Citroen C5 X hatchback review
“The Citroen C5 X is a comfortable and intriguing mix of body styles, and is worth considering against the usual German executives”
- Big boot
- Plug-in hybrid
- Uncommunicative steering
- Derivative feel
- Expensive PHEV
The Citroen C5 X is the French brand’s latest attempt at a big flagship, which hasn’t traditionally been an area for success for the firm. The last C5 was a saloon with all the flair of drying paint, while the Citroen C6 was deliberately wacky and too outlandish for many buyers. By including the ‘X’ in the name, Citroen is referring back to its CX and XM saloons – and hoping that you don’t mistake it for the Citroen C5 Aircross SUV.
Citroen describes the C5 X as having characteristics from luxury saloons, estate cars and SUVs. That sounds like a real mish-mash of body styles, and the C5 X is at risk of confusing buyers. But the SUV influence, seen in the slightly raised ride height and the chunky body cladding, should ensure that the C5 X gets some attention from UK customers.
Don’t be fooled by the 4x4 styling, though; the Citroen C5 X is resolutely front-wheel drive. It sits on the same platform as the latest Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308, and features the same engines. Petrol buyers are catered for by a 128bhp 1.2-litre or a 178bhp 1.6-litre engine, or there’s a plug-in hybrid that adds an electric motor and battery to the 1.6-litre petrol, for an electric range of up to 34 miles. No diesel engine will feature.
While the engines are standard Citroen and Peugeot fare, the C5 X looks to reintroduce the supreme comfort of Citroens of old. It uses hydraulic suspension stoppers to reduce heavy jolts, and features a system that scans the road surface ahead so the suspension can filter out any imperfections. The former is standard across the range, the latter is also standard on the hybrid, showing how Citroen is squarely focusing on comfort rather than any hint of sportiness.
The C5 X is a large car, measuring more than 4.8 metres long. That’s good for rear-seat space and boot space; its 545-litre boot is about what you’d expect for an estate or an SUV. Its nearest rival is perhaps the Skoda Superb, while the Peugeot 508 SW is another alternative.
Three trim levels are available, starting with Sense Plus. This version can be ordered with the lower-powered petrol and the hybrid, while the higher-spec Shine and Shine Plus trims also let you pick the 1.6-litre petrol. Even Sense Plus is very well equipped, although it seems a little strange that heated seats aren’t bundled in with a heated steering wheel; the latter comes in on the mid-range trim, but the seat warmers are reserved for top-spec cars.
The C5 X has enough appeal to compete with its rivals, but it may still have its work cut out tempting buyers away from a Skoda Superb or a BMW 3 Series. As the plug-in hybrid can be quite expensive, both in terms of cash price and monthly finance prices, may mean it appeals more to business users than private buyers. The latter may be better off with the 1.2-litre petrol engine, which is still pleasant to drive, and significantly cheaper to finance or lease.
MPG, running costs & CO2
There’s no pure electric option or diesel engine fitted to the C5 X, but the plug-in hybrid is on hand to offer the possibility of reduced running costs. A full charge enables up to 34 miles of electric driving; recharge regularly and you’ll get fairly close to Citroen’s claim of up to 236mpg. Recharging the 12.4kWh battery takes less than two hours from a home wallbox, although it’ll take a bit longer if you’re plugging the car into a standard domestic socket.
The plug-in hybrid is expensive compared to the petrol engines, so it may appeal to company-car drivers more than private buyers. That’s because its 30g/km CO2 emissions place it in a low Benefit-in-Kind tax band. The plug-in hybrid costs £10 less a year in VED (road tax) than the petrol engines.
You can expect up to 47mpg from the 1.2-litre petrol engine, or up to 43.5mpg from the more powerful 1.6-litre engine. That’s similar enough to a petrol-powered Skoda Superb.
Engines, drive & performance
You won’t find many surprises under the bonnet; the Citroen C5 X uses the same petrol and plug-in hybrid engines as many other Citroen, Peugeot, Vauxhall and DS models. The 1.2-litre petrol produces 128bhp, while the 1.6-litre offers an extra 50bhp and a little more torque. Plug-in hybrid versions are also fitted with the 1.6-litre engine, but it’s supplemented by a 109bhp electric motor for a combined output of 222bhp and a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds.
