HATS off to Citroen for their latest SUV the C5 Aircross – they have managed to retain the Gallic charm and quirkiness the brand has long been famous for AND produce a muscular motor with loads of street presence.
The flagship mid-sized SUV is also fully loaded with the very latest tech and standard across the range – which starts from £23,225 for the entry level PureTech 130 six-speed manual – are things like programmable cruise control, progressive hydraulic cushion suspension, DAB radio with Bluetooth and dynamic stability control.
Our test car, however, was the all-singing, all dancing top of the range BlueHDi Flair+ 180 EAT8 S&S (£32,725 on the road) which was really loaded with toys and must-have gadgets. These included active cruise, a 12.3” customisable digital instrument display plus a central 8” infotainment touchscreen, a foot operated power tailgate, sat-nav, leather seats (driver’s powered) and a raft of safety systems including one which even tells the driver when it is time to take a coffee break!
A few options (metallic paint, grip control and 19” ‘diamond cut’ alloy wheels) took the final price up to £33,770 – so at the top end of the range in particular Citroen are up against some stiff competition as the booming SUV market is very competitive with almost every manufacturer keen to get a slice of the action.
Other features standard on our car include hill descent control and a sport button which sharpens throttle response and firms up the steering.
Citroen have got the basics right with that imposing, but still very corporate, front end featuring high set badging and an imposingly wide grille. In fact the C5 looks the part from any angle and that crucial raised driving position plus good ground clearance gives a ‘tackle any terrain’ appeal.
Off road capability will be more than enough for the vast majority of owners, despite no 4×4 system, but that optional grip control (with Normal, Mud, Sand and Snow modes) for just £400 is available for those who do plan a little mild off roading.
From the mid-range Feel versions standard equipment also includes a safety pack featuring active safety braking, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning plus parking sensors and auto lights, wipers and air con.
I pressed the Aircross into service transporting a huge load of gear to my daughter’s wedding reception and with the rear seats down there is a remarkable amount of space – soon filled with boxes of booze and bouquets.
And like all big Citroens you get that floating on air feeling thanks to comfort-biased suspension plus big flat armchair-like seats.
With three and four-cylinder petrol engines (1.2 and 1.6) and a pair of four-cylinder diesels (1.5 and 2.0) a plug-in hybrid is set to join the range in 2020. Eight speed automatic transmission is available on all but the lower power petrol versions.
Facts and figures wise our 181bhp car can hit 62 in a very acceptable 8.6 seconds and go on to a top speed of 131. MPG figures are from around 43mpg to a shade under 55 depending on whether you are in town or on the motorway.
The C5 Aircross stands out in a crowded sector as it is more radical-looking than many of its competitors. It also looks good value an equivalent Tiguan or CX-5 are a few thousand more, but do have four wheel drive.
There’s quite a lot to like about this SUV with quirky design (inside and out), comfort, good mpg and reasonable performance plus great load space. There’s lots of room in the rear seats and boot and a particularly versatile interior arrangement, too, thanks to a two-height boot floor and three individual folding rear seats.
I expect we will see lots on our roads very soon.
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth