Citroën C5 X long-term test: report 1

The C5 X channels the style and comfort of Citroëns of old, but how does it stack up against its estate-car rivals? We're running one to find out...

Citroen C5 X rear three-quarters

The car Citroën C5 X 1.2 Puretech 130 Shine Plus Run by Mark Pearson, used cars editor

Why it’s here The distinctive C5 X seems to offer something different in the estate car class, with a set-up that prioritises comfort over sporty handling. We want to see if it can cut the mustard in real-world use

Needs to Prove It’s more than just a pretty face. It’ll need to dispatch commuting, work and family life with flair and cope with a wide variety of everyday duties 

Miles covered 3175 Price £31,280 Target price £29,190 Price as tested £31,930 Official economy 48.6mpg Test economy 40.4mpg Options fitted Perla Nira black metallic paint (£650)

8 December – Out of Africa

I am not, generally speaking, a lover of automotive art, but there is on my wall at home a black-and-white photograph of a Citroën DS parked on a beach in Dar es Salaam. The photo was taken around 1960 by my father, and it was his car.

Citroen C5 X photo of DS

In those days, before I was even a twinkle, he had a thing for Citroëns, and the DS had been a logical follow-up to his previous Light 15. I have a photograph of that, too, this time with the car semi-submerged in a river in Bukoba after the rickety bridge over which he and my mother were travelling collapsed. It could be that I owe my existence to that car's clever all-in-one monocoque construction. 

So perhaps it’s no surprise I’m a Citroën fancier too; after all, those early Citroëns were innovative, rational, and revolutionary. They challenged conventional thinking. Of modern ones, I’ve never been quite so sure, but when the C5 X was launched a few months ago I knew I had to get my hands on one.

Citroen C5 X design detail

It looks wonderfully charismatic, for starters, with hints of those idiosyncratic Citroëns of old in its design details. And I rather liked the fact that no one, not even Citroën itself, it would appear, can quite work out if it’s an estate car or an SUV or something else entirely different – that is the proper iconoclastic Citroën spirit. 

In reality, it is a little shorter than the gargantuan Skoda Superb Estate and a fraction taller. Add in some SUV embellishments, such as large 19in alloy wheels, a slightly raised ride height and some eye-catching cladding around the nether regions, and what you’ve actually got is something akin to those mildly off-road estate cars like the Mercedes E-Class All Terrain and Volvo V90 Cross Country – although I suspect the front-wheel-drive only C5 X would baulk if you showed it a muddy excursion.

So now, on my driveway, alas far from the wilds of Tanzania, I have a Citroën. I’ve gone for my C5 X in 1.2 Puretech 130 in Shine Plus trim.

Citroen C5 X using infotainment

What that means is I've got the same 128bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine you’ll find under the bonnet of several other cars from the Stellantis group, of which Citroën is a part, including the Peugeot 3008 and 5008. Previous experience with those cars with that engine has taught me that, although on paper this it might look a bit weedy larger cars, it's remarkably civilised and punchy and more than up to the job. The bonus is it should also be decently economical.  

All C5 X’s are well equipped, too, coming as standard with such goodies as dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, tinted rear windows, cruise control and automatic LED lights and wipers. My top-spec Shine Plus trim adds a large 12.0in infotainment touchscreen, heated and electrically adjustable leather seats, acoustically insulated front and rear windows, an electric tailgate and an upgraded 360-degree reversing camera.

I also like the fact that to distinguish it from its Peugeot siblings the C5 X gets a suspension system that includes, no, not a complex hydropneumatic setup like old Citroëns had, but an 'Advanced Comfort' system with ‘progressive hydraulic cushions’, which are effectively two hydraulic bump stops at each corner of the car. That promises a good ride, and I look forward to that after having recently driven a rash of stiffly sprung cars that have severely taxed my ageing spine. 

First impressions, once one has taken in the bold styling, are of the sheer size of the thing. It’s a large car outside and impressively capacious inside. The seats have a vast range of adjustments, as well as being pleasingly soft and nicely supportive. And the interior, though not as avant-garde as the exterior, feels suitably on-trend.  

Citroen C5 X side on

And yes, it rides well, but more of that in future reports. Right now I'm just enjoying the admiring glances my new car’s getting. You see, it might not cause quite the stir the extraordinarily futuristic DS did in its day, but the C5 X is certainly proving a breath of fresh air in mine. 

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read our full Citroën C5 X review >>

Read about more long-term test cars >>

Buy a new car with What Car?

Like the sound of the Citroën C5 X?

If so, make sure you visit our New Car Buying section, because we could potentially save you thousands, thanks to our network of What Car? approved dealers.

They use our Target Price discounts as the basis for their savings. Target Price is the price we think you should pay based on research by our team of mystery shoppers.

Also consider