Citroen C5 Aircross long-term test: carthorse meets My Little Pony

Published: 13 November 2019

► We live with a Citroen C5 Aircross
► Long-term test of French SUV
► Ours is a PureTech 180 Flair+ 

Periodically the CAR staff have a chat like this with Our Cars supremo Ben Pulman. ‘Which car would you like to run next?’ ‘I’d like to run a Ferrari 488 GTB.’ ‘Excellent, Ford Focus it is.’ So when I asked Ben for a hybrid or electric non-SUV, he naturally channelled me into a petrol-engined SUV, the Citroën C5 Aircross. 

It’s a model I drove for a few days when it made Europe’s 2019 Car of the Year shortlist, musing: ‘Citroën’s midsize SUV has a welcome comfort focus. So the ride is comfy and calm, and it’s peaceful thanks to effective noise suppression. Shame the steering feels light and imprecise.’ I scored it joint last of seven contenders.

So as the new McNamara family workhorse, this top-spec Flair+ model has some convincing to do. First up it’s a handsome steed. There are loads of brilliant design details, such as the double-chevron grille insert wrapping around the daytime running lights, the curvy front and rear wings, the chrome ‘reversed C’ bisecting the side glass (hints of Bugatti Chiron, anyone?), the three-dimensional rear lamps. 

Not wishing to undermine this distinctiveness with a muted colour, I opted for the £545 Volcano Red paint and £250 worth of contrasting black roof. The 19-inch two-tone alloy wheels are standard – turn them all black for a mere £100.

The C5 Aircross costs from £23,830 for a base-spec Feel car. It’s pretty well equipped, with the Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension standard, along with smartphone-mirroring infotainment, voice control, rear parking sensors and decent safety kit including blindspot monitoring, anti-lane-departure steering and automated braking if you don’t respond to an upcoming obstacle. 

Citroen C5 Aircross long-term test

Stump up £2100 more for Flair trim, which adds 18-inch wheels, sat-nav, a reversing/overhead-view camera and comfort seats. Soft under the bum, supportive behind your lower back and part-finished in a grey textile seemingly from a rucksack, they are both supremely snug and aesthetically delightful. 

But we’ve stepped up to the £28,300 Flair+ trim with so many goodies I didn’t feel the need to tick a single optional feature. It has a full-length glass roof (whose one-touch opening seems a tad temperamental), keyless entry and pointless hands-free tailgate, wireless charging and active cruise control. Combined with active lane assist, this gives you Level 2 autonomous driving on the highway, starting and stopping the C5 according to traffic and keeping it between the dotted lines. 

Operating it requires you to grope among seven controls on a stalk part-obscured by the steering wheel. While the ergonomics are messier than a six-year-old’s bedroom, the system keeps the Aircross smoothly in lane on fast, tricky sweepers, and isn’t too hectoring in its efforts to make you grip the wheel. 

There are two petrol and two diesel engines, and we’ve picked the top-spec four-cylinder petrol. This turbocharged 1.6-litre only musters 184lb ft of torque, but it can wade in like a bouncer during a nightclub brawl, overwhelming the wheels in a turn and deflecting the softly-sprung body sideways. Acceleration feels sprightly enough: you wouldn’t want any more shove, given the soft suspension and light steering. First impression is that this variably-assisted rack is a mixed bag: sometimes sloppy off the dead-ahead, then fidgety on the motorway, with frequent nibbles of intervention from the lane ‘assist’. 

Put these dynamic attributes together, and the C5 Aircross seems made for cruising not hooning. So I’ll recalibrate my driving style and settle back in those lounge seats, to enjoy a loping primary ride which won’t pummel you like so many of today’s family cars, and revel in the airy, stylish cabin and pretty decent fuel economy. Let’s see how that goes over the next few months…

By Phil McNamara

Citroen C5 Aircross red with black roof

Logbook: Citroen C5 Aircross PureTech 180 Flair+

Price £31,330 (£32,125 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cylinder, 178bhp, 184lb ft, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 38.2mpg (official), 35.0mpg (tested), 129g/km CO2
Energy cost 15p per mile
Miles this month 3195
Total miles 354

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