What Car? says...
The Citroën C5 Aircross is your archetypical Citroën. The brochure blurb calls it the ‘Comfort class SUV’, and it certainly has the French brand’s famously supple ride.
Plus, those quirky looks could only really come from a company that arguably knows more than any other car maker about avant-garde design.
Citroën has given the C5 Aircross pedigree DNA too. Under its skin you’ll find engines and mechanicals that are shared with the Peugeot 5008 – and that's one of our favourite large SUVs. These include regular petrol and diesel options, along with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV).
The Citroën C5 Aircross is available as a five-seater only, and with no four-wheel-drive option, it's not really designed for rough-and-tumble off-roading. Instead, it tempts buyers with a price that undercuts its 5008 cousin and competes at the more affordable end of the class, vying with, among others, the Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5.
So, you already know how many seats it has, that it offers a smooth ride and that you won't need a second mortgage to buy one – but what about everything else? Does it have enough room for you and your family, and does it make good financial sense in the long run? These questions and more will be answered over the next few pages.
When you've decided which car is for you, you can find the best prices by using our free What Car? New Car Deals service. We could save you plenty on a C5 Aircross and most of its rivals without any haggling, and there are lots of new large SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you want to keep costs to a minimum, the 129bhp 1.2 Puretech 130 is solid choice because it pulls better from low revs than the Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv and gets you up to motorway speeds with ease. Granted, its sprint from 0-62mph of just over 10 secs is slower than the Skoda Kodiaq 1.5 TSI 150, but you’ve more than enough poke for normal life with your family in the car.
If you want more shove, or intend to tow a caravan, the 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 diesel is the better bet. That's because it has even more low to mid-rev oomph than the 1.2 Puretech 130, but with the same power output, it's no quicker pulling away from traffic lights.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version gets 222bhp and is the smoothest and most powerful engine on offer in the C5 Aircross lineup. It combines a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 13.2kWh battery pack and electric motor, and thanks to the hybrid system, this version doesn’t suffer from any hesitation as you pull off, as the regular petrol does. It also has an official all-electric range of 34 miles, reducing your emissions and, potentially, your fuel bills too. But bear in mind that in real-world driving conditions you're more likely to cover closer to 25 miles on pure electric power.
Suspension and ride comfort
Citroën makes some bold claims about the comfort of the C5 Aircross, so are they justified? Well, yes. This is a pillowy soft large SUV that wafts over most surfaces without the near-constant fidget you’ll experience in the CX-5 and other sportier-feeling rivals. The set-up lends itself to A-roads and motorways, where the C5 Aircross is one of the calmest and most cosseting SUVs you can buy, certainly for the money.
It’s not perfect though, and there are two things you should be aware of. Firstly, it will thud if you drive over a very sharp imperfection or ridge (especially on the larger 19in alloy wheels) and, secondly, it sways gently from side to side as you drive over undulations. If you prefer something that's a bit better tied down, we suggest trying out the Peugeot 5008.
The weightier Hybrid version requires a slightly firmer set-up, but it’s still softer than most of its rivals. If anything, that added firmness helps to limit the floatiness felt in the non-hybrid versions. As a plug-in alternative, the PHEV version of the Ford Kuga offers a slightly better ride as long as you avoid the stiffer ST-Line Edition trim.
Unsurprisingly given its soft suspension, the C5 Aircross would rather you didn’t drive it quickly on a twisty road. While it grips well enough and is far from alarming at normal speeds, it’s rather wallowy, leaning over in bends far more than rivals including the Seat Tarraco and VW Tiguan Allspace.
Due to the C5 Aircross’s lack of agility, you won’t really notice that the heavier PHEV version is actually a bit worse, making it even less keen on a winding road. If you want something entertaining when things get twisty, we’d advise sticking to the Kuga PHEV.
Mind you, if that doesn’t put you off driving briskly, the steering will. It’s light and fine around town, but offers little sense of connection to the front wheels on faster A and B roads. Selecting Sport mode does help to reduce that, adding a little more resistance to the steering wheel, but it’s far from excellent and you still won’t really know what the front wheels are up to.
