Driven: Citroen C5 Aircross

The Peugeot 3008 has a lot to answer for, as the basic chassis and engine combinations have been used in the DS 7, Vauxhall Grandland X, bigger brother Peugeot 5008, and now this, the Citroen C5 Aircross, the brand’s first attempt at a medium-sized SUV.

While there’s a lot of common parts hidden away under the skin, there’s little visible to give away any links to its cousins. With a high, rounded bonnet, sharpened with some dramatic headlight detail, the C5 stands out like a spaceship against the backdrop of boringly similar SUVs that dominate the roads. Interesting window treatment and a hint of rugged ability in the form of ‘airbumps’ along the sills attract attention too, although it gets a little more conventional around the rear.

Citroen C5 Aircross rear

It’s utterly conventional under the bonnet. There’s the usual range of petrol and diesel engines that you’ll find across virtually every Citroen, Peugeot and, gradually, Vauxhall. This 1.5-litre diesel produces 130hp, but there’s the same power available from a 1.2-litre petrol option. Likewise, a 180hp version can be had with either fuel type. There’s the promise of a plug-in hybrid next year, too.

What is different is Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension. The suspension struts have twin hydraulic bump stops, replacing traditional rubber pieces, that dissipates energy rather than returning it. The result, Citroen promises, is softer suspension that glides over large bumps and imperfections. The reality is far removed from a ‘magic carpet’ ride, but it copes very well with most of the UK’s roads, keeping the cabin nicely isolated from what’s happening underneath. Hit a speedbump and the front end crashes over it, but the rear genuinely does seem to absorb it and glide over with barely a movement from the car. This could be the perfect chauffeur’s car.

Citroen C5 Aircross front

The penalty is paid when things get unexpectedly messy. Drive aggressively and the suspension can’t keep up, the car rolling from side to side and becoming generally uncomfortable. However, it’s best to keep in mind that this is a family SUV, and not the latest Italian supercar. Drive sensibly and it’s more compliant and more comfortable than its rivals.

You’re encouraged to take things easy as the steering is very light, making city driving a breeze, and seemingly completely removed from feedback from the road. That combines with an endearingly lazy eight-speed automatic gearbox to clear your mind of any thoughts of a cross-country B-road blast. Likewise, 130hp is enough to get by on, but it’s a little steady at times and discourages optimistic manoeuvres. It’s entirely unsatisfying to drive, but is entirely, and pleasingly, competent for everyday use.

Citroen C5 Aircross Interior

That goes for practicality, too. The C5 Aircross is bigger than it looks, with three flat rear seats that are comfortable and just about wide enough. They slide forward and back too, as well as folding flat, allowing you to extend the boot from an already impressive 580 litres to a huge 720 litres. Fold them flat and that increases to a van-like 1,630 litres – more space than you’ll find in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The front of the cabin is equally spacious, and covered in different materials and designs. It sounds like it could be messy, but it comes together nicely. The digital instrument panel and push-button controls feel suitably high-tech, while soft-touch plastics, cushioned panels and metal door handles add a solid feel.

Of course, it’s not a Citroen without quirks. Chief amongst them is the infotainment system, common across countless models, that hides the temperature controls behind four presses of the screen. And if you’ve engaged reverse, the camera comes on and refuses to go off unless you drive forwards for a bit, blocking access to every menu. Want to use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay? That’s fine, but woe betides anybody that then wants to change the radio station.

And why does pressing the column stalk to wipe the windscreen just once also turn off the automatic wipers? And who made the cruise control stalk unfathomably complex, and then placed it out of sight behind a steering wheel spoke?

Still, the Citroen C5 Aircross remains a practical and financially sensible option. Asking just north of £30,000 might sound like a lot, but it undercuts the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V or even Peugeot 3008, and it’s loaded with equipment; there’s the half-leather interior, navigation, DAB radio, parking sensors, a rearview camera, keyless entry and start, and even a powered tailgate that can be opened or closed simply by waving a foot under the bumper. A huge suite of safety equipment is also fitted, helping to keep you and your family protected.

While the 58.6mpg promised might be optimistic, a long cruise to the south coast and back showed the car returning around 56mpg, which is impressive for a fully-loaded and quite large car. Low CO2 emissions will keep tax bills down a bit too, although the 3% BIK diesel penalty will hurt company car drivers a little.

Motoring enthusiasts need not hurry down to a Citroen showroom, but for those that just want something sensible, spacious and cheap to run, while looking sharp and appealing, Citroen’s C5 Aircross might just tick the right boxes.

Model Tested: Citroen C5 Aircross Flair Plus BlueHDi 130 Auto
Price: £31,970
Range: £24,950 – £34,135
Top speed: 117 mph
0-62 mph: 11.8 seconds
Power: 130 PS (129 bhp)
Torque: 300 Nm (221 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £437
Official economy: 58.6 mpg
Road test economy: 52.3 mpg
CO2 Emissions: 139 g/km
Car Tax: £150
Insurance group: 18E

* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36-month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.