It’s rare that a car maker really ups their game in one go; such changes are usually more gradual. That’s why many motor noters can write a good proportion of their review before even getting behind the wheel. We can usually predict pretty accurately what the cabin will be like, how well the car will be packaged and what it will be like dynamically. But sometimes a manufacturer launches a new model that’s a big advance over what went before, and I reckon the C5 Aircross is just such a car.
Admittedly the Citroën is no bargain compared with rivals, especially as the hefty discounts of old are now harder to come by, but it is competitively priced and well equipped. Perhaps more importantly, though, the cabin quality is streets ahead of what we’ve seen in some of the French marque’s cars, so the asking price doesn’t seem high. The switchgear looks and feels like it’ll last, and while some of the ergonomics still need to be honed – the infotainment system is still outclassed for example – Citroën has done a pretty good job with the C5 Aircross.
At first glance the flat seats look as though they’ll give you back ache within minutes, but they’re actually very comfortable and reasonably supportive. Cabin and boot space are both excellent, the latter boosted by a split-level floor, so you can choose between maximum space or a flat load bay with the rear seats folded down. While the interior design is impressive, the exterior is even more so – the C5 Aircross is a real looker, with the Citroën family design working brilliantly from every angle.
The French firm has chosen not to make the C5 Aircross sporty to drive, which has led to it being marked down by some reviewers. Not me though; it was absolutely the right decision, because this is a car that cossets and relaxes you, with its suspension set up for comfort rather than pin-sharp handling. With its smooth eight-speed automatic transmission mated to a decently muscular 1.5-litre engine, this is a Not-Especially-Sporty-Utility-Vehicle, and it’s all the better for it. Throw in excellent refinement and the C5 Aircross is far more accomplished dynamically than you might expect – as long as you don’t want the dynamics of a BMW X3.
With 129bhp on tap, our 1.5-litre Aircross is at the bottom of the two-tier diesel range, albeit with top-specification Flair Plus trim. A 174bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is also available, and the extra urge available from this would probably produce an even more relaxing drive, but our BlueHDi 130 edition rarely felt as if it was underpowered, with the car generally proving to be the perfect companion on the many long-distance motorway drives that it had to undertake.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as a set of switches fell inside the dashboard after less than two weeks, and the AdBlue tank appears under-sized, so it needed regular top ups. Not long before it went back, the stop/start system packed in, with the car reverting to Eco mode constantly, and if stood for a few days, the engine struggled to turn over. It all pointed to a duff battery or alternator, but the car went back just as this started to become apparent.
So would I buy a C5 Aircross? No, but I would recommend one. I’d still take an estate car over any SUV, but the fact that I liked the C5 Aircross so much speaks volumes. Registered a year ago, our Aircross had covered a high mileage by the time we handed it back; over 16,000 compared with an average of 12,000 miles in a year. As such, the car is worth around £24,250 on a dealer forecourt, according to the Glass’s trade guide, although a trade-in value is £20,640. With an original list price of £30,830, including options, that’s par for the course – I just hope that whoever the next custodian of the car is, likes it as much as I did.
Date arrived 10th July 2019
Fuel economy 48.0-56.3mpg (WLTP combined) 43.7mpg (on test)
The exterior design is really smart, with things lifted by red highlights dotted here and there.
The nearside bonnet shut line is so wide that several people have asked if it’s shut properly.