Citroen C5 Aircross review
The Citroen C5 Aircross has the ingredients to be a hit, and Citroen certainly deserves praise for offering SUV buyers something that’s different and innovative, especially in such a competitive and crowded part of the market. So it’s a great shame that it doesn’t all come together better.
We’re disappointed by the ride comfort and interior quality, especially as expectations were so high for the former thanks to the Aircross’ innovative suspension, and the latter’s design looks like such a breath of fresh air. We do like the individual style and the amount of equipment included as standard, though.
Overall, as the flagship for the Citroen range, it doesn’t quite have what it takes to beat the best and match the smaller C3 Aircross as a class leader.
31 Jan, 2019
As you’d expect, the larger C5 Aircross follows the design themes established by the smaller C3 Aircross, with slim LED daytime running lights that run into the familiar Citroen grille, with its oversized double chevrons. The headlamps sit below, while the chunky apron beneath gets a choice of white, red or silver-ringed anodised sections – all refreshingly individual in this market area.
Airbumps make a reappearance along the side – again with coloured sections to match the front – and the cladding helps to avoid the slab-sided look of some mid-sized SUVs. The deep windows promise good visibility, while the back is a little more conventional but still manages to feature smart-looking 3D LED tail-lights.
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For the full concept-car effect, Volcano Red paint is a £545 option, giving the exterior a similar hue to the 2015 show car. Do this, and the C5 Aircross looks like nothing else – other than perhaps the C3 Aircross – and that’s how a Citroen should be, shouldn’t it?
Swing open the front door and you’re greeted by an equally interesting interior. The Airbump theme is carried over on the door panels. However, some of the plastics used here feel a bit cheap – as does the finish around the chrome door handle and window switches. It’s a strange mix inside, with some really nice, expensive-looking elements and places where you can clearly see that money has been saved.
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As with the suspension, Citroen’s focus on comfort extends to the big, squishy Advanced Comfort chairs that come as standard from Flair trim upwards and are nicely finished in leather on top-spec Flair Plus models. Kids will love the three rear seats, which are the same size as those in the front, and move and slide individually. The floor’s flat, too, so the middle seat isn’t the short straw it is in some of the C5 Aircross’s rivals. Knee space in the back isn’t overly generous; nor is the amount of headroom if you opt for a panoramic sunroof.
The kit count is generous, featuring lots of safety gear; some of it you would expect (autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist) and some of it you wouldn’t (adaptive cruise and a built-in dash cam).
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Every model gets a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, which replaces conventional analogue dials, and allows extra information to be shown right in the driver’s direct line of sight, such as navigation maps.
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All models also include an eight-inch central infotainment touchscreen with the latest smartphone connectivity, including MirrorLink, which lets you use your phone’s navigation through the screen. DAB and Bluetooth is standard, and the system also has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A six-speaker stereo is the only option, which seems like a missed opportunity given the lounge-like interior.
The screen also includes controls for core functions like the air conditioning, although we always prefer these to be operated by physical knobs or dials as they’re less distracting to use when driving. The screen’s graphics are quite pleasing to behold, but perhaps not as clear as those used on rival VW Group cars, for example.
Citroen’s unique approach to developing the C5 Aircross doesn’t just extend to the exterior design. The car benefits from Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension that we first saw on the C4 Cactus when it received its mid-life facelift. The suspension works by replacing the usual bump stops in a car’s suspension with a pair of hydraulic dampers. The theory is that it will make the C5 Aircross feel like a Citroen from the days when cars carrying the double chevrons were famous for gliding over bumps.
Does it work? Sadly, it’s something of an acquired taste. At a 70mph cruise, the C5 Aircross rides exactly as advertised, gliding along with occupants completely cocooned from the outside world. Refinement is excellent, too, thanks to double-glazing and extra sound-proofing crammed into the engine bay that ensure things remain seriously serene. However, it all goes wrong when you approach a bend. While the car is never especially short of grip, the softly sprung setup means you’ll be leaning on the outside door, or an unwilling passenger, when cornering enthusiastically.
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Of more concern is that the C5 Aircross thumps into even mild potholes and bumps, sending a nasty shiver through the car’s body. The effect is that the Aircross’s suspension manages to tell you about bumps you might not even see – which is confusing given that you’re unlikely to feel them through the numb steering. While not full of feel, that steering is at least light and the turning circle is usefully tight.
The C5 Aircross is fitted with Advanced Comfort Seats; they’re a strange mixture of plenty of under-thigh support but little to keep you in place laterally when the car turns. Through brisker bends they compound the problem of the softer suspension that has you swaying this way and that. On the plus side, the driving position itself is good, with decent visibility and large door mirrors to make manoeuvring easy.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
We tried the 1.6 BlueHDi diesel engine, coupled to the eight-speed automatic gearbox. The engine is a perky yet frugal choice, with noise levels very well subdued by extra sound proofing under the bonnet. We’re not particular fans of the eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s the only transmission option with this engine. It’s okay most of the time, but gets flummoxed too easily when you stomp the throttle hoping for a lower gear.
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We’d recommend trying the smaller engines before signing on the dotted line. Both the 1.2 three-cylinder PureTech petrol and 1.5 BlueHDi develop 128bhp. The latter is 70Nm more torquey, however, and a fine choice in various other Peugeot and Citroen models, especially when combined with the six-speed manual gearbox. The smaller engines will get you from 0-62mph in a little over 10 seconds, while the more potent 1.6 petrol and 2.0 diesel cut this by a couple of seconds.
