“Few family saloons, if any, are quite as comfortable as the C5. Even some limos struggle to match this car's ability to make the miles fly by on long journeys.”
There's been quite a lot of criticism over the years of Citroen not making cars with any prestige, quality or character. In reply, the manufacturer has attempted to give the latest four-door C5 saloon plenty of all three. As a result, few family saloons are as comfortable or offer such excellent interior build quality. The 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre HDi diesel engine offered in the VTR+ specification also offers the best mix of cheap running costs, decent performance, and loads of accessories and equipment. On the downside, the boot is undeniably small, and, purely as a saloon, it's no match for the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat or even the Vauxhall Insignia when it comes to the quality of the handling or pure driving enjoyment. The C5 comes in three specifications – entry-level VTR, mid-range VTR+ and top-of-the-range Exclusive. We’d recommend the 2.0-litre HDi diesel in the Exclusive spec, with its truly luxurious interior and plentiful equipment.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The 1.6-litre THP turbo petrol and powerful 3.0-litre V6 HDi diesel are the most expensive to run, with both offering fuel economy of less than 40mpg. The 240bhp diesel is also only available in the most expensive Exclusive specification with an automatic gearbox that further compromises efficiency. The 1.6-litre HDi diesel with 110bhp is more economical but feels decidedly underpowered. That really only leaves the 160bhp 2.0-litre HDi diesel as the pick of the range, thanks to decent economy of 50mpg and reasonable performance as well.
Interior & comfort
If you opt for the top-spec Exclusive models, Citroen equip the car with air-suspension that makes the C5 feel even smoother than it already does – even in the basic entry-level models with their excellent comfort levels. In fact, the C5 gives many far more expensive cars a real run for their money in the quietness department, with some models actually having laminated glass to keep even more noise out of the interior. And even though the C5 hardly feels massive inside, there is lots of shoulder, leg and headroom available for four adults to get nice and comfortable. The seats are suitably soft but have enough support to genuinely hold the passenger snugly in place. All of the engines across the range are quiet when driving around town and at motorway speeds, too. Our only real gripe is that the array of small buttons on the dashboard, which control the radio and air-conditioning, are really fiddly and difficult to use.
Practicality & boot space
Choosing classy style over practical substance, the C5 doesn’t come as a hatchback model, only being available as a four-door saloon and estate. This places behind the Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo in terms of versatility. Its dimensions mean a boot storage capacity of 439 litres, which is smaller than its key rivals, with the Mondeo offering 528 litres of space, for instance. Inside, the interior offers a decent degree of practicality, however, with 60:40 split-fold rear seats. The door bins and glove compartment are particularly small and useless, though.
Reliability & safety
Citroen may have made leaps and bounds in its reliability record over recent years, but it still doesn’t quite live up to the C5 advertising campaign that claimed it was built to German standards (like a BMW, Audi or Mercedes, in other words). While the perception of the C5's quality is excellent when you first drive it, quite a large numbers of owners have reported some mechanical and electrical niggles, and there have been a number of recalls of the car, with three in 2009 alone. But it has been on sale for a while, so it's still fairly good for Citroen that the C5 placed 139th in the top 150 cars in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Citroen itself dropped two spots from its 2012 ranking of 22nd in the poll's manufacturers list, showing that it still has a lot of work to do to get above its current 24th position. It does have a maximum five-star crash safety rating from Euro NCAP, coming with electronic stability control fitted as standard. Top-spec Exclusive models also get Citroen's eTouch emergency assistance system to notify the emergency services in the event of an accident.
Engines, drive & performance
If you’re looking for the most comfortable car you can find to transport your family with ease, then the C5 may well be it. You only need to drive it for a few yards to realise that Citroen's main aim for the C5 was absolute comfort. Even when coping with the UK's ever less-than-perfect roads, the C5's suspension is excellent at smoothing over the lumps and bumps. Inevitably, the trade off is a feeling that the car floats across the road, never feeling truly grounded or massively responsive. When you’re driving around corners, you sometimes can’t really tell exactly where the front wheels are and what they’re doing. It also suffers from a lot of body roll, unfortunately. There are plenty of ways to adjust the driving position, thankfully, so at least you’ll be comfortable and have a good view. The 2.0-litre HDi offers the balance of performance and efficiency, nearly matcher the speed of the bigger 3.0-litre V6 diesel while keeping running costs lower. Ultimately, there few family cars are as relaxing and quiet as the C5.
Price, value for money & options
Straight off the bat, the entry-level VTR specification is very basic, not getting much equipment at all, which means no alloy wheels for a start. All cars do come with air-conditioning, however, and move up a spec level to the VTR+ model and the C5 starts to become better value, adding 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, electrically folding door mirrors, front fog lights and automatic dual-zone air-con. Top-of-the-range Exclusive models start to become more expensive, but there are lots of luxury accessories, including, electric front seats, tyre pressure monitor, chrome trim and detailing, leather steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, trip computer with colour screen, electrochrome rear-view mirror, parking sensors, air-suspension, eTouch emergency assistance and hill start assist. But as you turn to the options list, do bear in mind that Citroen resale values on the used car market are particularly weak.