There are no petrol options for the C5, but there is a broad array of diesels. A 113bhp 1.6-litre is the entry-level option and our pick of the range thanks to adequate performance and good (if not outstanding) emissions. A 2.0-litre with 161bhp and a 2.2-litre with 201bhp make up the faster options. The 2.2 is only available with a automatic gearbox, while the 1.6 and 2.0-litre are available with optional autos, but both are best with the standard six-speed manual.
The C5 is unusual, in that it has two different suspension systems to choose from. Most C5s have conventional steel springs, but top-spec Exclusive cars get a hydropneumatic arrangement, as used on all big Citroens for over 50 years. Oddly, the steel springs offer a more pliant ride – the hydropneumatic suspension jitters over larger bumps and leans heavily through bends. The steering responds sharply and there’s plenty of grip, but you get little sensation through the wheel.
Even some limos aren't as peaceful as top-spec C5s, because these get laminated side glass to help shut out wind noise. Lesser models aren’t quite as refined, but when you're inside, it still feels like the volume’s been turned down on the world. The engines are extremely refined, while the suspension suppresses most noise from the road. The manual gearshift is disappointing, though, because it’s vague and clunky.
C5 discounts are in line with those for rival models, but resale values are awful, no matter which version you choose. Leasing rates are more competitive, but the only version that emits 120g/km of CO2 or less is the 1.6 e-HDi, which comes with Citroen’s jerky EGS semi-automatic gearbox.
Citroen is on a mission to convince buyers that its cars are as well built as anything from Germany, and the C5's plush cabin materials suggest the company has turned things around. According to the 2012 JD Power survey, owners agree. They also awarded the car a reasonable mark for mechanical reliability.
The comprehensive list of standard safety kit includes stability control and seven airbags, while rear side 'bags are optional. All C5s get a cornering light that illuminates the inside of a bend at low speed, while headlights that turn with the front wheels are available as an option. Citroen security is good, and the laminated side windows on range-topping cars are hard to break.
The fascia looks smart, but there are too many small switches. On top of that, the instruments can be hard to read at a glance because their centres are packed with information. A good range of adjustment helps the driver to get comfortable, but the lever controlling the seat backrest is hard to reach. The steeply angled base also makes you sit with your knees up in the air - it's not uncomfortable, just a bit odd.
The C5 saloon is not as versatile as some hatchback rivals. However, its unusual concave rear screen gives you a good-sized boot opening, and the rear seats fold flat for added practicality. There's plenty of knee- and shoulder room, and only people over six feet tall are likely to quibble over headroom in the back.
Three trims are available, with entry-level VTR models getting air conditioning and cruise control. Upgrading to VTR+ brings alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and USB, while Exclusive trim features parking sensors, electric front seat adjustment and the hydropneumatic suspension.
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