The plug-in hybrid system is pretty good, smoothly switching between its two power sources and keeping quiet most of the time. Call for hard acceleration and the petrol engine will kick in, but even then the noise doesn’t grate. There’s a little bit of wind noise at motorway speeds – we expect versions without the top-spec car’s acoustic glass might be a bit louder – but tyre roar is kept to a minimum.
Unfortunately, so is steering feel. It reinforces that you’d choose to buy a C5 X for a relaxing drive rather than an engaging one. However, there’s not too much body roll, even with Citroen’s comfortable suspension set-up. It’s better in this respect than many SUVs; that’s where its lower ride height comes in handy. You’ll notice a fair amount of pitch and dive with heavy acceleration or braking, though.
While 128bhp from the 1.2-litre doesn't sound like much in a car this size, the small engine and lack of a heavy battery pack does make the C5 X feel light on its feet. It does without the active suspension of more expensive versions, but arguably feels more predictable to drive as a result. If anything the lack of the 1.2-litre engine's outright pace matches the laid back chassis, because if you push hard the three-cylinder feels strained and its volume rises in protest.
Take the motorway route rather than the twisty back road, and the C5 X displays its cosseting talent. Its ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ stop the suspension from crashing and jolting the cabin, while its Active Suspension technology uses cameras to read the road ahead and tweak the suspension setup accordingly. Its slightly raised ride height may also help you feel insulated from broken road surfaces. One of the only times it isn’t comfortable is when crossing expansion joints on concrete sections of road.
All versions of the C5 X come with front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Interior & comfort
The Citroen C5 X features a higher ride height but quite a low driving position, so you don’t get the same assuring feeling of seeing over other cars as you do in fully fledged SUVs such as the C5 Aircross.
Sliding in, you might also notice that Citroen’s drive for comfort extends to the seats, which are filled with a foam that feels like a mattress topper. The materials used are generally excellent, and lashings of chrome and coloured trim help break up what would otherwise be a very grey dashboard. Lots of piano black trim will look great in the showroom, but will quickly show dust and scratches.
Entry-level cars get a 10-inch touchscreen, while higher-spec versions enjoy a 12-inch one and a crisp head-up display.
Shine adds extra chrome trim, ambient lighting and a heated steering wheel, although you’ll need to go for the top Shine Plus if you also want heated seats. These are fitted along with leather upholstery, tinted windows, blind-spot monitoring and a 360-degree parking camera. There are six paint colours to choose, with a contrast-colour roof available on five of those, but not many optional extras.
Practicality & boot space
Acting as a flagship model in the Citroen range, the C5 X is suitably large. Its 4.8-metre length and 2.78-metre wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) translates to a spacious passenger compartment. Four six-foot adults will have plenty of space inside, and headroom is decent even with the panoramic roof specified.
Petrol versions get a 545-litre boot, or 1,640 litres if you fold the rear seats down. It’s not ideal for long loads because the folded seats sit higher than the boot floor, but the main boot space is useful and square. The hybrid gets a 485-litre boot (1,580 seats down), which shouldn’t cause too many problems for family holidays or flatpack furniture addicts. Its slightly higher boot floor reduces the load lip, too.
Reliability & safety
There aren’t many unfamiliar parts in the Citroen C5 X, which should spell good news for reliability and the availability of spares. What’s less assuring is that 22.9% of Citroen owners told us they’d had a fault with their car in our 2021 Driver Power survey. Its performance in our 2021 survey is one to forget, with no Citroen models placing in the top 75 cars on sale and the brand itself finishing only above MG in our countdown of the top 29 manufacturers.
Safety is also relatively unknown, with Euro NCAP yet to put the C5 X through its rigorous crash tests. The Citroen C4 could manage only four out of five stars, though. At least the C5 X is available with plenty of driver aids and safety features, including lane-departure warning, speed limit recognition and rear cross-traffic alert.