Citroen aims to deliver a more thoughtful, comfort-orientated take on the mid-sized SUV market with this stylish C5 Aircross model. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
The legendary Citroen 2CV had a reputation for being able to comfortably traverse a ploughed field. That apart though, this French brand can't call on much customer recognition when it comes to vehicles cable of functioning off the beaten track. That has to change, given the current European obsession with SUVs and the company is depending on its Aircross range of models to convince customers of its crossover credibility.
The first signs in this regard have been promising for the Gallic maker. The little C3 Aircross, launched in Summer 2017, has sold well in the small supermini-derived SUV sector. This family hatch-based C5 Aircross, which arrived here in 2018, has proved to be equally important. Citroen claims that it brings 'a fresh level of overall comfort' to the segment and there's an efficient range of engines that includes a petrol plug-in Hybrid version. Here, we look at the usefully updated version of this car.
This car's key differentiating point is the way it glides over bumps. That ability comes courtesy of its Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension system. This two-stage set-up features a couple of hydraulic stops on each side of the car, one for compression, the other for rebound. For major uneven ground impacts, the hydraulic stops work with the springs and shock absorbers to avoid jerky movements and unpleasant bouncing. Thicker softer seat padding also embellishes the impression of comfort. And double-laminated front windows and engine bay soundproofing play their part in reducing cabin noise
Engine-wise, C5 Aircross are offered a choice of three quite different engines. The two conventional ones - a 1.2-litre PureTech petrol unit and a 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel - both develop 130hp and both can be had with the option of the brand's smooth-shifting EAT8 8-speed autogearbox. The alternative is a petrol/electric Hybrid version, which combines the PureTech 180 engine and EAT8 auto gearbox with an 80kW electric motor, delivering 225hp of accumulated power and instantly available torque of 320Nm, plus an electrified WLTP-rated driving range of up to 31 miles. Across the range, there's no 4WD system offered, but buyers do get 'Grip Control with Hill Descent Assist', for extra front-driven traction in slippery conditions. There's also Hill Start Assist, to help you starting off up steep slopes. And Trailer Stability Control, to reduce trailer sway if you're towing. That's about as much as most likely buyers will ever need.
Design and Build
This revised C5 Aircross borrows some of the styling cues of the brand's executive C5 X as part of a refreshed exterior design, with a more vertical and modern front end that's brought sleeker aerodynamics. The front grille's been restyled and there's a revised version of the iconic Citroen logo, now seemingly detached from the daytime running lights, with chevrons that appear in black lacquer in a chrome setting, this now standing out more overtly against the central grille. Around the car, extra glossy or anodised detailing has been added - in colours such as Glossy Black and Dark Chrome, all of it intended to demonstrate the model's more up-market positioning.
The C5 Aircross shares the same EMP2 platform as the PSA Group's other mid-sized SUVs, the Peugeot 3008 and the DS 7 Crossback. It's 4.5m long and 1.84m wide with a 2.73m wheelbase, so is a touch bigger than cheaper cars in this class like Nissan's Qashqai and SEAT's Ateca. The brand's signature 'Air Bumps' make an appearance just above the lower side sills, but they're toned down here, just as they are in the latest C4.
Inside, front seat occupants get the brand's unique 'Advanced Comfort' seat design, which features a core of high-density foam and an additional 15mm top layer of textured foam to ensure maximum comfort and support for the driver and passengers. There's a 12.3-inch digital driver's display and a revised 10-inch high-definition touchscreen that's been positioned higher up on the dashboard to reduce stress by ensuring the driver keeps their eyes on the road. Nice touches include an active air quality system that uses an air-purifying carbon filter.
As before, this Gallic SUV's lengthy wheelbase translates into a cabin that feels significantly larger than that of most models in this class.
