Citroën C5 Aircross long-term test review: report 1
Citroën's largest SUV is based on the same underpinnings as the What Car? Award-winning Peugeot 5008, but is it as easy to live with? We're finding out...
The car Citroën C5 Aircross Puretech 180 Flair Run by Alastair Clements, special contributor
Why it’s here Citroën’s new entry into the congested large SUV market offers something different, with an approach that favours comfort over dynamic excellence
Needs to Offer more than just quirky looks and a supple ride. In this class, nothing short of brilliance will do
Price £28,330 Price as tested £29,050 Miles covered 2094 Official economy 39.6mpg (WLTP) Test economy 28.2mpg Options fitted Pearl White pearlescent paint (£720)
1 July 2019 – The Citroën C5 Aircross joins our fleet
There are certain automotive experiences that every true petrolhead should have on their bucket list. Getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari, tackling an off-road course and driving on a racetrack, ideally in a single-seater. Oh, and sampling a proper Citroën.
A different sort of thrill to a racing car or a V12-engined supercar, of course, but there used to be genuine excitement to driving a car with Citroën's Double Chevron on its bonnet: feeling the hydropneumatic suspension pump itself up, then enjoying the bizarre sensation of floating over potholes in serene comfort. Not for nothing did Rolls-Royce borrow the French marque’s suspension for the Silver Shadow of the 1960s.
In recent decades, however, commercial pressures have led to Citroën’s unique character being diluted, with many models being little more than badge-engineered Peugeots with wacky styling replacing genuine innovation under the skin.
But with the C5 Aircross, the brand is returning to its roots. Instead of joining the trend for sporty high-riders, Citroën has concentrated on blending comfort with the practicality that’s vital to succeed in the large SUV class. And being based on the same underpinnings as the What Car? Award-winning Peugeot 5008, it could do just that.
Taking the advice of our road testers, I opted for mid-range Flair trim, which is surprisingly generous. It also, rather crucially, swaps the 19in alloy wheels of top-spec Flair Plus cars for 18in rims: not a big difference, granted, but having been in both, I found that the smaller wheels resulted in a much more supple ride.
And ride quality – plus the resulting comfort – is key to the appeal of the C5 Aircross. It employs what Citroën calls Progressive Hydraulic Cushions – essentially replacing traditional mechanical bump-stops with hydraulic units at either end of the spring and damper. These are designed to give a floating effect over smaller obstacles, isolating the suspension from the structure of the car, and to work with the main suspension to reduce sudden jolts and bouncing over larger ones.
Does it work? Yes and no. It’s definitely superbly comfortable under most conditions, but ridges in the road surface and sharper undulations can be met with a crash, upsetting the ‘flying carpet ride’ that Citroën’s literature promises.
There’s no doubting, however, that this is a very relaxing car to be in, particularly when you factor in the other ‘Advanced Comfort’ elements – namely the impressive quiet and comfort, courtesy of the insulated windows and fantastic seats respectively.
The C5 Aircross is bigger on the outside than my previous long-term test car, a Cupra Ateca, yet it's far more cramped on the inside, particularly for rear passengers. Not that my kids are complaining. “Wow, this is luxury,” was youngest Niamh’s reaction to her first ride in one of the C5 Aircross’s trio of individual rear chairs, and that sentiment is shared by the rest of the family
With two grades of foam density, the seats have the feel of a memory foam mattress: from behind the wheel, it really is like driving an armchair – and one with electric adjustment, too, although heated seats seem a surprising omission.
It has even changed my driving style. There’s not a lot of reward to be had from hustling the C5 Aircross; with lifeless steering and hefty body roll, it’s like trying to chuck around a boat. Instead, the pleasure comes from relaxing and enjoying a slower pace of life.
Not that there isn’t performance enough when you need it: my car’s turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine peaks at 178bhp and develops a useful 184lb ft of torque at just 1650rpm. Those are figures that a diesel would have been proud of a few years ago – unlike the average fuel consumption thus far, although that has been skewed by a large amount of laborious town work so far.
The new eight-speed automatic gearbox feels well matched to the engine, but it can occasionally be caught in the wrong gear, and the start/stop system is a little too keen to cut in. When it does, you need to be balletic on the pedals to avoid rolling back, because there’s no automatic hold function.
So far, then, the C5 Aircross is proving to be innovative, quirky, comfortable and occasionally frustrating… in other words, a proper Citroën.
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