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First drive: 2024 Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 136. Image by Citroen.

First drive: 2024 Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 136
Mild-hybrid powertrain added to the super-smooth Citroen C5 Aircross line.

   



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Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 136

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Citroen's attractive C5 Aircross SUV already had its midlife facelift towards the end of last year, so now there's a technical update for the French family wagon. It gains 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, creating the newly badged Hybrid 136 model, and the results are a 15 per cent reduction in both fuel economy and CO2 emissions. There's also none of the perceived faff of having to plug it in at the mains to charge, either, so could this be the new C5 Aircross of choice?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 136
Price: From 32,295
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol and 21kW electric motor
Battery: 0.4kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: electrified six-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 136hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 230Nm at 1,750rpm
Emissions: 129g/km
Economy: 55.4mpg
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Boot space: 580-1,630 litres

Styling

As we said at the outset, there are no visual changes here, because the entire C5 Aircross family was updated at the end of 2022, with natty new front and rear light clusters, plus some changes to the grille and chin splitter. So the question here is really whether you like the overall aesthetic of 'double-chevrons-turn-into-grille-bars-turn-into-DRLs' on the C5 Aircross' nose, along with the last vestiges of the Airbumps - those bubbly design features made most famous by the original Citroen C4 Cactus - sitting on the sills and the three-bar lamp signatures at the back. Cards on the table, we do. Visually, the Citroen stands out in a sea of rather anonymous rivals, so it's a big tick from us. The only possible slight issue is that this new Hybrid 136 has no discerning features which identify it among its stablemates; it doesn't even gain a specific boot badge for its troubles. Oh well.

Interior

This is an area that confuses us on many a modern Citroen. For a company which seems to be embracing its traditional wackiness when it comes to exterior design - take the C5 X and Ami as prime examples of this, if you will - the brand's current interior ethos seems to be 'make it as dull as you can'. Honestly, it's not like we want indicator switches mounted on the side of seat bolsters or the air-con button situated in the boot or anything equally daft and CX-ish, but just a bit of visual pizzazz wouldn't go amiss. While the cabin of the C5 Aircross is very well made, with good quality materials employed in most of the key touchpoint areas, and the ergonomics are generally sound (ageing infotainment on a central 10-inch screen aside), and it remains as spacious and as practical and as comfortable within the big SUV as it always has been, it ain't half yawn-inducing to look at. The surroundings of the front-seat occupants is a festival of charcoal tones, and frankly a single stitched strip of leather running down to the glovebox on the passenger-side dashboard is not enough of a textural contrast to break up the unstinting monotony. If you want to see how to simply make things feel twenty times fresher with only the use of a bit of fabric and some more interesting dash mouldings, check out any current Peugeot model for details - and that'll surely irk Citroen, which of course is the sister company to Pug.

Practicality

The Citroen C5 Aircross' humdrum interior at least fights back on the practicality front. This Hybrid 136 model sequesters its tiny 0.4kWh lithium-ion battery under the front-left seat, so there's no sacrifice of either rear-passenger room or boot space. That means the former remains vast, with plenty of knee- and headroom provided, while the boot stands at a generous 580 litres with the rear seats up, and a huge 1,630 litres with them folded away. There's also the usual array of useful cubby holes and storage compartments in the C5 Aircross, as well as a rear bench of three seats which all slide and fold individually. One final note here: the Advanced Comfort protocol that Citroen is employing at the moment results in some of the comfiest chairs in any car this side of a Volvo. That'll be a major boon on long-distance journeys, then, in terms of pure driver comfort.

Performance

Citroen has worked on the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged PureTech engine, raising output from 130- to 136hp, although torque remains pegged at 230Nm. The French outfit says 40 per cent of the bits in this 1.2 are new, so it's not just a modest remap of the unit that went before. Added to it is a 21kW (28hp) electric motor, coupled up to a small 48-volt, 0.4kWh battery pack. Although the e-motor has a peak torque of 55Nm, while you might be adding '136' and '28' together in your mind, as well as '230' and '55', the Hybrid 136 is not a 164hp/285Nm car; Citroen simply quotes the peak outputs of the petrol engine as the overall figures for the model. This is mainly because the electric motor only adds 12hp into the mix when it comes to assisting the PureTech with acceleration.

