► First look at Citroën's new C5 X family car
► It's a crossover mixing saloon, estate and SUV
► Full details from CEO, designers and product boss
Welcome Citroën’s new flagship, the C5 Swissarmyknife. Only kidding, this is the C5 X, claimed to splice the best attributes of an estate, saloon and SUV into a spacious, practical, elegant and high-riding executive car.
Set to go on UK sale in January 2022 and be just about the most expensive car in Citroën’s range – likely starting price is around £27,000 – the C5 X is an intriguing and imaginative take on the big French car. Read on to find out more.
C5 X marks the…what?
This is a long car, at 4.8m the longest in the Citroën range. That’s a 300mm stretch over the C5 Aircross, and a smidgen bigger than a Volkswagen Passat too.
And here’s the rub. Citroën wants to take sales from ‘D-segment’ saloons and estates – the expiring Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, the aforementioned Passat – cars that have been struggling to sell as car buyers have moved into premium brands and/or SUVs.
Citroën brand CEO Vincent Cobée (pictured below) has an explantion for that: ‘In my view, the segment has suffered in the last years because it’s appeared classic or boring, compared to the new kid on the block called the SUV.’
The C5 X tries to offer something different, says Laurence Hansen, Citroën product and strategy director. ‘It's the best of three different worlds. The world of sedans, known for their elegance and status, the word of SUV known for its versatility, and the world of station wagons known for dynamism and practicality. And it's a whole concept in itself, which is why it’s called C5 X.’
Yes, you’re spotted it: the French are taking on the Germans with a car conceptually closest to those leftfield BMWs, the 3-, 5- and 6-series Gran Turismos. Bigger, comfy, spacious and perennially overlooked – let’s hope that’s not an omen…
Do C5 X occupants get to travel in luxury?
Supposedly, though we’re yet to see the car in the metal. The C5 X uses the Stellantis Group’s EMP2 architecture, which means 2785mm between the wheels (fractionally down on the Peugeot 508 SW, which also uses this platform). Second-row knee room is reportedly ‘fantastic’ even behind a tall driver.
Wellbeing is a key Citroën value, and the flagship has a new design of comfort seats said to cosset occupants, while a glasshouse wrapping around the entire passenger cell should make for an airy cabin. Double glazing should make it nice and quiet too.
The C5 X also gets the latest version of Citroën’s comfort-orientated suspension. That means the familiar progressive hydraulic bump stops to dial out shocks at the limit of suspension travel, but a new development is an active function. Expect to be able to cycle through three variable ride settings, from sporty to sofa-like.
On all but the base UK model there’s a supersized Head-Up Display projecting information on the windscreen, and like the new Peugeot 308, this car adopts the group’s latest infotainment system, grouping functions into tiles on the touchscreen and with ‘natural’ voice control. Allegedly.
‘In front of the driver is a super-light and super-wide dashboard,’ says head of design Pierre Leclerq (pictured below). ‘We have the effect of the upper instrument panel floating on this beautiful wood surface that continues on the doors. That really has the feeling of something spacious and extremely light.’
A boot made for dogs – and domestic appliances
Citroën’s engineers haven’t only lavished attention on human occupants: the boot has been designed meticulously, with a wide, low opening and a flat floor. ‘In the design studio, we had a box that was a proxy for a washing machine,’ says brand CEO Cobée. ‘We said until that fits, the design is not okay.’
Boot capacity is 545 litres, some way off the Passat estate’s 650 litres, but pretty sizeable. Levers will enable you to fold the back seats while standing at the rear bumper; that will unfurl 1640 litres of stowage.
Let’s talk about that genuinely fresh design
The C5 X’s look is familiar from the new C4 hatchback’s, with an X-shaped slimline lamp graphic feeding into the double-chevron grille. The approach is mirrored at the rear, but it looks less cluttered than on C4, due to the C5 X’s bigger rump crowned by a neat lip spoiler.
‘This form language shows the true Citroën,’ says design chief Leclerq. ‘This is how we also differentiate ourselves within the Stellantis group and in the car industry with a form language that always stays very round: we have a tendency to remove all the lines and replace them by muscles.’
It’s a more appealing design than the BMW Gran Turismos’, which were a slab-sided mash-up of MPV and saloon. Big 19-inch wheels with tall rubber endow the C5 X with a slightly raised ride height, for a more commanding road view than in a trad saloon. It should be easy to get in and out of, like an SUV.
Citroën has hawked the X round customer clinics to gauge reaction. ‘What’s fascinating with this silhouette is that it’s read by the sedan owners as a modern sedan, is read by the estate owners as a functional fluid estate, and is read by the SUV owner as potentially being the next big thing to love,’ says brand chief Cobée. While that positive response can’t have been unanimously held by a diverse set of customers, what is undeniable is that the C5 X looks and feels fresh.
What’s under the bonnet?
The C5 X will come with a plug-in hybrid and gasoline engines at launch; there won’t be a diesel. Sales are shrinking: from 80% of D-segment power five years ago to less than 15% in three years, Cobée predicts.
The flagship model, expected to cost around £35,000, will be the Hybrid 225. This combines a 180hp 1.6-litre four with an electric motor, and is good for 31 miles of pure-electric, zero-emission range.
Expect two petrol engines: the 1.2-litre Puretech three-cylinder unit, with 130hp, and the 1.6-litre four-pot. Power goes to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The SUV alternative is born?
With bluff SUVs now taking 40% of European sales, the CO2 emissions of new cars have been growing when regulators want them to shrink. Citroën hopes the C5 X offers a third way, between the trad saloon/estate and the boxier SUV.
‘For [efficiency], we’re among the best of European sedans, so quite different from the word of SUVs,’ explains Cobée. ‘This is enabled by extremely fluid styling, our strong work on aerodynamics, and the combination of tall and narrow wheels that give us great aero. This is all the recipe of a touring vehicle rather than an SUV.’
And that’s the core of C5 X. Vincent Cobée and his Citroën team see it as a serene, comfortable Gran Turismo, perfect for travelling long distances. Just as BMW did, before dropping the 3- and 6-series GTs into Room 101. And those flops were from a German premium brand: it’s been even tougher for big French cars in recent times.
Has the C5 X got what it takes to prosper? It’s certainly a spark of originality in a cloud of convention, but it’s a stretch for a French mainstream brand without a big car hit since 1982’s BX. Over to Vincent Cobée for the last word.
‘Let's assume high quality, serene touring is a universal need. So how do you translate that? Elegance, great comfort, thermodynamic and dynamic efficiency, and a silhouette that can address your need as a driver, the needs of your family, and the functional capability of a boot. If you do all of this, you get the C5 X.
‘It represents modernity, comfort, social responsibility, and a forward-looking take on the car industry.’