Citroen C5 Aircross SUV review
"The expectation was that the Citroen C5 Aircross would excel when it came to comfort and ride quality, and sadly it doesn’t"
- Attractive design
- Generous equipment
- Spacious boot
- Disappointing ride
- Unrewarding handling
- Tight rear-seat legroom
When the Citroen C5 hatchback disappeared from showrooms, it left a gap at the top of the French manufacturer's model range. With SUV sales continuing to pull ahead of more traditional types of family car, it comes as little surprise that the C5’s effective replacement – the C5 Aircross – should be an SUV along the lines of the smaller Citroen C3 Aircross.
The C5 Aircross shares its underpinnings with the Peugeot 3008 and fights an army of rivals that include the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, SEAT Ateca, Skoda Karoq, Ford Kuga, Vauxhall Grandland X and Kia Sportage.
Given how distinctive the C3 Aircross is, Citroen had the awkward task of making the C5 Aircross sufficiently individual to make it desirable, without building a larger clone of the C3 Aircross. The result is a car that isn’t quite as eye-catching as the C3, with a more formulaic SUV shape. The front end neatly integrates Citroen's latest corporate face but the C3's boldly separate headlamps are more stylish than those of the C5, which are integrated into the front grille.
There are some neat details, such as sections to the lower front bumper that are highlighted in red, white or silver, and the return of the 'airbumps' first seen on the Citroen C4 Cactus, although it's a shame these interesting features aren't a little more prominent. The side windows are deep and transmit a lot of light into the cabin, and models at the upper end of the range have LED rear lights with a fashionable 'welcome greeting’ when you unlock the car. The C5 Aircross is good looking overall, and while it lacks the loveable eccentricity of other Citroens, it won't be lost in a car park full of similarly sized SUVs.
There's arguably more design flair inside, where the C5 Aircross matches the Peugeot 3008 for high-tech style but goes about things in a totally different way. All models have a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as well as a separate eight-inch infotainment screen, and you'll find Android Auto and Apple CarPlay across the range, with TomTom Live navigation on certain models. There aren't any major changes for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, but it does get a blue LED light in the windscreen, letting pedestrians see when it's in electric-only mode. A shortcut button gives faster access to hybrid-specific information within the infotainment system.
The dashboard draws your eye with sections of attractive, colour-coded upholstery in a style reminiscent of the luxurious DS 7 from PSA's premium DS brand. Unfortunately, the upmarket impression begins to fade when you pass your fingers over the door panels, which – distinctive as they are by reflecting the 'airbump' theme of the exterior – aren't constructed from materials that match the quality of the dashboard. Citroen also makes a big deal of its 'advanced comfort seats', but we're not entirely convinced; while they're extremely comfortable, they lack support when cornering.
Rather more disappointing, though, is that the much-vaunted ride quality brought about by Citroen's 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushion' suspension technology simply doesn't materialise. Our test car, admittedly equipped with the biggest 19-inch alloy wheels, thudded uncomfortably into potholes and came nowhere near the legendary Citroen smoothness of years gone by. On smaller wheels it's mostly comfortable, with only the worst road imperfections catching it out.
Sadly, not only does the Citroen C5 Aircross lag behind the Peugeot 3008 for ride comfort, but it can't match its sister model for handling either. The Citroen offers little in the way of reward for an enthusiastic driver, with scant feel from its light steering, a reluctance to turn into corners with any zeal, and a tendency to lean if driven with vigour.
The doom and gloom clears somewhat when you find a long, fast, straight road, because cruising at motorway speeds is where the C5 Aircross is most at home. It's very quiet at speed, especially when a petrol engine is fitted.
The claimed 42mpg economy of the PureTech petrols will be enough to impress most owners, while those who cover large annual mileages will find the BlueHDi diesel, capable of up to 54mpg, even more appealing. They've been joined by a PHEV, capable of up to 201.8mpg and CO2 emissions from 32g/km, which should appeal to company-car drivers but has a high list price.
Although the rear seats aren't as generous on legroom as you might hope, the C5 Aircross is still a genuine five seater, and one with a sizeable boot, so it's more than a match for most rivals when it comes to practicality. It's competitively priced – competing directly against the excellent Skoda Karoq – and beats many rivals for standard equipment too.
Citroen doesn't exactly have the best record when it comes to owner satisfaction, but with standard active emergency braking (AEB) and even a built-in dashcam on some models, the C5 Aircross in UK-spec scored the full five-star rating from Euro NCAP. However, for all the C5’s practicality and interesting looks, it doesn't come good on the promises made before its launch – namely class-leading comfort and interior quality. Sadly, the big Citroen is thoroughly upstaged by the smaller C3 Aircross.