What’s this? Has Citroen gone mainstream with its latest offering? The C5 Aircross seems to be an SUV without quirks, but is it a real Citroen?
Citroen isn’t known for its conventional approach, so we kind of expect them to come up with something a little unorthodox. And if it’s not wacky, the 100-year-old manufacturer at least likes to position its cars uniquely, blurring genres and segments with the likes of the C4 Cactus and C3 Aircross. The latest is another Aircross member, the C5.
This newbie isn’t intended as a replacement for the long departed C5. We’re likely to see a Citroen version of the 508 GT emerge later in the year for that. The Aircross then is a new arrival, a five-seat SUV, sharing commonality with the Peugeot 3008/5008. It has distinctive Citroen styling however, particularly the front end, which is awash with flourishes and light sources.
The profile wears Citroen’s air bumps along the lower flanks and, like the baby Aircross, there’s a contrasting black roof with stylised roof racks. You can alter the look slightly with optional colour packs too. Inside, there are familiar elements from the 5008; the shifter, infotainment screen, digital main dials and wands shared. The dash is reprofiled for use in the C5 and Citroen’s square design motifs are stamped about the cabin.
Citroen’s thing is comfort, always has been, and so it is with the C5 Aircross, designed to pamper with a relaxing cabin environment. This begins the moment you sit down, the seats more like armchairs than racing buckets, fashioned with denser foams through the middle, a wide base and minimal bolstering.
Here, in the top variant, dubbed ‘Shine’, these are clothed in a mix of leather and textile, and they are rather sumptuous and relaxing, though heating elements might provide further comfort for those with less than perfect circulation. Comforting the ears, there’s been an effort to reduce unwanted noise in the cabin. The front side windows are double glazed, and there’s an acoustic windscreen and additional sealing around the engine bay. It results in quiet progress, the engine subdued, so too most road noise, though there’s still some tyre roar evident at highway speeds on our coarse chip roads.
Back in the day, Citroens literally floated along on their innovative hydro-pneumatic, self levelling suspensions, whereas now the C5 derives its ride comfort from its ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’, a fluffy marketing term for the dampers. These however aren’t electronically variable units. Rather it’s the design of the damper tube and valving that helps them deliver a comfortable ride under normal conditions while filtering the harshness of thumps as they reach the extremities of their travel.
And the C5 Aircross does ride well on city streets, with a definite downy progress at such speeds. So too on the motorway, though that’s kind of a given. The ride is pleasant enough on main highway roads, save for the odd bump from the rear end, which employs a torsion beam design. The only iffy nature of the set-up is some untoward pitching over a series of bumps, while it’s prone to dip its nose when you’re on the brakes. These have an initially spongy pedal action then tend grabby, so require a measured action.
We expected this Aircross to roll like Beethoven in a bend, and while there’s an initial lean heading into a corner, it then sets itself and grips up nicely. The steering remains light in weight, even at speed, and doesn’t have the strongest of relationships with the turning wheels. Differentiating the two variants are the powertrains.
The $39,990 Feel uses a 121kW/240Nm version of the company’s 1.6 turbopetrol, and spins the fronts via a six-speed auto. The Shine gains a 131kW/250Nm tune of the same 1.6 but adds the benefits of an eight-speed auto. So you get better performance and consumption, the less potent 1.6 rated at 7.9L/100km, the better one at 6.8 and conforms to the cleaner Euro 6.2 emission standards.
This we found to be a sweet powertrain, the eight speeder with smarter protocols and slicker changes than the six speed auto we’ve been driving in the 5008. A better spread of ratios in lower gears also helps; this pulls second gear with more authority so doesn’t feel laboured at lower speeds, the engine also making good torque from down low.
The only quirk is the overly active idle stop system, but one of the few buttons on the dash is dedicated to switching this off. The average on test for this car was sitting at 8.6L/100km, and with its easy torque, light steering and calming ride, it is an easy, comfortable drive in the urban jungle. Other shared bits with the 5008 include three individual seats in the rear. These have a similar comfort construction as those up front and are quite pampering as far as a back row is concerned.
Unlike the 5008, there are only two sets of Isofix anchors, but the seats all slide individually, while there’s enough leg and head room to get three individuals across the rear. The boot size impresses, being wide, deep and long for the class. There’s a variable floor height so that when the seats are folded you get a flat load space. Oddly you can remove a bit of plastic from the floor and push the seats forward if you want more boot space, but this has that solution-looking-for-a-problem feel to it. The tailgate is powered, but hangs low so watch your head. On-board tech includes traffic sign recognition, a blind spot minder, and active lane keeping while the AEB functions up to 80km/h on the Feel. The Shine adds active cruise with improved AEB, and auto high beams.
On-board tech includes traffic sign recognition, a blind spot minder, and active lane keeping while the AEB functions up to 80km/h on the Feel. The Shine adds active cruise with improved AEB, and auto high beams.
It also gets Grip Control, a TC-based system for off-roading that will likely see little use. Shine gains a parking aid, the Comfort seat design with the leather, 19-inch alloys, a charge pad, sat nav, powered tailgate and smart key. The cruise control uses the same column-mounted stalk Citroen has employed for decades. It’s been adapted to life in the active age, and while it functions fine, these controls are best placed on the steering wheel. Except here you’ll find buttons to change the view of the main dials, giving the cabin a filip in the tech stakes, while the infotainment system will interact with either phone system.
So is this a genuine Citroen then?
Citroens based on Peugeots aren’t a new thing, they’ve been sharing bits for the past 40 years, and the C5 Aircross has enough of its own flavour to pass muster here. It’s a comfortable drive, the cabin environment is relaxing and the styling is anything but normal. Plus it’s well fitted out for the price asked.
|Model||Citroen C5 Aircross Shine||Price||$49,990|
|Engine||1598cc, IL4, T/DI, 133kW/250Nm||Drivetrain||8-speed auto, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||6.8L/100km||C02 Output||154g/km|