“…ASIDE FROM A BIT OF GALLIC GARNISH, THE C-CROSSER IS ACTUALLY PART OF A JOINT PROJECT WITH MITSUBISHI…
Zut alors! The moniker might suggest Citroën has decided to take on P&O Ferries with an amphibious landing craft, but le C-Crosser is destined for far choppier waters than the Channel. After keeping its mitts unsullied in the argument over dirty great off-roaders, the French maker now plans to pitch in with its very own version. The couture signals the C-Crosser will rival goanywhere seven-seaters like Subaru’s B9 Tribeca, Kia’s Sorento, and the Peugeot 4007. But the timing for the C-Crosser’s UK debut this July seems questionable, when you consider the maker has only just issued a booklet called “A greener future”… ah well!
In it, Citroën stresses the super-clean economy of such models as the C1, C2 and C3 – cars endorsed by our government as Britain’s cleanest superminis. Indeed, the only European maker with daintier carbon footprints is that other small-car supremo, Fiat.
So the big question will be whether the C-Crosser will go down like a lump of foie gras at a vegan buffet party, knocking Citroën’s green halo skewiff in the process. Clearly Citroën thinks this is a risk worth taking: take a look at the sales charts for the UK and across Europe and there’s still a keen demand for the battleship-size reassurance of a sturdy estate car on stilts.
And all the anti 4×4 headlines over here can be taken with a pinch of salt: though the SUVpowered school mum has become a prime political punchbag, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reports 175,805 4×4 sales in the last full year, to the end of 2006. That’s 7.5 per cent of all new-car purchases, with no sign of the trend sliding, and several new models coming on stream this year to trigger more demand. A cynic might suggest Citroën’s strategy is canny though: aside from a bit of gallic garnish, the C-Crosser is actually part of a joint project with Mitsubishi, the latter’s version being the Outlander which arrived on UK shores this spring. Built and packaged in Japan, your order would be largely untouched by our Continental cousins, much to the chagrin of the native inhabitants I met during this test drive.
So is it worth ordering? First impressions are encouraging. The designer’s brief, to build a “nonmenacant” SUV has translated into a big, smileyface air intake, and an imposing-but-smooth shape. At 4.6 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, the C-Crosser is a similar size to a family saloon, demanding less space in the car park than you’d need for a Ford Mondeo. And though there’s a sense of climbing up, rather than in, it’s only 1.7m tall, so it’s multistorey-friendly.
The range is tres simple: just one engine choice: Citroën’s own 2.2-litre HDi diesel; and two trim levels. The VTR+ costs £22,790 and the Exclusive £25,490. All models have a six-speed manual gearbox, “intelligent” four-wheel drive (which sends extra bite to any wheel that’s detected as losing grip), six airbags, and a split-tailgate to ease luggage loading. For touch-screen SatNav, a beefed-up 650-watt music system, a 30-gigabyte hard drive for map and music storage, blackened side windows and a reversing camera, you’ll need to opt for the Exclusive (see Fully Loaded for more information).
If you think this model looks that bit sportier than Citroën’s Picasso collection, you’re right. While Mitsubishi uses Volkswagen’s two-litre turbodiesel, this more potent rival is Peugeot-Citroën’s home-grown 2.2. It’s smoother, punchier at all speeds, and, in terms of refinement, out-performs the Outlander like Amy Winehouse versus Ann Widdecombe. Boasting 30 more in the horsepower stakes, the C-Crosser breezes to 60mph in a shade under ten seconds and is an ideal longhaul companion.
And though it’s not expressly a driver’s car, this is a keen machine to pilot – it has plenty of overtaking reserve, seems to squat into corners for stability, and steers with the kind of precision that makes a traditional offroader feel like a halfbaked pudding. Flick the dial by the gearstick for all-wheel drive and, on a gravel track, the Crosser keeps its cool with full marks.
Does it blot Citroën’s green record though? That extra power spells a thirstier nature than you’ll find in a seven-seater Picasso. Stick to tarmac and drive carefully, and the overall consumption figure, by Citroën’s own calculation, is around 38.7mpg. Use it in the city or farm tracks, and the reading drops to below 30mpg. Your choice of alloys may also be guilt-driven: the Exclusive trim’s 18-inchers fractionally increase the CO2 emissions to 194g/km – stick to the standard 16-inch design and the figure is 191g/km. Either way, you’re parking firmly in tax band F which, despite the presence of PSA’s lifetime-durable particulate filter, is one band from the top, and which spells a £205 annual tax disc. The C-Crosser might charm your wallet open nevertheless: the cabin is a tastefully finished, serene place to while away your time, with excellent visibility all round. The quality of the fittings is prime Japanese standard, and there are storage bins and cup holders aplenty. Sixth and seventh seats,
however, are emergency overflow affairs and little more – adults will find the proximity of the seat base to the floor spells knees-under-chin, though this discomfort can be lessened by sliding the second row seat bench forward a couple of inches, a measure which, (thanks to the wonderful amount of leg space allocated to passengers three to five), will trigger no complaints.
To sit in the gods though, you’ve got to first build your seat – the unit lies folded flat under the tailgate floor, and although Citroën goes to great lengths by virtue of explanatory diagrams, it’s a fiddly, fussy affair with no fewer than three pull tags to yank, and much wrestling in between. Asking your children to streamline their social circle may well be the quicker option. Thankfully, the second seat row folds down at just the flick of a switch, creating a flat loading floor if needed. So is Citroën risking its green image by verging off into off-road territory? Frankly, yes: though the C-Crosser has all the substance to match its style, given this engine’s sub 40mpg average, it’s not quite the model to shatter anti-SUV preconceptions, let alone chase the increasingly powerful green pound. But if your driving duties include ferrying other people’s children and navigating the occasional rough track, you’re going to get along swimmingly.
- Price: £25,490
- Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
- Max Power: 156bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 280 lb ft at 2,000rpm
- Combined Consumption:38.7mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 194 (F)
- 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
- Max speed: 124mph
Remote central locking key fob
Driver and passenger airbags
Curtain side airbags
ABS with ESP
Height-adjustable front passenger seat
Power door mirrors
Automatic dual climate control
Sliding/reclining second row seat
Power-assisted second-row seat folding
Fold-away third row seats
Front fog lamps
Rear Privacy Glass
Seven-inch touch SatNav screen
30-gigabyte hard disc entertainment system
Outpaces an Outlander. Rides smoothly, great driving position. Lots of legroom in the rear, lots of equipment and plenty of storage space
Penalty for weight and 4×4 spec becomes evident at the pumps, plus the CO2 rating will set you back. Seats Six and Seven are ‘temporary overflow’ designs