“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.”
In the face of criticism that its cars lacked quality, character and prestige, Citroen tried to give the current C5 plenty of all three. Few family saloons, are as comfortable, and the interior build quality is excellent. A 1.6 or 2.0 HDi diesel engine in VTR+ specification will offer the best mix of cheap running costs, punchy performance and lots of desirable equipment. On the downside, the boot is small, and this saloon is no match for the Ford Mondeo when it comes to the quality of the handling.
You only need to drive a few yards to realise that Citroen's main aim for the C5 was absolute comfort. The car is brilliant at smoothing over the UK's less-than-perfect roads. The trade-off for that is a feeling of floating across the road. Around corners, it's sometimes difficult to tell exactly what the front wheels are doing. At least there are plenty of ways to adjust the driving position, and few family cars are as relaxing and quiet as the C5.
Citroen offers air-suspension for top-of-the-range Exclusive models, which makes the C5 feel even smoother. However, even basic models excel in the comfort department. The C5 gives some far more expensive cars a run for their money in terms of quietness – some versions even feature laminated glass to help keep noise out. And while the C5 doesn’t feel massive inside, head, leg and shoulder room are all plentiful enough for four adults to feel comfortable. The seats combine softness with an ability to hold occupants snugly in place. All four engines – three diesels and a 1.6 turbo petrol – are quiet at town and motorway speeds, too. Our only gripe is the array of small buttons on the dashboard, which control the radio and air-conditioning. These are fiddly and hard to use.
Despite being launched with an ad campaign that hinted that the C5 was built to German standards (like a BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz, in other words) Citroen is not quite at that level yet. The C5's perceived quality is excellent, but a number of owners have suffered electrical and mechanical niggles with the C5. The car has also been subject to numerous recalls – with three issued in 2009 alone.
In order to give the C5 a classy appearance, Citroen decided not to offer a hatchback version – it's only available as a saloon. As a result, its 439-litre boot is smaller than some rivals: the Ford Mondeo has a 528-litre boot, for example. The cabin offers a decent degree of practicality though, with decent door bins and a reasonably sized glovebox.
Value for money
Mid-level VTR+ specification is good value and the 2.0 HDi diesel offers strong yet quiet acceleration and good economy. All cars get air-conditioning, but basic VTR trim doesn’t come with alloy wheels. Top-of-the-range Exclusive trim is expensive, but there's lots of luxury kit, including parking sensors and air-suspension. The C5 loses its value quicker than most rivals, however.
Of the four engines, the 1.6 THP turbo petrol and powerful 3.0 V6 HDi diesel are the most expensive. Both offer economy of less than 40mpg, and the 240bhp diesel is only available in expensive Exclusive trim with an automatic gearbox. The 1.6 HDi diesel with 110bhp is economical but feels underpowered, so that leaves the 160bhp 2.0 HDi diesel as the pick of the range, thanks to economy of 50mpg and plenty of overtaking power.