No, the main focus of the 48-volt system is, of course, improving the SUV's green numbers. So CO2 emissions are now down to 129g/km, from 149g/km on a similar 130 PureTech EAT8 before, while the fuel economy is up to 55.4mpg (46.3mpg previously). Assisting in this is a new electronically controlled dual-clutch automatic gearbox with six speeds, called the e-DCS6, which supersedes the eight-speed EAT8 and is said to be geared specifically to work well with hybrids.

The resulting drivetrain is impressively smooth and quiet, save for some occasional odd and often sluggish behaviour from that e-DCS6 transmission - we'll have to try it for longer on our own roads to see if it replicates such unwanted characteristics - and while the C5 Aircross Hybrid 136 is not what you'd call fast, it has perfectly enough gumption to be able to keep up with general traffic flow without being mercilessly thrashed to within an inch of its life. Perhaps the major bonus here is that, in town driving, the Citroen will roll around on its electric motor alone for up to 50 per cent of the time. So while there's no official 'electric range' quoted for this mild hybrid, in urban areas it tends to feel more like an electric vehicle than a mainly petrol-powered conveyance. And that cultured, eerie quietness that you get in cars with electric motors only enhances the C5 Aircross' excellent comfort levels when you're edging about the place on tight, congested city streets.

Ride & Handling

One of these things the Citroen does exceptionally; the other, not so much. And there's probably not much deductive reasoning required here to work out which is which, when the French firm lives by the mantra Advanced Comfort.

Fitted with ultra-plush front seats and suspension made, seemingly, of pillows (they're actually Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, but the analogy is valid...), there's nothing else in this five-seater family SUV class that rides with as much grace as the C5 Aircross. It's not faultless, of course, as really big compressions sometimes result in a bit of thudding about for the people within, but in general you'll feel - or hear - very little of what's going on with the road surface beneath the wheels. The Citroen simply lopes along quietly and comfortably, and it's a true delight to travel in.

Naturally, the pay-off is that pretty much any other SUV in this class will corner with a bit more verve than the C5 Aircross. Oh, it's not a bad car - not in the way the old facelifted C4 Cactus was, with its appalling body control - so you enjoy tidy if unremarkable steering and a cabin which doesn't lean perilously if you enter a bend about 10mph faster than you really ought to. But the Citroen's preferred modus operandi is throttled-back cruising, not charging into corners like the ghost of an oversized Saxo VTS. If you want a French SUV of this size and class which tips the balance back towards dynamic acuity at the expense of a bit of comfort, try the Peugeot 3008 out for size. Otherwise, if what you want is supreme comfort, then the C5 Aircross is the clear winner.

Value

Citroen is in the process of reordering its trim levels into three clear bands, so that customers aren't quite as confused by terms such as Sense, Sense Plus, Shine, Shine Plus, e-Series and C-Series Edition. Because we've confused ourselves just writing those. Anyway, from now on, base models of Citroens will be called You, mid-grade cars gain the Plus nomenclature and your fully loaded, bells-and-whistles versions will be known as Max.

This is a bit awkward for this review, though, as we drove a French car in Shine specification... which, er, no longer tallies with the revised UK line-up. That said, the Hybrid 136 is priced from a very reasonable 32,295 and, for that cash, you can expect at least 18-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, nav-enabled 10-inch infotainment with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, connected services and features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and plenty of advanced driver assist safety systems too. That 12.3-inch cluster, by the way, has a specific display related to the Hybrid model incorporated, which shows energy flow between the petrol engine, electric motor and the wheels, and also how much electric driving you've managed on a given journey. It's about the only visual concession in or on the whole car which denotes you're in the fuel-saving petrol-electric version.

Verdict

With plug-in hybrid models already topping the range, it makes perfect sense for Citroen to add a non-plug-in hybrid further down the C5 Aircross tree - after all, many of its key rivals, such as Ford with its Kuga and Hyundai with its Tucson, do much the same thing. And the general integration of the electrified running gear into the Hybrid 136 is a success, save for a slightly clunky gearbox at times. A touch more design flair for the passenger compartment would be nice, but otherwise this latest C5 Aircross is a highly polished contender in a competitive family SUV marketplace - and if you want the most ride comfort there is possible, then this has to be your primary choice.



Matt Robinson - 15 Sep 2023



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2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.

2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen C5 Aircross MHEV. Image by Citroen.








 

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