In the rear, the car continues to feature three individual, same-width seats that slide, recline and fold flat. Not only does this mean that everyone on-board enjoys an exceptional level of comfort no matter where they sit, but it also creates the numerous possibilities for configuring the interior space. It means the boot can be increased in size from 580-litres, to 720-litres with the rear seats in place (petrol and Diesel variants), while Hybrid models offer from 460-litres, up to 600-litres. With the rear seats folded down, petrol and Diesel versions offer up to 1,630-litres of boot space, with up to 1,510-litres in PHEV versions.
Market and Model
Expect pricing fractionally above this car's cousin, the Peugeot 3008. Which means a £25,500-£37,000 bracket, spread across 'Sense Plus', 'Shine' and 'C-Series Edition' trim levels. Even with base 'Sense Plus' trim, owners benefit from features including 18-inch 'Pulsar' diamond-cut alloy wheels, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, Keyless Entry & Start and electric folding exterior mirrors. With 'Shine Trim', buyers enjoy the Drive Assist Pack with Adaptive Cruise Control, Advanced Comfort Seats with Alcantara upholstery and Active Safety Brake with video and radar assistance, while the 'Urban Black' interior ambience brings an upmarket feel to the cabin.
The 'C-Series Edition' sits at the top of the range. It has been tailored specifically for the UK market and gains a 'Perla Nera Black' bi-tone roof with an exclusive Anodised Bronze Colour Pack. There is also an opening panoramic glass sunroof, wireless charging and a motorised tailgate with hands-free access.
Safety-wise, there are a total of 19 driver-assistance systems available across the range, including Highway Driver Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Active Lane Departure Warning. Buyers can heavily personalise their C5 Aircross, creating a model that suits them perfectly, primarily through Colour Packs which add flourishes to the front air intakes and the side Airbump panels. Four Colour Packs are available: Glossy Black, Dark Chrome, Anodised Bronze and Energetic Blue. There's also a wide choice of body paint colours intended to complement the more assertive look: Polar White, Pearl White, Perla Nera Black, Platinum Grey, Cumulus Grey and a fresh shade, Eclipse Blue.
Cost of Ownership
Citroen's BlueHDi diesel engines have already proved themselves to be efficient and frugal in the brand's other models and that's carried forward here. The PureTech 130 petrol unit puts out 139g/km of CO2 in base or mid-spec trim (149g/km in top 'Shine Plus'-spec). the alternative BlueHDi 130 diesel manages 130g/km of CO2 in base or mid-spec trim (131g/km in top 'Shine Plus'-spec)
Fuel economy-wise, the BlueHDi 130 manual variant that'll probably be the most popular choice manages around 65mpg on the combined cycle. Even if you go for the PureTech 130 petrol variant, you'll still be getting well over 55mpg. To do better, you'll need the plug-in petrol/electric Hybrid version. This is WLTP-rated at 168mpg, with a WLTP emissions figure of up to 32g/km; and there's up to 31 miles of WLTP rated electrified driving range if you keep it fully charged.
Impressive engine technology also plays its part in this strong efficiency showing. The PureTech petrol model benefits from a 30% reduction in mechanical losses that are due to friction. While the PSA Group's BlueHDi diesel technology is based around a clever three-step after-treatment system designed to better eliminate the four nasty pollutants that diesel units usually put out - namely unburnt hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates. Another thing that could help you keep garage costs in check is the affordable three year servicing plan that's available at point of purchase. Finally, there's the usual Citroen three year / 60,000 mile warranty.
In an SUV market as crowded as this one, any mainstream product simply has to bring something different to the table. Fortunately, this C5 Aircross has, its progressive hydraulic cushion suspension delivering a noticeable ride quality advantage over obvious rivals. Some of these handle better, but we think the way that this Citroen cruises over bumps and tarmac tears will be of more interest to likely family buyers.
The updates we've covered here are welcome, but it's likely that this Gallic SUV will still remain quite a rare sight on our roads. Citroen hopes the availability of plug-in technology may get this car on to the radar of likely customers in the mid-sized family crossover segment. Anyway, it's refreshing to see this Gallic brand getting back to what it does best. This car stands out as a result. As it very much needs to.