Noise and vibration
The three-cylinder Puretech 130 is a smooth operator. It only becomes vocal when it's worked hard, and even then it’s no worse than the Kodiaq 1.5 TSI and far more subdued than the equivalent Mazda CX-5.
The BlueHDi 130 diesel is rowdier but perfectly acceptable too, while the Hybrid is near-silent in electric mode. It's pretty muted when the engine kicks in but does have a slightly coarse edge at higher revs, with vibrations you can feel through the steering wheel thrown in for good measure.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox that comes with the Puretech 130 has a light clutch pedal but can feel rather vague – the CX-5 has a much more satisfying gearshift action. Alternatively, you can opt for the automatic gearbox on all but the Hybrid (on which it’s standard). It ups the price a little but shifts through the gears smoothly enough and only hesitates when you ask for a sudden burst of power.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The chances are that most people will love the driving position in the Citroën C5 Aircross. The pedals, steering wheel and seat line up well, so you're not sitting skewed while driving, and the armrests (there's one on the door and a large one in the centre) are generous and perfectly placed.
The driver's seat doesn't have a lot of bolstering to hold you through bends, but it's fabulous to sit on for a long motorway jaunt. It's soft like a favourite armchair while still offering support in all the key places, and can be adjusted for height and lumbar support (it’s manual on all versions) in every trim. The steering wheel has loads of height and reach adjustment too.
Customisable digital instruments are fitted as standard and, with the exception of climate settings, most controls fall easily to hand. Why? Well, like the Peugeot 5008 the C5 Aircross doesn’t have physical controls to adjust the temperature and instead requires you to delve into the infotainment touchscreen. That's far more distracting on the move than physical controls.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
You sit high up in the Citroën C5 Aircross and this, combined with the fairly thin windscreen pillars, means you get a good view of the road ahead. Unfortunately, the car's quirky styling means there are small side windows and thick pillars at the back, making it trickier to reverse than in the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq.
Despite that, you shouldn’t struggle when it comes to parking, thanks to all versions of the C5 Aircross coming with front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera as standard.
The good news continues at night time and in poor visibility too, with all trim levels including bright automatic LED headlights and automatic front windscreen wipers on their standard equipment lists.
Sat nav and infotainment
Regardless of which trim level you go for, the C5 Aircross spoils you when it comes to infotainment. That’s because they all come with a 10in touchscreen infotainment system that’s mounted high on the dashboard and includes DAB radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, and built-in sat nav (with a three-year subscription to live traffic and speed camera services).
A mid-life facelift introduced updated infotainment graphics, making the screen much sharper and easier to read than the previous version. The problem is that you operate the system using fiddly touch-sensitive buttons and the touchscreen. That’s far more distracting than using the physical controller you get in the BMW X3.
Things aren’t helped by the fact that the infotainment system has lots of sub-menus and can start to lag if you tap around too quickly, which is highly frustrating when you’re trying to quickly add a destination to the sat-nav or make speedy adjustments to the climate control.
If we judged the interior of the C5 Aircross on its looks, it might score quite well, but we don’t because that's your prerogative and something we prefer to steer clear of. We’re all about form and function on an objective level.
Step inside and you’ll find plenty of soft materials. The dashboard has a leather-look finish with matching accents on the steering wheel and gear lever gaiter. Gloss-black trims around the air vents and centre console lift things further, and you’ll have to search around if you want to find any scratchy plastics.
The most recent facelift has really helped to change things in this area, adding much more of a premium feel than was felt in previous-generation cars. Granted, it’s still not quite as nice as the Mazda CX-5 but for the money it’s a really pleasant place to be on a long motorway jaunt.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Leg room is ample in the front of the C5 Aircross – it's better than in the CX-5, for example. When it comes to head room, it's generous enough if you avoid the panoramic sunroof (optional with Shine trim and standard on C-Series Edition). Six-footers will have ample space above their heads, although not quite as much as in the CX-5.
