Citroën C5 Aircross: a Handsome Comfortable SUV

Citroën SUV offerings have been a bit hit and miss, but C5 Aircross is a bullseye, or slightly to the left of it.

A simple 2 model line-up highlights the ethos of the Australian branch of French Car Maker Peugeot-Citroën. The brands struggle for a foothold in one of the most competitive markets in the world. Keeping it simple, and relevant, means you can’t go wrong.

Australia has more brands than just about any other market, so standing out is a way to get noticed.

Errors in packaging in previous models saw C4 Cactus sales flag before the model was dropped completely. There is only one small error with C5 Aircross, but more about that later.

The brand now has just 3 fruity offerings, C3 hatch, C3 Aircross, and the brand new big and butch C5 Aircross. The latter 2 are SUVs. A brand that once appealed only to architects, artists, and psychologists is striving for something wider ranging. They’ve picked the booming SUV segment in which to stretch their legs.

There are only two trim levels, “Feel”, and range-topping “Shine”. Silly names, but there you go. C5 Aircross sits between Peugeot’s 3008 and 5008. I mention this because as of now, Peugeot and Citroën will be sold together in all but one dealership.

Prices are surprisingly low for a premium European car at $39,990 for the Feel and $43,990 for the Shine.

Outside:

Citroën C5 Aircross is, essentially, a large, high-riding, 5-door hatchback.

Citroën has swept away the weird, sadly.

None the less, C5 Aircross looks handsome. The two-level front end is gone, replaced by a less polarising grille. A body-coloured band defines the LED DTRLs, with halogen headlights sitting just below.

The signature grille includes the Citroën  “chevron”, an inverted double V. There is further black detailing in the grille slats, and the lower grille has large intakes and halogen fog lights.

Feel gets Swirl 18” alloys growing to 19” Art alloys on the Shine.

Black roof rails emphasise height, and chrome door trim shows a “C” detail. You have to see the video for that one.

LED taillights have a 3D look, and the rear end manages to shrink, looking far smaller than the medium size SUV actually is.

From the side, C5 Aircross looks a little like a very large Mini, a style that millennials seems to like. It has a slightly chucky rump, giving C5 a rugged feel.

The look is smart and elegant, as fine French fashion should.

Inside:

There are subtle cues borrowed from sister brand Peugeot, but the interior is thoroughly Citroën

Oblong shapes create a coherent theme throughout. Classy, soft-feel surfacing makes the cabin elegant, yet fun.

The driver’s instruments are displayed on a wide 12.3” LCD screen with a range of information options. You can show as much or as little as you like. A scroll button on the steering wheel quickly accesses different screens. All data is large and easy to read.

Steering wheel detail includes a range of auxiliary buttons, and a funky centre support at the bottom. A canny viewer might notice that as a nod to the gracious 60’s DS saloon.

The centre stack and console house a carefully curated set of controls, and a large 8” touch screen. The controls to directly select audio, phone, climate, navigation, and home screen menus are along a touch-bar beneath the screen.

Under that is a row of less-used controls for audio on/off, and demisters for front and rear windows.

Citroën have really done their homework on ergonomics. Everything is not only easy to reach, but easy to use.

The centre console has been kept crisp and clear.

The Sport drive mode button, off-road programme dial, electric parking brake, and the pistol-grip gear lever are all that can be found. The French have finally put cup holders higher on the priority list. They’re small, but big enough for regular cups.

Behind them is a dual lid centre bin.

There is plenty of space. Rear passengers will be cosy, but there is still enough legroom for a long trip. Seating is superb, but Shine gets an extra memory foam padding like that used in the bedding industry. They reminded me of that DS mentioned earlier.

The boot has 580L normally, 720L with the back seats slid forward, and 1630L when the seats are folded flat.

The Drive:

Performance figures do not tell the story here.

The EU is moving to EVs and as they do, petrol and diesel engines are shrinking as emissions standards tighten.

Only one drivetrain can be had. A 1.6 Euro 6 turbo petrol 4 cylinder is paired to a smooth 6 speed automatic. 0-100 is a leisurely 9.9 seconds from the 121kw/240Nm unit, but power is delivered smoothly with little vibration from up front.

Shine has narrower tyres than Feel by 30mm in order to give better ride. Ride is further enhanced by the new fancy suspension dampers. Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® (PHC) progressively allow fluid from one part of the unit to another. The net result is ride Aladdin would be proud of.

Handling feels old Citroën, and is all the better for it. If people want rock hard cornering, they can look elsewhere. There is nothing more miserable than sitting po-faced as bump after hideous bump is endured through gritted teeth.

Citroën says the new system is much lighter, cheaper and easier to maintain than the old hydro-pneumatic system. They are probably right, but I’ll always prefer the old ways.