If you’re swayed by the Citroen’s emphasis on comfort, however, the petrol unit could well be the one to choose. In the Peugeot 3008, it’s quiet and refined, and, despite its small size, still powerful enough to match the Skoda Kodiaq in our in-gear tests.
It’s too soon to tell how the C5 Aircross will fare in our annual Driver Power survey, although the Citroen brand as a whole languishes towards the bottom of Britain’s most-reliable car brands – 21st out of 27 manufacturers, in fact. At least it beats Peugeot by two places.
Likewise, Euro NCAP is yet to send a couple of examples into walls in the name of safety research – although its platform partner, the Peugeot 5008, got a five-star rating back in 2017.
The C5 Aircross comes with a host of driver aids as standard, including Highway Driver Assist, which allows the car to follow the car in front on a motorway, including bringing it to a stop automatically in traffic. Also available is an extended traffic sign recognition system, ensuring you never miss a warning or speed limit sign as these are shown in the driver display. A dash cam that records everything from the moment you start the car is on the options list.
Citroen provides a two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, and you get an additional year’s cover provided by the dealer, albeit limited to 60,000 miles. It’s par for the course, but soundly beaten by warranty offers from the likes of Toyota and Hyundai.
Citroen offers a pre-pay servicing package through its dealers. It’s available up to a year from the car’s first registration date, but before its first service, and allows you to pay in advance for your car’s servicing for three years or 35,000 miles.
Citroen is still in the process of reinventing its range, and the C5 Aircross isn’t a direct replacement for any model that has gone before. However, the firm has been brave with its decision to concentrate on offering comfortable space for five, and choosing to leave lugging large loads of people to the likes of the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq.
The C5 Aircross is a nice, round 4,500mm long, 1,859mm wide and 1,670mm tall, with a 2,730mm wheelbase, making it slightly bigger in all dimensions than a Skoda Karoq and Peugeot 3008, and very close in size to the Peugeot 5008 – unsurprising, given the shared platform. However, while the latter is a seven-seater, the Aircross is five-seats only.
Although the interior isn’t a cavernous as a Hyundai Santa Fe or Honda CR-V, it is still very spacious, with wide door pockets, a small glovebox and a centre console that can be optioned up to include wireless smartphone charging.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Up front, the C5 Aircross has plenty of space in all dimensions aside from headroom – cars fitted with the panoramic roof really suffer from the dent it makes in available overhead space. However, it’s not compulsory unless you opt for the top-spec trim, so we’re keen to try one without to see if this problem is rectified.
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Visibility from the driver’s seat is very good – another of Citroen’s weapons in its crusade for comfort is an unobstructed view. The Advanced Comfort Seats, standard from the mid-range Flair trim, are comfortable as advertised, but only up to a point. Drive enthusiastically and you’ll notice they rather lack side support, meaning that gentle progress is the only way to ensure back pain isn’t an issue. Top-spec cars come with massage seats to ease away the twinges we began to feel after a couple of hours’ solid driving.
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Each rear seat can slide back and forth by 150mm to give more cabin or boot space as required. With the seats in the rearmost position, boot space is a decent 580 litres, while this grows to a genuinely impressive 720 litres with the seats set forward – the same as a Skoda Kodiaq. Those three rear seats aren’t the easiest to fold down, but if you do, you’ll get a good flat floor and a maximum capacity of 1,630 litres. The tailgate opens high and wide and operates on our top-spec car by waggling your feet under the rear bumper.
One of no fewer than 19 claimed driver assistance technologies on the C5 Aircross is trailer stability control, which comes as standard when you opt for the factory fit towbar at £450. Door mirror extensions for towing a caravan are on the official accessories list. Depending on the engine you choose, maximum weights for a braked trailer range from 1,350kg for the smallest petrol, to 1,650kg for the most powerful diesel.
The fuel economy champion of the Citroen C5 Aircross range is the 1.5 BlueHDi diesel, which returns a claimed 68.9mpg – and that’s regardless of whether you opt for the six-speed manual gearbox or the eight-speed auto. CO2 emissions are 108g/km and 107g/km respectively. There is also a larger diesel, the 2.0 BlueHDi, which returns 58.9mpg and emits 126g/km.
If you opt for petrol power, the PureTech 130 engine returns a claimed 55.3mpg and emits 121g/km of CO2 – not quite on a par with the diesels, but still offering a decent economy and performance blend in other PSA Group cars we’ve tried. The more powerful PureTech 180 petrol is, as you might expect, the least efficient of the range.
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However, if you’re not in a hurry, from early 2020, the C5 Aircross will be available as a plug-in hybrid. This uses the PureTech 180 engine, but with an electric motor sandwiched between the power unit and the eight-speed automatic gearbox. Citroen claims it will give an all-electric range of around 30 miles.
Insurance groups for the C5 Aircross are still being calculated. However, we’d expect them to start around group 11 for the lower-powered diesels, and 16 for the petrols. Top-spec models will probably sit in group 22 or 23.
Citroen has a history of offering dealer incentives and discounts, which should mean the car can be had with an appealing monthly finance rate. This is, in some respects, a safer way into an Aircross than outright purchase, because it insulates you from depreciation – a factor that has not been particularly kind to Citroens in years gone by.
As it competes in one of the most hotly contested segments of the new-car market, the C5 Aircross is inherently desirable, helping maintain values, particularly to those keen on its unique selling points of comfort and design. Even the entry-level Feel model is well equipped, so the outlay needed to get a decently specified model is also reduced.