It may be late to the SUV party, but the all-new Citroen C5 Aircross is more than welcome.
Up against well-established rivals including the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008 and Mazda CX-5, Citroen knows the C5 Aircross must have a USP – and that’s exactly what it’s got.
As well as being every bit as good as the opposition in terms of drivability, practicality and build quality, it’s also blessed with bold styling and a serious amount of comfort – a quality Citroen has rediscovered in recent years with the C3, C4 Cactus and C3 Aircross.
From the front, the C5 Aircross is unmistakable, featuring the new face of Citroen with the two-tier light signature and colour inserts shared with its siblings.
The raised ride height, profile and rear are slightly more SUV conventional, though it’s good to see Citroen has stuck with the airbumps – now embellishing the bottom of the doors.
Generally, it’s a distinctive and good looking car with a wide range of personalisation options. In fact, Citroen claims there are a possible 30 exterior colour combinations.
Inside it’s very Citroen with an attractive mix of cool design, comfort, space and technology. Equipped with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver and an 8.0-inch HD touchscreen in the centre console as standard, it’s available in three trim levels – Feel, Flair and Flair Plus.
Standard safety and driver assistance technologies include Advanced Active Safety Brake, Active Lane Departure Warning and Active Blind Spot Monitoring. Grip Control with Hill Descent Assist (next best thing to four-wheel drive) is also available for off-road adventures.
Citroen’s ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushion’ suspension system “for a uniquely smooth and comfortable ride” is fitted across the C5 Aircross range, while Advanced Comfort seats (standard with Flair and Flair Plus) are certainly well padded and comfy.
It’s practical too with plenty of small storage spaces dotted around the cabin, plus three individual rear seats that slide, fold and recline. There’s also a best-in-class boot volume ranging from 580 litres to 720 litres (depending on the position of the rear seats), expanding to 1,630 litres with the second row seats flipped down.
Priced from £24,355, it’s powered by Citroen’s impressive range of efficient PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines, paired with either a six-speed manual or 8-speed automatic gearbox.
The C5 Aircross will be the first Citroen plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model too, but you’ll have to wait until early 2020 for that.
The four engines on offer are 1.2 (PureTech 130) and 1.6-litre (PureTech 180) petrols and 1.5 (BlueHDi 130) and 2.0-litre (BlueHDi 130) diesels.
I tested the entry-level manual petrol and the smaller diesel with automatic transmission.
The punchy three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine’s 128bhp is fine around town and will cruise happily on a motorway, but can run out of puff if pushed on more challenging roads.
The manual gearbox is exceptionally slick (almost up there with the Mazda’s CX-5) and with a 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds and top speed of 117mph, it’s enough for most. With CO2 emissions as low as 118g/km and fuel economy as high as 44.2mpg, it’s a great all-rounder.
If you want a bit more grunt and you want better fuel economy, then the 1.5 diesel might be the better option. It has a top speed of 117mph and takes 11.8 seconds to reach 62mph (but seems faster), while CO2 emissions are a low 107g/km and it’s capable of a claimed 56.3mpg on the combined cycle.
The diesel is a lovely engine, only making itself known when pressed hard, while the 8-speed automatic gearbox changes swiftly and smoothly.
There’s also a Sport mode button with this engine option, which stiffens up the suspensions a little and sharpens the throttle response.
The ride is on the soft and floaty side (and I mean that in a good way), yet it manages to keep body roll in check on faster corners. However, it can still get caught out by the odd bump and sharper rut on the road. The steering is light and visibility good, making the C5 Aircross a good option for town too.
The driving position is on the lofty side, even with the seat at its lowest (we’ll call that a commanding view of the road) and rear seat passengers sit quite high up too.
That’s said, there’s plenty of space inside the cabin for five adults, but best to check the rear if you opt for the panoramic sunroof because it does nibble into the headroom.
Much as we like the interior, it’s just a shame that there aren’t more soft-touch surfaces and some of the switchgear lets it down. That said, the car as a whole is solidly put together and feels assured on the road.
Verdict: The all-new Citroen C5 Aircross is a breath of fresh air. An SUV that dares to be different, but is also comfortable, practical, spacious, safe and engaging to drive. Job done.