Steering is super light, and while it changes with Sport mode, is still easy driving. Sport mode also changes the gear shifts which remain smooth, but are held longer. Brakes feel slightly strange at first. There isn’t a point at which you feel them grip.

Instead, there is a steady progressive slowing which gives the driver plenty of feedback. There is nothing worse than brakes that feel nothing, then try to push your face through the windscreen.

There is a bit of fun body-roll in corners, but a track car this is not, thankfully. It sticks to the tarmac like Citroëns of old, but unlike those old cars, this one has mod cons.

Our drive out of Sydney took us through Wisemans Ferry. We stopped at Pie in the Sky for a tasty light lunch. This drive throws everything at a car it will possibly face in everyday use. There are long straights, tight bends, and a mix of badly surfaced road and smooth highway.

Once back in town, you notice how well C5 Aircross treats you in heavy traffic.

Corners are dispatched with the usual French alacrity, but outright acceleration is a more relaxed affair. I preferred not to overtake unless absolutely necessary. It needs plenty of planning, so you’re  better off sitting back and enjoying the bucolic bliss outside.

It is the sort of car you feel instantly at home in. Even after long stretches in the saddle, the seat remains a comfortable spot from which to survey the road ahead. As I mentioned, Shine has seats with memory foam built in, and feels like a pillow-top mattress.

There is a modest fuel storage at 50L, but the 6.3L/100k highway figures will get a decent trot on a longer trip. 6.3 is a great set of figures for a reasonably large car.

As with all things, it is horses for courses.

Safety and Features:

Citroën has stuffed C5 Aircross full of gear. There is AEB up to 85kph, but no pedestrian detection. This may put a 5 star rating out of reach. Many fleet buyers have 5 stars as a minimum requirement. That doesn’t mean C5 isn’t safe. It simply means the driver will have to look through the windscreen, something everyone should be doing.

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and DAB is standard, and there is Bluetooth streaming and wireless charging (Shine only).

Other safety features include: Driver attention warning, ABS. 6 airbags, Distance Alert, grip control and hill descent, and a space saver spare wheel. The reversing camera has a 360° function with the rear camera building a picture as the car goes backward.

The drive experience starts with with smart entry and start. Once on the road, thicker insulated glass makes the cabin very quiet.

There is active lane assistance too. The system will keep you centred in the lane, try to steer you back if you change lanes without indicating, ditto if there is someone in your blind spot.

Conclusion:

While C5 Aircross is a front wheel drive SUV, the industry knows that buyers prefer automatic, 2 wheel drive, petrol engine cars.

Most SUVs will never go off-road so why waste money on features you’ll never use?

Feature List:

Feel includes:

  • 6 litre, turbocharged petrol engine with six-speed automatic and paddle shift
  • Autonomous Emergency Brake (up to 85km/h)
  • Active Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Active Lane Departure Assist
  • Four mode Grip Control
  • 3-inch full digital instrument display
  • Apple CarPlay® + Android Auto + MirrorLink
  • Bluetooth-compatible 7-inch touchscreen for navigation and digital audio
  • Auto headlamps and windscreen wipers with Magic Wash
  • Auto-dimming rear view mirror
  • Speed Limit Recognition and Recommendation
  • Top Vision 180-degree parking camera with front and rear parking sonar
  • Keyless entry and ignition
  • Halogen headlamps with fog lights
  • Privacy glass
  • Roof rails
  • Electrically-adjustable folding door mirrors
  • Automatic bi-zone air-conditioning with rear air vents
  • Fully-digital instrument panel
  • Central touchscreen with navigation, DAB, Mirror Screen (CarPlay and Android Auto) and voice recognition
  • Three individual second-row sliding seats, two with ISOfix and all with top tether anchors
  • Six airbags
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • LED daytime running lamps
  • Hands-free, foot-operated electric tailgate

 

Shine adds:

  • Citroen Advanced Comfort seats with electric driver’s seat
  • Combination leather and fabric-covered seats
  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • Mobile phone wireless charging
  • Laminated windows and windscreen
  • Aluminium pedals

Facts and Figures: car name

  • Engine: 1.6 L 4Cyl Turbo producing 121kW/240Nm
  • Transmission: FWD 6 speed Auto
  • Warranty: 5 Yr/ Unlimited km
  • Safety: unrated
  • Origin: France
  • Price: $39,990 and $$43,990*

Citroën C5 Aircross

Rating System (against others in its class)

  • Overall look and feel 7
  • Interior look and feel 6
  • Comfort 10
  • Practicality 7
  • Engine/battery 5
  • transmission 5
  • Technology – cabin 6
  • Technology – driver assist 5
  • Safety 5
  • Driveability 6

Total 62

Vehicle rated against others in its class

1 – terrible

5 – average

10 perfection

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