shift-action of any French car in living memory – and we agree that it probably represents the sweet-spot in the range.

But isn’t it still just a flawed package, the embodiment of form over function?

Well, certainly you wouldn’t catch a Japanese marque signing off on a car with similar issues. But then it’s hard to imagine any other brand would have the design cojones to pull off a car like this in the first place.

It’s hard to imagine that any other brand would have the design cojones to pull off a car like this.

The cynical amongst us have grown used to car manufacturers padding out motor shows with strikingly beautiful concept cars and the unspoken promise that, no, really, the production version will look just like it. And yet it never does.

The DS5, however, looks like it was wheeled straight from the bright lights of Geneva and into production. At no point were bean-counters allowed to shave off its edges, dilute its design, or pollute its charm.

And what emerges – despite our ergonomic misgivings – is an achingly beguiling exercise in style and a genuinely appealing place to spend time.

Certainly many have suffered in the name of art, and despite being too tall to fit comfortably, I still found myself wanting to park one on my drive.

But if it’s a personal recommendation you’re hoping for, just ask the French president.

He’s already got one.

Entry-level Price £25,980 Price as tested £29,240
Engine 4-cyl diesel, 1997cc Transmission 6-speed manual
Power 150hp @ 4,000rpm Torque 370Nm @ 1,500rpm
0-60 10.9 secs Top speed 127 mph
Economy 68.9 mpg CO2 105 g/km
Dimensions 4530 x 2128 (LxW inc. mirrors) Kerb Weight 1537 kg