Between the seats there are a couple of cupholders that will each take a large coffee with ease, and there are plenty of storage spaces dotted around. One of the biggest is under the front centre armrest – you can literally stick your whole arm into it because it's so deep. And that's good, because the glovebox is tiny.
If you’re likely to have adult back-seat passengers regularly, you’ll really want to avoid the C5 Aircross's panoramic sunroof. You see, while it reduces front head room a little, it reduces it in the rear a lot, to the point that six-footers will find their heads grazing the roof lining. Middle-seat passengers don’t have the same issue, actually gaining head room with a panoramic roof fitted.
It’s much the same story when it comes to rear leg room, with the C5 Aircross proving passable rather than generous. What does that mean? Well, while six-footers will have enough room to sit fairly comfortably in the seats, they’ll find that knee room is tight and there isn’t all much space going spare.
Buyers who want a bigger car should look at either the Honda CR-V or the Hyundai Santa Fe because they are both very large in the back. If you need a seven-seater (the C5 Aircross has five seats), the Sorento or Santa Fe will fit adults in its third row while the Peugeot 5008 has two third-row seats that are better suited to kids than grown-ups.
Seat folding and flexibility
This is where the C5 Aircross really excels. All models, including the plug-in hybrid (PHEV), come with 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats that are identical in size and can be slid back and forth independently of one another.
That makes it really versatile, allowing you to choose from several set-up combinations that prioritise either boot space or rear passenger space. It gives you far more flexibility than the 60/40 seats that you’ll find in the Ford Kuga or Skoda Kodiaq.
The front passenger seat has basic adjustments, including for height, but you only get manual lumbar adjustment. The passenger seat doesn’t come with lumbar support of any kind, which is a shame because it could do with better support in that area.
We were able to fit nine carry-on cases below the parcel shelf of the C5 Aircross, and that’s a very competitive tally for the class, although it's equalled by the Kodiaq. If you need even more space, we’d point you towards the Sorento and the 5008.
The large tailgate (it's powered if you go for the top-spec C-Series Edition trim) means you get a large boot aperture and low loading height, making getting bulky items in and out easy. There's also a height-adjustable boot floor – if you raise it when the rear seats are folded down, you're left with a flat space that you can slide items along easily.
The plug-in hybrid version’s battery sits under the boot floor, so you lose the adjustment option (it's permanently in its highest setting). That still leaves a big enough space for most requirements, and there's a bit of storage under the floor for the charging cables.
Accessibility & Motability
Usability for people with disability or their carers
Motability - Access
The Citroen C5 Aircross is simply remarkable where access is concerned. With front doors that open to a huge 70 degrees. Basically, the only way to get them any more out of the way would be to remove them altogether. One downside of this, however, is that with the door pulls at least halfway along the door trim, reaching it to shut the door will require quite a stretch.
Many will like that the driver’s seat is 690mm from the road in its lowest setting and a full 750mm at its highest, so you won’t need to lower yourself far when getting in or lift yourself high out of the seat at journey's end – you simply just slide in and out. The bad news is that, with just 710mm between the seat cushion and the top of the door aperture, you might have to duck your head a fair bit.
Worse news is that the top of the door sill is a full 450mm from the road, presenting a sizeable step when getting in. The car’s floor, meanwhile, is almost 120mm lower than the sill so there’s a bit of a step when getting out – but that’s pretty much typical in this class.
Motability - Storage
The boot lip is a lofty 765mm from the road so you’ll need to lift items up quite a long way to get them into the boot. However, once you’ve cleared that hurdle you’ll find a large, well-proportioned boot with a tailgate opening that is a full 870mm tall. This means you can fit a wheelchair in there with no need to fold it down first. And that’s with the rear seats raised, so practicality is assured.
The boot floor is also height-adjustable, so when it’s set as high as it’ll go there’s almost no load lip to speak of. And when the rear seats are folded down, the resultant area is completely flat, making it easy to slide awkward items in.
