Review: Citroen C5 Aircross

I tested both petrol and diesel versions of the C5 Aircross – read my full review now

I first drove one of these to Wales as part of an invitation by Citroen UK to attend the British round of the WRC in Wales and watch the Citroen Rally team in action. The connection was the suspension system used in the rally car and deployed in what is a five-seat family SUV. Read that story on now.

I got the C5 Aircross back to do a full review on it which also meant I got to try two engine variants: a petrol 1.6-litre and a 1.4-litre diesel variants, both priced around £31k. For the range prices start from £24k and rise up to £33k.

I had the petrol version for the long run from London to North Wales and the diesel to drive around London which ideally should have been the other way around, not that either was found wanting during the task it was put to.

The petrol model features a four-cylinder turbo putting out 178bhp and 250Nm (184lb ft) of torque, giving it a 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 134mph. Fuel economy is 35-39mpg – I saw high 30s. Meanwhile I achieved about 44mpg from the diesel around town – the claimed figures are 48-56mpg.

The diesel motor is also a turbo-charged four-cylinder unit, which puts out 129bhp seeing its 0-60mph acceleration figure drop to 11.8 seconds and top speed reduced to 117mph. However a huge torque figure of 300Nm (221lb ft) from 1750rpm, means it has plenty of low down pull and would be happy lugging load and towing.

Talking of luggage – the boot features 580 litres of space, expandable to 720 thanks to not one but two neat tricks – you can drop the floor to release more room and each of the three second row seats can be slid forward individually to create more room. Of course if you drop the seats you can turn it into a van with 1630 litres.

Get into the rear passenger compartment and there is plenty of space for two and perhaps even three six-footers to lounge reasonably comfortably, thanks in particular to those sliding seats and scooping out a few extra millimetres of space from the front seat backs. There are two A/C vents in the back and also a USB plug – essential to keep the kids happy. There are ovoid design motifs in the rear which are also carried into the styling of the front compartment and fascia.

Whilst it looks stylised and futuristic, the dashboard is all actually quite straightforward. There’s a configurable fully digital instrument panel – just watching the graphics come alive when you hit the starter button (placed on the wrong side of the centre console oddly) is a feature highlight alone. Then there’s a big centre touchscreen controlling the infotainment including a decent 6-speaker sound system with DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

There’s a wireless charging point and power points just ahead of the horizontal gear lever for the 8-speed automatic, which is easier and more intuitive to use than it appears. Behind that there’s huge cubby box and plenty of other storage spaces to put things as you’d expect.

As a vehicle that places so much emphasis on practicality, it’s no surprise that it majors on comfort in two key areas – in addition to obviously space, the infotainment features discussed and an excellent climate control (although it’s a surprise it doesn’t come with heated seats and steering wheel on this spec) – the first of which is the ride and the seats.

Having spent hours in the driver’s seat I was astonished at how little soreness and numbness I experienced. The seats actually employ high density foam and broad cushions to better caress your rear, and the effort the Citroen has gone too, certainly shows. And if you’re wondering, I only researched the seats after I had already done my Wales trip and was duly impressed by the pews.

The second aspect is the ride comfort, and that again is a key technology area for the French car maker which has traditionally been renowned for clever suspension systems. My trip to Wales was on invitation from Citroen (read about it here) to witness their rally cars in action on the British round of the WRC. The connection between the full-fledged race machine and this cruiser? Citroen’s new Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension – which basically dissipates the energies at the extremities of the suspension travel to reduce the jolt that you normally hear and feel on a car’s suspension.

On the go this translates to a ride quality that is smooth, refined and well controlled, with only the merest suggestion of pitch and roll if you throw it too eagerly into a corner or round a roundabout. And would you do that? Not really. The petrol doesn’t lack performance, and the diesel doesn’t feel that slow either, plus both are fine on the motorway. However, these are not sporty cars, despite the ‘Sports’ mode which weightens up the steering and sharpens the gearbox somewhat, though the difference in driving modes is subtle.

Around town though the turning circle is good and visibility is not an issue, so it’s quite manageable. Overall then, it does exactly what you’d expect it to do – serve as a spacious, practical and comfortable city cruiser for the family. And it does all of that with a generous serving of chic style you won’t find on some of its rivals.

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