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First drive: Citroen’s C5 Aircross is a unique offering in the SUV class

(PA)
(PA)

What is it?

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Citroen has a history of producing cars that focus on the quality of the ride over anything else – most famously, the DS19 with its incredible ‘magic carpet’ suspension that would glide over any bump, ironing out potholes or uneven surfaces. The C5 Aircross is a completely new model for Citroen in Europe, although a slightly different version went on sale in China last year, and it combines the great features of the C3 Aircross and C4 Cactus into a larger, more premium package.

What’s new?

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There are plenty of recognisable features from the existing Citroen range that will feel familiar in this, but this large crossover is a first for the brand. It’s a five-seater but it boasts a more usable, higher-capacity boot than the C4 Spacetourer MPV. Its party piece is the progressive hydraulic cushion suspension, which we would be putting to the test on rough terrain in Morocco – a surface slightly more aggressive than the local high street it’ll have to combat here in the UK.

What’s under the bonnet?

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We tested the C5 Aircross with the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol 178bhp engine. However, it’s also available with a diesel of equivalent power in the UK and the option of a 128bhp powertrain in either petrol or diesel guise, too. All options are available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic. The 1.6-litre petrol can hit 60mph in a very respectable 8.2 seconds, while the 2.0-litre diesel with the same power output will hit that only 0.4 seconds slower. For the best economy the diesel will return 60mpg on a combined cycle, while the petrol claims 49.6.

What’s it like to drive?

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Citroen has put the emphasis on comfort at every stage, but that does mean if you’re looking for precise and direct handling you won’t find an exceptional example here. That’s not to say the Citroen can’t handle itself on both twisty country lanes and out on the motorway – the steering is quick to respond. However, the C5 Aircross offers relaxed and serene driving as it cruises effortlessly over potholes that would make you brace in another car. Despite looking like a large SUV, on the road it doesn’t feel too big for the track and is easy to manoeuvre through a tight spot, too.

How does it look?

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The C5 Aircross builds on the striking design that Citroen has been developing over the past few years. It’s still got the airbump panels but more discreetly across the lower panels and doors than you would have seen on the C4 Cactus. The quirky style of the C3 Aircross has been pushed even further, with bold lines carried across the car and to the front light signatures. The airbump design is also used throughout the exterior, with the bubbly shapes featuring on the grille, wheels and lights.

What’s it like inside?

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The most important place for Citroen’s comfort features has to be in the interior, and the designers have done a brilliant job here – particularly with the seats. The soft materials, stylish and modern design and memory foam centre give both the look and feel of a truly comfy car seat. The interior will look familiar if you’ve spent any time in Citroen’s most recent car and it works really well. Good-sized door pockets, glovebox and another storage bin under the armrest will keep your belongings stored well too. The C5 Aircross also benefits from three independently adjustable rear seats and two Isofix points. Boot space goes from 580 to 720 litres depending on how these seats are adjusted, and with them flattened this increases to 1,630 litres.

What’s the spec like?

There are three specification levels on the C5 Aircross – Feel, Flair and Flair Plus. As standard on the entry-level Feel, the C5 gets the safety pack with active safety braking, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. Citroen’s Connect Nav with TomTom updates is available as standard on Flair and Flair Plus, which gives clear and easy-to-understand directions. This is also available with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. Top-spec Flair Plus cars get added benefits such as wireless smartphone charging, panoramic glass roof, cruise control and driver attention alert too.

Verdict

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The C5 Aircross sets a new standard for Citroen’s SUV and crossover range. With a striking presence on the road, a more grown-up look and a range of safety and tech features, it’s a great package for a family buyer. Its tough exterior paired with the super-soft hydraulic suspension makes for an easy life on the road too, although the styling might not be to everybody’s taste.



  • Model as tested: BlueTech 180 S&S EAT8 Flair
  • Price: £28,325
  • Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol
  • Power: 178bhp
  • Torque: 250Nm
  • Max speed : 134mph
  • 0-60mph: 8.2 seconds
  • MPG: 49.6
  • Emissions: 131g/km
  • Rivals: Peugeot 5008, Seat Ateca, Kia Sportage