Citroen like to make their cars stand out from the crowd – and when it comes to the mid-size, family SUV market you really do have to stand out to get noticed as there are so many models out there all offering practical space in a SUV body.
The Citroen C5 Aircross shares a lot of its parts with the Peugeot 3008 and the Vauxhall Grandland X so you would think it would be even harder for the French designers to add any “je ne sais quoi” to their latest model. But they have done.
From the outside the new C5 Aircross is unmistakably Citroen with a sleek logo-grille that stretches the full width of the bonnet and incorporates slender LED running lights at each end with the main headlights being housed beneath them – it’s not ugly like in the Nissan Juke either; it looks proportional and attractive.
The airbumps are there, albeit much more subtle and lower down than when they first appeared on the original C4 Cactus and there are 3D-effect rear lights that have lozenge shapes incorporated – a theme that is repeated throughout the design detail, both inside and out.
The body shape doesn’t scream “sporty” at you either, which is a pleasant change from the plethora of SUVs like the Skoda Karoq or the SEAT Ateca. Instead, the Citroen C5 Aircross looks like it has space and comfort in mind rather than speed and agility.
Inside, the C5 Aircross is just as individual and eye-catching as the outside with stylish use of that lozenge shape on the door panels, air-vents and pretty much everywhere else you look.
The fully digital driving display looks amazing and is configurable to show pretty much any info you may wish to see – including Sat Nav directions on higher-spec models.
All models get an 8in infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which definitely a bonus – but when it comes to impressive standard kit then the 3 individual seats in the rear take the prize. Each seat can be slid forward and backward or reclined slightly – all independently of each other, allowing 3 adults to be carried comfortably even on longer journeys. Not something you will find in any of the Aircross’s rivals.
There are three trim levels to choose from: Feel, Flair and Flair Plus with prices starting from £23,830 on-the-road for a C5 Aircross Feel fitted with a 1.2 PureTech petrol engine (129 bhp) and a 6-speed manual gearbox.
There is also a 1.6 PureTech Petrol with 178 bhp and an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
There are two diesel choices: A 1.5 BlueHDi with 129 bhp available in both manual and auto, or a 2.0 BlueHDi with 174 bhp and an automatic gearbox only. All models are front-wheel drive only.
As is the norm with Citroen, the standard equipment list is impressive with even the entry-level Feel model getting 17in alloys, Dual Zone Climate, Rear Parking Sensors, auto Wipers and Lights, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring and Active Safety Braking.
All models also get suspension with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity, 2 USB sockets, a 6-speaker audio system and leather covered multi-function steering wheel.
The Flair model (from £25,930 OTR) adds Front Parking Sensors, Rear view Reversing Camera, Front Fog Lights with cornering function, part-leather upholstery, Advanced Comfort Seats, Citroen Connect Nav with 3 year’s subscription to Tom Tom Live services, Connect Cam dash cam, Voice Recognition system, 18in alloys and a Matt black rear bumper with chrome exhaust trim.
Top spec Flair Plus models (from £28,330 OTR) also get Wireless Phone Charging, 19in diamond-cut alloys, Auto-dipping headlights, Keyless entry and start, foot-operated motorised Tailgate, Active Cruise Control, aluminium pedals, Gloss Black upper grille and a Gloss Black rear bumper with chrome exhaust trim.
I’ve been driving a Flair Plus model fitted with a BlueHDi 130 diesel engine mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox and found no cause for complaint as the diesel was surprisingly quiet, even at tick-over and generally I found the C5 Aircross a refined drive whether driving along a pock-marked A-road or cruising at speed down the motorway.
It may not be as taught as a SEAT Ateca around the twisties but the slight wallow is an acceptable price to pay for such a comfortable all-round ride. The comfort-centred suspension along with the Advanced Comfort Seats take the C5 Aircoss straight to the top of the class for ride-comfort in any sub-£30k SUV.
The 8-speed auto gearbox isn’t easily fooled and progress is made smoothly although the steering is a little on the light side and can feel a little disconcerting if you try to take a corner quickly. Changing the drive mode to “dynamic” does add a little weight but not enough to make the C5 Aircross feel anything like sporty.
My car came with Citroen’s excellent Grip Control system (£400 option) for different terrains and includes modes for Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand. There’s also a hill descent mode for those who really want to get silly off the tarmac. It’s an impressive system that provides maximum traction in any conditions and there are many examples on YouTube of it being used to take Citroens to places that only 4×4 vehicles would dare to venture. Gripping stuff.
It’s hard to imagine a better all-rounder than the Citroen C5 Aircross when it comes to accommodating a family of 4 in comfort for less than £24k. The kids will thank you for their individually-configurable seats and generous space back there, while your partner will love the magic carpet-like ride on smoother roads. In fact, rougher roads are nicely smoothed out too by the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions – just don’t expect miracles on our worst pock-marked roads.
With generous boot space of 580 litres you should have enough for everyone’s luggage too. Slide the seats forward and the kids may not be as happy but you’ll have 720 litres – 1,630 litres if you leave the kids at home, fold the seats flat and fill the boot up to the roof.
I found the Citroen C5 Aircross to be impressive on the outside, classy on the inside and practical all round. It’s a people-carrying SUV that makes no bones about striving to be the most comfortable family-shifter out there – and at a price that may embarrass other manufacturers.
Comfort, practicality and superb all-round vision means the Citroen C5 Aircross is a motor you’ll be happy to nip down to the shops in as well as take on longer journeys. It certainly stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons.
AT A GLANCE:
Citroen C5 Aircross Flair Plus BlueHDi 130 Auto
OTR Price: £30,825
Engine: 1.5 turbo diesel
Power: 129 bhp
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 11.8 secs
Top Speed: 117 mph
Combined Economy (WLTP): 51.8 mpg
C02: 107 g/km