There are so many SUVs on the market these days that choosing between them can be something of a challenge. As usual, though, Citroen is on hand to offer a typically Gallic left-field option in the guise of the new C5 Aircross.
Come on then, what’s the C5’s USP?
In a word, comfort. While some manufacturers are still talking about handling prowess and lap-times, the C5 doesn’t even know what the Nürburgring is, and certainly has never been there. And that’s fine by us.
Instead, the C5 Aircross makes use of Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, first seen on the C4 Cactus, plus what the company calls their Advanced Comfort seats.
Ooh, so it’s got that pumpy-umpy suspension from the old days?
Erm, no. It’s not hydro-pneumatic. In truth, the system boils down to bump stops that are better at absorbing energy once the suspension runs out of travel, but that does allow Citroen to opt for softer spring and damper rates for a better ride.
The result is that the C5 Aircross does undoubtedly ride well. It’s not quite the magic carpet you might be hoping for, and there’s certainly plenty of pitch and dive under acceleration and braking. Pulling away sharply makes the nose rise almost comically, and more than once I was tempted to call out ‘Hi-ho, Silver.’
What it does do, though, is shrug off pot-holes and seams in motorway concrete remarkably well, something it even manages to do without transmitting too much noise into the cabin.
Sounds good. Does that mean it handles like it’s at sea?
Well, it certainly rolls quite a bit but it’s never off-putting. Safe and predictable understeer sets in long before the door handles are in danger of scraping on the tarmac, but if you go with the flow and buy into the Citroen’s more relaxed pace of life, I’d say the set-up is pitched about right.
The steering, as you’d expect, is largely untroubled by feedback about the road’s texture, and although it has the odd moment where it feels a touch inconsistent, at town speeds it’s usefully light and forgiving.
What about those seats?
They’re certainly soft and at first they feel supremely comfortable. There’s two-way lumbar adjustment across the range, too, something that was curiously missing from the smaller C3 Aircross. However, the lack of sculpting for the join between seat back and squab meant that on a long journey I found myself fidgeting after a while.
Being a Citroen, is it full of ergonomic howlers?
There are a few niggles, yes. The column stalks – particularly for the cruise control – are obscured by the steering wheel spokes, the driver’s cup-holder is unusable if you plan on changing gear, and the pedals appear to protrude from the floor at a strange angle that meant, after a week, I still wasn’t at one with the clutch action.
The digital instruments can be customised to within an inch of their lives, but the process seems almost wilfully illogical. Much of the detail seems pushed out to the edges, too, so some drivers may find it partially obscured by the steering wheel.
The satnav isn’t much better, either – it took me four days to find out how to enter a post code.
The biggest issue, though, is with the touch-screen. Adjusting the temperature requires taking your eyes off the road, navigating to the climate screen, selecting a new setting in half-degree increments, and then finding the screen you were on before. If you want a different temperature to the passenger, you can’t just use the two temperature sliders independently – first you have to delve into the options and enable it. By which time you’ve probably driven into the back of the car in front.
Oh dear. Does it at least have Apple CarPlay?
Thankfully, yes. Chances are you’ll find a median temperature you’re comfortable with, use your phone for navigation and never use the touch-screen again.
What’s the rest of the interior like?
Spacious, light and airy. It’s a little monochromatic in its materials with a choice of grey, grey or brown, but many of the touch points are suitably soft and squidgy. The under-armrest storage is huge, the door bins are accommodating, and wireless phone charging is available.
The boot’s a good size, too, with up to 720 litres with a dual-level floor, while the tri-split seats fold to increase that to 1,630.
If you’re a fan of Morris dancing, top-spec models have a hands-free power tailgate.
Neat. So what about engines?
The range starts with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol with 130ps, followed by a 1.6 four-pot with 180ps. Diesels come in 130ps 1.5 and 180ps 2.0-litre guises, the latter only with an eight-speed auto while the former has a choice of that or a six-speed manual.
We spent a week with the BlueHDi 130ps diesel, during which it proved itself both amiably punchy and usefully economical, notching up a 54.2 mpg average with more possible on a longer run.
The gearing on the six-speed manual transmission seemed a little curious, however, with a low first but tall ratios thereafter. That may make it a useful tow vehicle – our test car had a 1,450kg braked trailer rating.
Any of these actually four-wheel-drive?
No, but the C5 Aircross does have a useful 230mm of ground clearance, and you can add Grip Control to automatic models to help you get the most from the available traction.
Is it laden with kit?
All models get Citroen Connect emergency assistance, radar-backed autonomous emergency braking, collision risk alert, coffee break alert, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, and that interminable touch-screen.
Further up the range there’s driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam, reversing camera, park assist, keyless entry, hands-free tailgate, panoramic glass roof, wireless phone charging and Citroen’s ConnectedCAM built-in dashcam.
Sounds pricey. Is it?
Prices start at £23,225 for the entry-level Feel PureTech 130 petrol, a mid-range Flair will cost you £25,325, while the range-topping Flair Plus starts at £27,725. Our Flair Plus test car came in at £29,770 with metallic paint.
Something like a Mazda CX-5 offers a greater focus on the driving experience for much the same kind of money, but the Citroen – as you’d expect – offers its own unique take on the family SUV.
One with comfort very much at its centre.
|Entry-level Price||£23,225||Price as tested||£29,770|
|Engine||1499cc 4-cyl turbo diesel||Transmission||6-speed manual|
|Power||129bhp @ 3,750rpm||Torque||300Nm @ 1,750rpm|
|0-62||10.4 secs||Top speed||117 mph|
|Economy||48.2-55.1 mpg||CO2||108-110 g/km|
|Dimensions||4500 x 1859 x 1670 (LxWxH)||Kerb Weight||1430 kg|