Citroën C5 Aircross review

Category: Large SUV

Section: Performance & drive

Available fuel types:diesel, petrol, hybrid
Available colours:
Citroën C5 Aircross 2020 rear cornering
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RRP £24,630What Car? Target Price from£21,764
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

Our pick of the petrol engine range is the 129bhp 1.2 Puretech 130. It uses its modest power to good effect, getting from 0-62mph in a little over 10 seconds.

The Skoda Kodiaq 1.5 TSI 150 is slightly quicker, but the C5 Aircross is a smidge brisker than a Peugeot 5008 fitted with the same engine. The important bit is that, while it’s no rocket ship, it will get to 70mph in a sprightly fashion and pulls harder from low revs than the Mazda CX-5 Skayactiv petrol. That added flexibility means fewer gear changes to get up hills. 

If you intend to tow a heavy caravan or boat, the 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 diesel is the better bet. That's because it has even more low to mid-rev shove than the 1.2 Puretech 130 but, with the same power output, it's no quicker pulling away from traffic lights.

The final engine option is a plug-in hybrid. It combines a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 13.2kWh battery pack and electric motor, sending a total of 222bhp to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

It makes the Hybrid the quickest model in the range, but sometimes there's a delay between putting your foot down and both systems waking up. Working on its own, the electric motor has enough poke to get you calmly up to motorway speeds; its official all-electric range is 34 miles.

Suspension and ride comfort

As we mentioned in the intro, Citroën makes some bold claims about the comfort of the C5 Aircross – and, in many respects, those claims stack up.

This is a pillowy soft SUV that wafts over most surfaces without the near-constant fidget you'll experience in the Mazda CX-5 and other sportier-feeling rivals. It is at its best on A-roads and motorways, where the C5 Aircross is one of the calmest and most cosseting SUVs you can buy, certainly for the money.

There are two things to be aware of, though. It will thud if you drive over a very sharp imperfection or ridge (especially if you go for any trim fitted with larger alloy wheels) and you need to be the type of person who enjoys reclining in a comfy hammock.

Why’s that? Well, the C5 Aircross's tall, softly sprung body will sway gently from side to side over undulations, rather like a hammock in the breeze. If you prefer something that's a bit better tied down, we suggest trying out the Kia Sorento or the Peugeot 5008.

The weightier Hybrid version requires a firmer set-up. It's still decent at speed, although the side-to-side sway feels more aggressive, but it's a fair bit harsher over spiky bumps around town. As a plug-in alternative, the Ford Kuga PHEV offers a better ride as long as you avoid the stiffer ST-Line Edition trim. 

Citroën C5 Aircross 2020 rear cornering

Handling

Unsurprisingly given its soft suspension, the Citroën 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 leans over in bends far more than any rival and doesn’t feel at all agile.

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.

The Peugeot 5008 and even the enormous Kia Sorento can be pedalled along quite happily at a brisker pace, but if you want something that's quite a lot more agile and entertaining, we’d point you towards the Seat Tarraco or Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.

Because the standard C5 Aircross is so wallowy, you don't really notice that the heavier Hybrid is a bit worse. If you want a plug-in you can drive by the scruff of the neck, the Ford Kuga PHEV is the one we'd recommend.

Noise and vibration

The three-cylinder Puretech 130 – our favourite Citroën C5 Aircross engine choice – is a smooth operator. It only becomes vocal when it's worked hard, and even then it’s no worse than the Skoda Kodiaq 1.5 TSI and far more subdued than the equivalent Honda CR-V and 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. 

One of the best bits about the C5 Aircross is how peaceful it is on long motorway journeys. Any engine noise fades away by 70mph and it's better than most cars in its class (not including premium alternatives such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3) at stifling wind and road noise, partly because of the acoustic laminated windscreen.

The Puretech 130 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The gearlever and clutch pedal are light but rather vague – the CX-5 has a much more satisfying gearshift action.

Adding the automatic gearbox edges up the price (it's standard on the Hybrid, though) but it's pretty good if you can stretch to it. The gear changes are smooth, although you might get a jolt if you step off then quickly back on to the accelerator. The Hybrid is the worst for shunting but switches from electric to petrol power slickly enough.

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