Launched a couple of years ago, the Citroen C5 Aircross was a welcome addition to the highly competitive mid-sized SUV market dominated by the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and Peugeot 3008.
Priced from £24,355, the C5 Aircross range was initially powered by an impressive range of efficient PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines, paired with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Now, Citroen has added a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version. Starting at £34,360, it costs a good deal more than its conventionally powered stablemates, but it has its advantages because it’s kinder to the planet, and your pocket in everyday running costs.
On paper, it’s capable of up to 168mpg, CO2 emissions are rated as low as 32g/km and it can travel for 34 miles in pure electric mode, if you’ve fully charged the battery.
At the heart of the C5 Aircross PHEV is a 178bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine paired with an 80kW electric motor powered by a 13.2kWh battery, giving a combined 222bhp.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox sends drive to the front wheels, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. Charging takes two hours using a 7.4kW wallbox or seven hours via a three-pin plug.
In theory, it means that if you only use your car for an average of around 30 miles per day, you could run on electric only. The cost of home charging varies depending on your electricity rate, but a full charge could cost just £1.66, which works out at 5.76p per mile.
More importantly for company car drivers, the benefits of running a plug-in hybrid can make a significant annual tax saving.
Three drive modes are available – Electric, Hybrid and Sport – and there’s another ‘e-Save’ button which allows you to hold the battery charge, so it can be used when you enter an urban area. You can also engage it to charge the battery on the move.
Apart from taking a slight hit on boot space compared to the petrol and diesel versions, the C5 Aircross Hybrid is much the same, which is no bad thing because it’s 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 (the ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats are certainly well padded and comfy).
From the front, the C5 Aircross is unmistakable, featuring Citroen’s trademark two-tier light signature and there are airbumps embellishing the bottom of the doors. However, with its raised ride height and general profile it’s very much a conventional SUV.
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 two trim levels – Shine and Shine Plus.
Standard safety and driver assistance technologies include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), Active Lane Departure Warning and Active Blind Spot Monitoring.
It’s practical too with plenty of small storage spaces dotted around the cabin, plus three individual rear seats that slide, fold and recline.
On the road, especially at higher speeds, it glides and floats over bumps, thanks to Citroen’s ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushion’ suspension system. The instant torque from the electric motor means straight-line performance is surprisingly good and it feels faster than the official figures suggest.
The automatic gearbox works smoothly, while the switch from electric to engine power and vice versa is seamless.
Considering the extra weight of the battery and electric motor, the C5 Aircross Hybrid handles well and feels assured. More sprinted drivers might want to flick it into Sport mode, to sharpen up the responses, while body roll in faster corners is kept in check. Sadly, like most PHEVs, the brakes are on the spongy side.
The steering is light and the visibility from the commanding driving position is good, making it easy to drive in town – and whisper quiet in EV mode. Cruising at higher speeds is a pleasantly refined experience.
As with all plug-in hybrids, they run most efficiently when the battery is kept topped up. Of course, there is regenerative braking along the way to help with the recharging, but on longer journeys the petrol engine will be doing most of the heavy lifting.
It’s at this point that your fuel economy will settle down around the late 30s/early 40s MPG mark.
One final note. The C5 Aircross Hybrid is not available with four-wheel drive, so don’t expect it to manage anything too adventurous off-road.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a combination of economy, comfort, space and practicality in a stylish SUV, the smooth new Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid could be right up your street.