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Driven: Citroen C5 Aircross. Image by Citroen UK.

Driven: Citroen C5 Aircross
Striking looks and a supple ride are the hallmarks of the highly amenable Citroen C5 Aircross.


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Citroen C5 Aircross Flair BlueHDi 180 EAT8

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: smooth ride, great looks, nicely appointed and spacious cabin, big boot, strong diesel engine

Not so good: gets expensive with the 2.0-litre 174hp engine, not massively thrilling to drive even by this class' lowly standards

Key Facts

Model tested: Citroen C5 Aircross Flair BlueHDi 180 EAT8 S&S
Price: C5 Aircross range from 24,435; Flair BlueHDi 180 EAT8 from 30,330, car as tested 32,655
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: eight-speed EAT8 automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 126g/km (VED Band 111-130: 170 in year one, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 42.3-47.1mpg (WLTP figures)
Top speed: 131mph
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Power: 174hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000rpm
Boot space: 580-1,630 litres

Our view:

With a wide portfolio of models all sitting on the same platform, there's plenty of choice within the PSA brands if you want a large, family-sized crossover-SUV. There's the prestige DS 7 Crossback. There's what we consider the class-leading Peugeot 3008. And then there's the, erm, Vauxhall Grandland X. Which we list in the rivals below. And we'll leave it there for now.

Then, casting your net further afield, there's more choice. The Hyundai Tucson and Skoda Kamiq are the two rivals we list below for your further perusal, but there's the sharp-driving SEAT Ateca. The stylish and premium Volkswagen T-Roc. The warrantied-up-to-the-hilt Kia Sportage. The small matter of the mega-selling Nissan Qashqai. And don't forget the Honda CR-V. Or the Toyota RAV4. Oh, and the Renault Kadjar. Ah yes, the Ford Kuga, as well.

You see what we're getting at? Without even adjusting your parameters slightly in the interests of compromise, and perhaps considering a physically smaller yet upmarket model from Audi, BMW, Mercedes or Volvo, or perhaps casting your budgetary net elsewhere and throwing a Dacia Duster-shaped curveball into the mix, there are a lot of very capable, very spacious and very decent value-for-money crossover-SUVs in the marketplace right now. So here comes another one. It's the Citroen C5 Aircross.

It is basically an upscaling of the C3 Aircross formula and the crossover to replace the poor old C4 Cactus, which has been turned into a half-baked mess during its midlife facelift from quirky 4x4-alike previously to a sort of pseudo-luxury-hatch now. Or, more simply put, the C5 Aircross is basically the double-chevron analogue for the DS 7 Crossback, 3008 and Grandland X. So what makes it the one to go for, among its groupe stablemates? Or, indeed, the massed phalanx of competitors we've listed above?

Well, for one thing, it looks superb. Those sleek, four-piece head-and-daytime-running-lights up front. The wide rear lamp clusters. The blacked-out C-pillar underneath a contrast-coloured roof. The subtle hints at the Airbumps, down on the sills. The resulting crossover is proportional, handsome, expensive-looking and arguably a better-resolved piece of design than its very own funky little sibling in the form of the C3. We also heartily approve of the interior. It's interesting, ergonomically correct and solidly built in here, with the four vertical air vents in the fascia providing nice definition for the forward expanse you're looking at. Citroen's rendition of the digital instrument cluster is not as dramatic as that in the Peugeot 3008, but if you don't like the Pug's i-Cockpit tiny-wheel arrangement then the Citroen's more prosaic layout should be much more agreeable. Space is plentiful in the back and in the boot (we stuffed 22 large pumpkins from Aldi into the back of it, for reasons we'd rather keep to ourselves, thank you very much, although we will report that there was definitely some more room for additional squashes), and the equipment levels are good. The general ambience of the C5's cabin is airy, thanks to a panoramic roof up top (part of a two-piece Exterior Pack with 19-inch alloys, for 1,030), and the addition of a 750 Techno Pack brings in useful items like a wireless Qi smartphone charging plate under the centre stack and a hands-free tailgate which can be operated on the key fob, via a button on the dash or through the medium of swiping your foot beneath the rear bumper when you're standing outside it.

The feeling of the C5 Aircross being a quality item is carried over by the drivetrain in this car, which is the '180'-badged iteration of the 2.0-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel. This is a strong unit and has little difficulty shifting the 1,686kg Citroen about with plenty of alacrity, while we even saw a best of 52.2mpg while cruising along country A-roads that were thronged with plenty of junctions, slow-flowing traffic and start-stop situations, so it's frugal too. The four-cylinder mill can sound a little noisy if you rev it hard, but generally it's refined and smooth, while the EAT8 is a fine companion for the powerplant, albeit controlled by that bizarre forward-kinked gearlever in the cabin. We're not fans of this PSA feature.

The handling of the C5 Aircross is also perfectly acceptable; not particularly involving and all we can remember about the steering is that it was light, nothing more, but there's enough grip to make the Citroen feel able to take on a series of bends, compressions and crests at a decent lick, while the body control is so, so much better than it was on the facelift C4 Cactus we tried towards the tail end of 2018. Don't expect 4WD on the Aircross, though, as the group's 'Grip Control' electrickery is the only traction-aiding equipment this front-wheel drive machine gets. A proper mud-plugging SUV, it is not.

So, having covered the handling, we're now moving on to the ride. This is the C5 Aircross' main strength. It is equipped with the Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension and this is the best application we have tried of this system yet. You'll be hard-pressed to notice the wheels doing any work while you're gliding along, while the suspension itself is hushed and discreet in operation. Don't get us wrong, this is not quite a wafty Citroen to match some of the French company's most supple-sprung legends of the past, but the C5's ride quality is among the best in this class among its contemporaries and, for a car with the two chevrons on its nose, it's really pleasing to finally arrive at this summation. Too many Citroens recently have promised such a thing, then failed to fully deliver.

But are silky ride manners and striking looks enough in this cut-throat class? That's tricky to say. We reckon the Citroen's 3008 cousin is still the better all-round vehicle, as it's a bit more involving to drive without sacrificing too much in the way of comfort - while we prefer the way the Peugeot looks inside and out. There are also some very strong contenders from other manufacturers which we'd probably recommend before the C5 Aircross as well, like the Volkswagen Group trio of the Karoq, the Ateca and the T-Roc, and then the RAV4 has its hybrid USP to tempt people into Toyota showrooms. What we're trying to say here is that we like a lot of the things the Citroen crossover-SUV does, and it does a lot of things very well, but - even considering its forgiving ride - there's not one area where we think it's definitively class-leading. Nevertheless, if this is the kind of machine you're after, then the all-round excellence of the C5 Aircross means you've got yet another headache-inducing choice to agonise over in this segment, in and amongst the sea of quality competitors.


Hyundai Tucson: much improved over its ix35 predecessor but it is starting to feel like the Korean is slipping off the pace of the leaders in this segment. Avoid the 48-volt hybrid diesel model.

Skoda Karoq: you wouldn't expect anything less than an incredibly polished and likeable machine with few weaknesses from Skoda... and that's precisely what you get with the Karoq.

Vauxhall Grandland X: we're not trying to pick on Vauxhall here, but check out how appealing the three French cars on the same platform look inside and out. And then consider the Grandland X. Not really the same, is it?

Matt Robinson - 14 Oct 2019    - Citroen road tests
- Citroen news
- C5 Aircross images

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.2019 Citroen C5 Aircross 180 BlueHDi UK test. Image by Citroen UK.


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