Citroën C5 Aircross long-term test: report 1

Citroën's family SUV rival has been upgraded inside and under the skin. But what's it like to live with? We're finding out...

Citroen C5 Aircross rear driving

The car 2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Shine Plug-in Hybrid 225 e-EAT8 Run by Kiall Garrett, senior videographer

Why it’s here Can the Citroen C5 Aircross PHEV be practical and efficient enough to cope with What Car?'s videographer's shooting needs?

Needs to be Have impressive fuel economy on long motorway and town journeys to shoots, while having enough space to store lots of camera equipment.

Mileage 9742 List Price £35,395 Target Price £34,354 Price as tested £37,030 Official economy 222.3mpg Test economy 53.2mpg Options Eclipse blue metallic paint (£595), Highway driver assist (£500)

1 April 2023 – Fantastic PHEV?

Everyone remembers the first car they drove. For me, it was a Citroën C3. And I still recall the thrill of driving 20 metres or so at 5mph, managing to avoid crashing into anything.

I was no road tester, but during the course of my lessons I began to notice and appreciate a subtle calming waft to the C3’s ride. and I’ve had a soft spot for cars that place comfort before poise ever since.

I therefore leapt at the chance to run the new Citroën C5 Aircross as my next company car, because the French manufacturer is well known for making comfort a high priority. It’s an SUV that first appeared in 2017 but had a light facelift last year to give it slimmer LED headlights and less plastic on the front bumper, and to my eyes this made it look a bit more upmarket.

Citroen C5 Aircross driving

But what attracted me to it more was my need for space and comfort. As a videographer for What Car?, my primary requirement from a car is space; I need lots of luggage room to carry all my video equipment in to use on shoots for our YouTube channel.

The nature of my job often involves long journeys to quiet parts of the countryside in search of good driving roads to film on, which means I also need a comfortable car. So, does the C5 Aircross fit the bill?

Well, its respectable 460-litre boot should more than accommodate all my camera cases, tripods and bags. And the C5 Aircross’s big tailgate should make loading and unloading the boot fairly easy.

Loading the C5 Aircross

I have gone with the plug-in hybrid version of the C5 Aircross, having been drawn in by the 222.3mpg quoted in the brochure. Of course, I’ve run a plug-in hybrid before, so I know their official fuel economy figures are about as believable as a Tweet from Donald Trump, but I’m still hoping to notice a drop in fuel bills by making the most of the 41-mile electric range on offer.

I’m not expecting crazily impressive fuel economy, but I am hoping for something more than the regular 40mpg you get from purely petrol-engined SUVs these days.

Even with a £9000 leap in price from the entry level 1.2-litre C5 Aircross to the plug-in hybrid, I am hoping that during my time with the car I’ll be impressed by low fuel bills.

C5 Aircross hybrid badge

Other than the Eclipse blue metallic paint, the only optional extra I added to the C5 was the Highway Driver Assist pack for £500. This brings lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control to help on long journeys; in particularly heavy traffic, it can stop and then move off again when the queue creeps forward  – a feature that has already had lots of use on the M25.

I chose Shine trim, which is the cheapest version of the plug-in hybrid C5 Aircross, to keep the cost down. It would've been an extra £3000 to go to the range-topping C-Series Edition, but that just adds some cosmetic tweaks that I don't think are necessary. The only options I added were metallic paint, to help my car stand out, and the Highway Driver Assist pack, to help make long motorway trips as easy as possible.

The plug-in hybrid engine uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine alongside an electric motor to give a punchy total system output of 221bhp. The C5 Aircross is based on the same underpinnings to the Peugeot 5008, a car I enjoyed running a couple of years ago. But one thing I didn’t really get on with in the 5008 was the Puretech 130 engine, because it didn’t seem powerful enough for the size of the car. Hopefully the C5 Aircross’ setup will give the car a little more oomph.

Driving the C5 Aircross

So far the C5 Aircross has been more than practical enough. It can store my equipment easily, especially with the helpful rear seats, which slide forwards and back to give slightly more room in the boot. They can be reclined, too. The underfloor storage isn’t huge, but it allows enough room for storing the charging cables, keeping them from clogging up the rest of the boot.

I’m looking forward to testing the C5 Aircross properly; I'll be taking it on video shoots and on road trips with friends and family to truly test its practicality, and to see how efficient a plug-in hybrid can really be. And maybe driving it will bring back the spirit of that first C3 hatchback along the way.

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