Our Citroen C5 Aircross long-termer: easy like Sunday morning

Published: 22 May 2020

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

Month 6 living with a C5 Aircross: check yourself

You jump in with your road-testing head on and you are... absolutely dumbfounded. The bodyroll! The barely-interested, candyfloss-light steering! What is this thing? Then the key's in your hand, the C5's in your life and it dawns on you that this Citroën is a work of some genius.

The ride is sensationally cosseting, like a Bentley Bentayga in Comfort for a fraction of the price. The boot's massive, the wireless charging pad a lifesaver and the laidback-like-a-Provençal-afternoon vibe of the car – much, I'd imagine, like that of the classic DS in its pomp – a balm for the frantic, faintly toxic pace of life in 2020.
 If only the throttle response wasn't so sleepy: hitting Sport mode in the C5 feels entirely inappropriate.

By Ben Miller

Logbook: Citroen C5 Aircross PureTech 180 Flair+

Price £31,330 (£32,125 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 178bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 38.2mpg (official), 32.6mpg (tested), 129g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.2p per mile
Miles this month 546
Total miles 10735


Month 5 living with a C5 Aircross: picking faults

C5 aircross parking camera

The C5 Aircross has been winning hearts and minds with its comfort, economy and practicality, so to prove we haven't gone soft here's a roll call of bad stuff. The car equivalent of my household DIY to-do list.

Let's start with the start button: it requires too long a press to ignite or kill the engine. It's not just a Citroën thing: I once unwittingly left a Peugeot 5008 running while unlocked outside Starbucks, which speaks equal volumes about the button's tuning and the car's refined idling.

Similarly obstructive is the infotainment, which takes ages to clock-on for use. I'm always in a hurry and want to instantly input an address to avoid going wrong. But I was incorrect to criticise the roof blind's 'temperamental' button: it's a two-stage switch, with a firm press for automated operation and a lighter touch enabling manual control for part closure.

The DAB radio seems to drop out more than other cars' along the A1 corridor, and the automatic transmission's downshifts can be a bit lumpy in slowing traffic. And it looks cheap for the reversing camera's view to redact chunks of surroundings, no doubt to save money on extraneous lenses.

Truth be told, this is nit-picking on an industrial scale. The C5 Aircross is far greater than the sum of these gripes.

By Phil McNamara

Logbook: Citroen C5 Aircross PureTech 180 Flair+

Price £31,330 (£32,125 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 178bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 38.2mpg (official), 35.5mpg (tested), 129g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.2p per mile
Miles this month 1551
Total miles 10189


Month 4 living with a C5 Aircross: fuel economy and mpg

C5 Aircross eco button

This is not a drill! Team Aircross (me and my C5) have just smashed 400 miles from a tank! Regular readers will have monitored my conversion from driving as if in a James Bond car chase to pootling around as if James Blunt was permaloop on the stereo, to savour the benefit of the C5’s comfy nature.     

So I’ve been building up to some economy runs. The winning formula? Eco button on to anaesthetise the accelerator, air-con mostly off, progress at a pace that enables me to check out the countryside and hum You’re Beautiful. The result: 440 miles from 50-odd litres, at 40mpg. That’s better than the official mpg figure, and no fluke: Team Aircross scored 420 miles again a few weeks later.

By Phil McNamara

Logbook: Citroen C5 Aircross PureTech 180 Flair+

Price £31,330 (£32,125 as tested)
Performance 1598cc turbo four-cyl, 178bhp, 8.2sec 0-62mph, 134mph
Efficiency 38.2mpg (official), 36.0mpg (tested), 129g/km CO2
Energy cost 16p per mile
Miles this month 1922
Total miles 8638


Month 3 of our Citroen C5 Aircross long-term test: how it drives

Citroen C5 Aircross interior

Three months in, and the Citroën-McNamara family courtship is getting serious. The attraction extends beyond this comfort-biased crossover's easy-going nature. Its practicality is a real help around the house. The family spent two weekends laying a new lawn, which entailed loading the Aircross with turf 'til the springs sagged and it became a Groundcross, then hauling waste to the tip.

The two-level boot floor isn't quite the gimmick I initially thought, adding 9cm of depth to help cram in my three girls' suitcases, toys and scooters under the cover for a weekend away. Basically this biggest-in-class boot is more cavernous than a spelunker convention, even with the sliding rear bench in its rearmost position to allow sufficient room for adult legs behind my low-flying, thrust-back driver's seat.

However, only the two outer seats have Isofix brackets on which to clamp child seats, and there's no tethering hook on the rear of the middle seat. The Peugeot 5008, by contrast, anchors three child seats across the back.

To drive, the Aircross doesn't get the heart racing. The variable-rate steering is great at manoeuvring speeds, superlight and greyhound fast from lock to lock. But once you're rolling around town, it becomes as unpredictable as Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. The rack typically feels light and a bit vague, occasionally with inconsistent weighting as you swing eagerly through corners. Reassuring heft arrives at faster speeds, though weirdly it then gets all sensitive and needs frequent correction.

Steering precision isn't helped by the soft suspension set-up. Bumps on corner entry can get the body pitching, before the C5 rolls into a jaunty lean through the bend. This masks the plentiful underlying grip, but there's a nagging sense that the Aircross is at the border on its way out of its comfort zone.

All told the C5 Aircross is more dependable than racy. And given this is a family car, there's plenty to be said for that.

By Phil McNamara

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 17p per mile 
Miles this month 1371
Total miles 6716


Month 2 living with a Citroen C5 Aircross: Comfy McComfortface™

C5 aircross rear tracking

Once, while trying to give me a massage, a masseur commented that I seemed tense. The more I tried to relax, the tenser I became. Inevitably, it ended with the masseur suggesting I take a hike.The C5 Aircross’ ride is like having a massage. Or like a normal person having a massage. There’s activity, but it’s relaxing. You feel the suspension working away at each corner, absorbing the shock of a bump, calming the drop of a wheel into a pothole, the body pitching in a pillowy way. 

Instead of a traditional bump stop at both ends of the suspension travel, there’s a hydraulic damper which absorbs and gradually dissipates the kinetic energy. Avoiding jolts at the extremities of wheel travel allows Citroën to deploy a softer setting in the midrange, where the springs and shocks do most of their work. It makes for a splendidly smooth and cosseting commute.

By Phil McNamara

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  354
Total miles 3195


Month 1 living with a C5 Aircross: hello and welcome

Citroen C5 Aircross parking

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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