Citroën is a marque on the move and the C5 Aircross, the latest entrée from the fabled French manufacturer, is an SUV that’s out to say something different.
Competing against the likes of the Peugeot 3008, VW Tiguan and many others, the C5 Aircross is a new genre SUV that subtly, intriguingly goes its own way, both in terms of presentation and the way it drives.
Which is good if you think about it, because individuality has long been at the core of what Citroën is all about. Softy sprung, quirky, super comfortable: the great Citroën classics of the past have been all that, and more. Now the C5 Aircross is on the case in today’s crowded SUV arena.
Let’s back up a little, however. Truth be told, the C5 Aircross is not strictly new. It first launched in China in 2017. European models arrived last autumn.
For Europe, Citroën chose the rough terrain of Morocco for the International launch to demonstrate the model’s high degree of comfort. Why? Because ‘comfort’ is at the heart of the C5 Aircross’ DNA.
Comfort, not just in the sense that it has soft seats and a cossetting ride. Citroën brought other aspects to bear as well: acoustics, space, ease of use, air quality and so on, to create its own all-round package.
Citroën calls this ‘Citroën Advanced Comfort’ and it’s a clever way to set it apart from the crowd. One rank below, Citroën’s appealing C4 Cactus taps into this, too.
No, the C5 Aircross doesn’t have the famed self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension of Citroëns past. Instead it comes with the style of Progressive Hydraulic Cushion (PHC) suspension already seen on the C4 Cactus.
Here, in essence, Citroën has added two hydraulic cushions to each damper unit to bring tighter than normal control over compression and rebound strokes.
PHC is standard and judging by the effective way the C5 Aircross dealt with the rough, pock marked (and sometimes alarmingly non-existent) roads in Morocco, it works, and impressively at that.
Morocco was amazing, by the way. We stayed near Marrakesh then drove out to parts of the country where time seems to have stood still for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Quite what the locals thought of streams of brightly coloured Citroën SUVs gliding through their villages day after day, you can but wonder.
Camels, sand dunes, mountains, mud huts, the whole bit. No question, Morocco was something else.
Back in the UK, I recently had a week with a 1.2-litre petrol-engined C5 Aircross. This was a Flair PT 130 S&S in Tijuca Blue. With metallic paint, it’s on the road for £25,870.
In the UK family, there are three grades – Feel, Flair and Flair Plus – plus choice of four engines, petrol or diesel (131-181 ps). Eight-speed auto transmission is standard except on the base 131 hp engines, where there’s a 6-speed manual.
True to form, there’s a vast range of personalization on offer and impressive array of standard safety kit. A Plug In hybrid will arrive in 2020 and by 2025, the whole range will be electrified.
From the outset, Citroën wanted chunky SUV looks married to MPV levels of space. Job done, you’d say. While it’s not as avant-garde as some may have liked, it’s nevertheless a neat overall design, with that assertive front end and colour coded Airbump panels helping it stand out from the pack.
Inside, however, those big, sumptuous front Advanced Comfort Seats are a delight. Behind, there are three individual sliding/folding/reclining rear seats plus best-in-class boot volume, Citroën says. So roomy, comfortable and practical. Sorted.
To drive, the C5 Aircross is quiet, refined and blessed with the kind of gentle body float that any C6 owner would immediately recognize. It feels strange at first, then you get used to it and learn to like it. It’s another differentiator over, say, the 3008.
Whether petrol or diesel, the C5 Aircross has good driveability and more grip than you might expect. The 6-speed manual is good, if a little labored, so the 8-speed auto would be the transmission of choice, if budget permits.
While it might not feel as poised and planted over a back road as other conventional-style SUVs, the Citroën’s more languid, laid back style still appeals and along with the design and presentation says something different.
Which I think is where we came in….