Impartial Reviews

Citroen C5 Aircross review: a true family car and the antidote to the UK’s lamentable roads?
12 June 2019 by Oliver Hammond
If someone had popped down the bookies a couple of years ago and placed a bet on Citroen launching an Aircross SUV bearing a C5 badge, it would have been odds-on after the C3’s success and UK drivers’ unremitting appetite, so CarLeasingPeople set out to discover if France’s latest 5-seat Sportage rival is merely yet another mid-size SUV or genuinely does offer something a little different.

What does the Citroen C5 Aircross look like?

Styling is subjective and one person’s moules frites is another person’s poisson, but in our eyes the Citroen C5 Aircross’ relatively soft, affable and huggable aesthetics are a welcome alternative to the VAG stable’s austere bunch, bland Nissan and Hyundai offerings and the facelifted Kia Sportage with its crinkly-lipped grille.

The C5’s full-width Chevrons, two-tier lights, ‘white anodised’ accentuated vent surrounds at the front and Airbumps along the sides, its floating roof and its distinctive 3D LED taillights adroitly blend contemporaneity with character and fun, while Volcano Red suited our test car really well.

More subtle colours from the palette can be chosen, of course, with 30 different exterior combinations available after totting up paint jobs, alloy designs, colour packs and the optional black roof. There’s nothing wrong with friendly rather than aggressive, and although the C5 Aircross isn’t as daring or radical as Citroens of old, it holds its own in today’s crowded market.

The Citroen C5 Aircross’ interior

External quirkiness usually seeps through into the cabin of French cars and the C5 Aircross is no exception. Flair Plus/+ trim saw our test car’s Advanced Comfort seats draped in Metropolitan Grey Ambiance, meaning a mix of cloth and non-Nappa leather, the latter unusually covering the inner rather than outer sections of the seats. Different shades of grey along with white, orange contrast stitching, leather covering the dashboard finished with a quirky strap, plus other sprinkles of individuality like the chunky air vents, door card dimples and jutting-out 12.3-inch touchscreen give the C5 Aircross Flair+ a certain charm. It’s let down a smidgen by rather too many elements of scratchy plastic, though, while the otherwise abundantly-equipped media system with excellent real-time sat nav isn’t ergonomically easy to operate on the move when it comes to climate settings and the like.

Citroen’s Advanced Comfort seats appear deceptively flat and utilitarian but are, in fact, supremely comfortable, which is what the C5 Aircross is all about. While it’s certainly no sports-minded SUV, it’s a remarkably cosseting and spacious car in both the front and back, perfect for any long family journeys or for ensuring that teenagers don’t end up rubbing shoulders and irking one another. Flair+ trim’s standard panoramic opening glass sunroof bathes the interior in even more light without eating into headroom and the rest of the equipment list is philanthropic, packed with adaptive cruise control, a motorised tailgate that operates by wiggling one’s foot under the rear bumper, ConnectedCAM Citroen which acts as a dash-cam, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.

Is the Citroen C5 Aircross practical for families?

Storage provision is quintessentially French and Citroen certainly has, laudably so, ensured that the C5 Aircross is more spacious and practical than similarly-proportioned crossovers and SUVs. The central cubby, glovebox and door bins are all impressively large, cable/charger connectivity is plentiful if presented somewhat unceremoniously, and all three rear seats individually slide and recline, making it a very versatile car indeed.

SKODA usually reigns supreme in boot space league tables but with the 5-seat version of the Kodiaq now discontinued, the C5 Aircross’ standard 580 litres beats the Karoq’s 521 litres. Sliding the Czech’s rear seats forwards expands luggage capacity to 588 litres, but if you do the same in the Citroen, a cavernous 720 litres happens. The boot floor can be varied in height and the car’s total carrying volume with the rear seats flattened tots up to 1,630 litres.

What size is the Citroen C5 Aircross?

It sits bang in the middle of its rivals in terms of length, just over 5cm longer than the 3008 and nudges the Sportage by a mere 5mm, while the DS7 Crossback which is also a 5-seater is 7.3cm longer, and the 7-seat Peugeot 5008 is quite a bit lengthier by 64cm. They’re all very similar in width, but Citroen’s newcomer actually pips them all for height at 1,670mm.

What’s it like to drive?

Few people actually crack the whip, barrel into corners and generally treat their sports-minded compact SUVs especially sportily, and the Citroen does what it says on its tin in serving up dollops of refinement and tranquillity – particularly in 1.2-litre 130PS petrol guise as tested by CarLeasingPeople. The 3-cylinder engine is only modestly powerful on paper, with 230Nm/170lb ft torque and a 10.5-second time to reach 62mph, but in practice, it’s actually an enjoyable fellow to drive.

Uncannily quiet while idling, a naughty thrum makes itself heard after every prod of the accelerator, and although the ensuing progress unsurprisingly isn’t rapid and requires giving it the beans at times, the C5 Aircross isn’t a let-down around town or on motorways, at least with a couple of people on board. Fully laden with five people and their luggage, it’s fair to say it’ll probably struggle like its Peugeot cousins do with this powerplant, in which case diesel would be the better option.

The 6-speed manual gearbox is ergonomically comfortable to use, is free of notches and has well-judged ratios, and while the steering isn’t electrifyingly engaging, it’s a surprisingly decent effort and plays ball at reasonably brisk cornering – although watch out for a modicum of body roll.

Fuel economy/consumption from the Citroen C5 Aircross 1.2 PureTech 130 S&S manual is pretty good, too, the upper echelons of the quoted WLTP range of 36.6-to-44.2mpg certainly achievable without having to drive like Roy Cropper from Corrie. The turbocharged engine is Euro 6.2 compliant and emits between 119 and 121g of CO2 per kilometre depending on options chosen, placing it in the 24% BIK tax band of note for company car drivers and fleet managers.

What does the ‘Air’ bit refer to?

The main attraction among the C5 Aircross’ driving characteristics, though, is its wonderfully cossetting suspension, which Citroen labels as ‘the real flying carpet ride’. Few drivers will argue that many of the UK’s roads are abysmal, but this new SUV deals admirably with their ubiquitous potholes, craters and other lunar-esque imperfections. Citroen has always been synonymous with tinkering with engineering aimed at maximising comfort, and the C5 sees the ‘bump stops’ that ordinarily complement traditional shock absorber suspension replaced with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, which soak up the effects of minor surface detritus and provide, unsurprisingly, extra cushioning to eradicate more significant jolts and thuds. It’s not an absolutely perfect system, but does a very good job indeed and certainly gives the Citroen something to justifiably brag about compared to its rivals.

Is it a safe car for parents?

Citroen’s semi-autonomous or ‘driverless’ Highway Driver Assist is only available on EAT ‘automatic’ versions of the C5 Aircross, but on manual models in Flair Plus guise, standard safety equipment is reassuringly abundant. Granted, lane departure and blind spot systems are commonplace nowadays but the French SUV also comes with intelligent beam headlights and extended traffic sign recognition.

How much is a Citroen C5 Aircross lease?

With a list price of £28,270 as tested, complete with the various options specified, Citroen C5 Aircross car lease prices from CarLeasingPeople currently start at a very affordable £249.59 including VAT with a 6-month initial rental and 8,000 miles allowed each year, and the Flair Plus model tested costs £275.99 per month.

Styled refreshingly differently inside and out, delivering the promised levels of comfort from its seats and suspension, proving enjoyable to drive and providing bucket-loads of boot space, there’s a lot to like about the new Citroen C5 Aircross 5-seat SUV – a genuine family car and an excellent antidote to the UK’s rubbish roads.

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