MOTORS REVIEW: Citroen C5 Aircross

SITTING on a train to London writing up a review of the Citroen C5 Aircross it’s not hard to think of a good place to start.

Having just swapped the spongey seats and supple ride of the French brand’s flagship SUV for the plank-like pews of the latest LNER Azuma high-speed train the benefits of prioritising comfort — particularly for longer journeys — feels laudable.

Citroen’s “Advanced Comfort Programme” saw 15mm of extra padding added to seats across its range and the C5 Aircross launched last year set the stall out still further with specialist bump stops tailored to iron out road imperfections.

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The result is a relaxed feeling family vehicle which will no doubt prove, for some, to be a welcome departure from the push to ensure all SUVs feature firm suspension in the bid to “drive like a car”.

Prices range from £24,435 for the 130PS 1.2-litre petrol-engined Feel trim version, to £33,335 for the Flair Plus fitted with a 180PS two-litre turbodiesel and the PSA Group’s latest eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Last summer I tried the entry-level 1.2- litre petrol engine and found the awardwinning motor more than capable of propelling the C5 in smooth and swift fashion — reaching the benchmark 62mph in a claimed 10.5 seconds.

The 130PS 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine fitted to the £29,835 Flair Plus trim version tested here feels like a better fit, however.

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While claiming a comparable 10.4-second dash to 62mph, it claims fuel economy of 48.2 to 55.1mpg and 108 to 110g/km CO2 on the WLTP’s combined test.

Say what you like about diesel, but the latest powerplants are cleaner and also more efficient than most hybrid cars over longer journeys.

In the summer Citroen will add a plug-in hybrid option to the C5 range, claiming a 31-mile zero-emission range from a drivetrain delivering a combined 225PS.

Prices will start at £35,340.

According to the trip computer I averaged around 57mpg on the motorway and 49mpg in more urban driving conditions in the diesel-engined C5.

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A boot which can be adjusted from 580 to 720-litres thanks to the three individual rear seats’ ability to slide fore and aft or be individually folded flat to liberate a 1,630- litre space add to its practicality.

The C5 Aircross’s styling is chunky and distinctly Citroen, sharing cues from the smaller C3 Aircross and Cactus, with plastic “airbumps” which reside in the lower portion of the doors and side skirts.

Inside, the feel in the C5 Aircross is more premium.

The door cards and some more discreet surfaces may be clad in cheaper plastics but a clutter-free cabin which shares the high-quality gear lever and machined stereo volume dial of Peugeot’s latest cabins is generally stylish and well-appointed.

My six-year-old commented that the seats “have a six pack” and their prominent pockets of padding certainly contribute to a distinctive appearance, their mixture of faux leather and fabric cladding combining to good effect.

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Flair Plus trim also brings with it a panoramic glass roof which fills the cabin with light, LED lighting framing the night sky to impressive effect when darkness descends.

Overall the C5 Aircross cabin feels a match for the likes of Kia and Hyundai, if not VW or Peugeot.

A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and eight-inch HD touchscreen are standard and the Flair Plus trim tested here featured a wireless phone charger and the ConnectedCAM system which debuted on the C3 hatchback.

ConnectedCam positions a camera behind the rear view mirror to photograph or film the road ahead.

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It can be linked to social media via a smartphone to share sights but will also record footage of incidents.

There’s also a raft of safety technology.

Automated emergency braking, lane departure warnings and blind spot detection are standard, Flair Plus adding traffic sign recognition, speed recommendation, automatic high beam headlights and a 360-degree reversing camera.

Out on the road the C5 Aircross is not the firmest and most accurate SUV in its class, but it does steer with loyal precision and I never felt that the supple ride delivered too much of a compromise when the road ahead became a little more technical.

Trimming off a little more speed than normal and enjoying the ride seems to be the order of the day…

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Somehow the PSA Group has also managed to hone its automatic gearboxes to the point that it has been elevated from a purveyor of the most tardy systems on the market to that of the smoothest and most intuitive, adding to the effortless appeal of the C5.

As I reach my allotted word count for my weekly motoring review and I once again shift my weight on the seat of the train to London in an attempt to alleviate the ache in my derriere, I begin to look forward to travelling in the C5 Aircross for the last part of my return journey.

And part of me applauds the fact that Citroen has placed its focus on making every journey as painless as possible.

Whether Citroen’s faithful clientele of customers, who have become accustomed to vehicles in a lower price bracket in recent years, will baulk at the thought of a £25,000-plus SUV may be one hurdle for its new flagship to overcome, but those that give it a chance will find that it’s a vehicle built on the same set of distinctive and unique principals.

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