The back seats are also split 40/20/40 and can be slid back and forward individually to vary boot space or rear legroom as needed.
Motability - Ease of use and options
There are a few options available to you if you need an automatic gearbox. You could have the 129bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which has enough get-up-and-go about it to avoid being overwhelmed in brisk traffic.
However, if you want a bit more low-rev strength, the 1.5-litre diesel is a great choice that also manages to feel completely at home on faster roads. Talking of faster, the plug-in hybrid combines a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol power with an electric motor and is decidedly brisk, plus it offers an official electric range of 38 miles.
The C5 Aircross is pretty well equipped as standard, with all versions having automatic LED headlights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Top-spec models also add an electrically operated tailgate to that list, so you don’t need to manually raise and lower the bootlid.
The infotainment system isn’t exactly cutting edge, but the latest facelift does help to bring it into the current generation. The graphics are sharp and easy to read and it reacts quickly enough to your prods. It’s just a shame that it’s all touchscreen and just has a few touch-sensitive buttons to get to different sections of the system. Physical controls would be much less distracting to use on the move.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The depreciation is roughly in line with the 5008, Kodiaq and HS, so the C5 Aircross won’t break the bank when it's time to sell (the CX-5 is likely to retain an even bigger chunk of its list price). The C5 Aircross is usually very competitive if you’re taking out a monthly PCP finance deal, thanks to sizeable deposit contributions from Citroën.
The entry-level PureTech 130 engine emits relatively low CO2 emissions and should provide reasonable average fuel economy (about 35 to 40mpg depending on where and how you drive). Of course, if you’re a company car driver and want to keep your monthly benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax payments low, you’ll want our pick, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV). It should charge up from flat in less than two hours if you use a 7kW wall box. Using the optional lead for a three-pin plug will take about six hours.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level Sense Plus trim helps to keep costs to a minimum and comes with plenty of standard toys, playing into the C5 Aircross’s value-for-money ethos.
Along with the long list of infotainment gadgets and the visibility aids, it comes with electric windows front and rear, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 18in alloy wheels, cruise control and keyless entry/ start.
If you want the plug-in hybrid, you’ll have to opt for the mid-range Shine trim, and that's our pick of the range. Shine adds privacy glass and power-folding and heated door mirrors. Top-spec C-Series Edition trim gives you all the bells and whistles, including the hands-free tailgate, 19in alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof and some added style tweaks. We’d avoid that spec, though, as it will cost as much as more accomplished cars in the class.
The C5 Aircross didn’t feature in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but Citroën was one of the 30 car makers included. It finished in 11th place, above Honda, Peugeot, Seat and Skoda but below Hyundai, Kia, MG and Mazda.
For added peace of mind, you get a two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty and an additional one year’s cover provided by the dealer, but Kia's five-year cover soundly beats that. Citroën allows you to extend your warranty for a fee.
Safety and security
All versions of the Citroën C5 Aircross get an alarm and immobiliser, and there's an optional dash cam, ConnectedCam, which records and stores footage of the road ahead. You can switch it off if you want to.
In terms of safety, the C5 Aircross is on the ball. Active safety features include a driver attention alert system, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB). If you are involved in an accident, there’s an SOS call function that can contact the emergency services.
The Safety Plus pack is optional but not expensive, so we'd recommend it. It adds an improved automatic emergency braking system and a blind-spot warning system, and lifts the Euro NCAP crash safety rating from four stars to the maximum five. The Citroën is not as good as the Peugeot 5008 at protecting adults in a crash and marginally worse at keeping kids safe.
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Citroën as a brand has proved to be decently dependable in our recent reliability surveys (11th out of 32 car makers in 2022). The C5 Aircross didn't featured specifically, but gets a two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty and an additional year’s cover provided by the dealer. Most rivals match or beat that warranty period.
No, it's only available with front-wheel drive.
|RRP price range||£23,670 - £38,365|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||250 - 250|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£789 / £1,993|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,579 / £3,986|