ONE of the most crowded – and fastest growing – sectors in the new car market at present is for SUVs so Citroen’s latest offering, the C5 Aircross, already has a lot of competition.

Also growing fast is the demand for electric or hybrid cars which gives our test car this week another big market to compete in as it is the plug-in version.

With a 1.6 turbocharged petrol engine and 81kW electric motor the SUV has impressive stats with a total of 225bhp giving a 140mph top speed and 0 to 60 figure of 8.7 seconds, but the one which really counts these days is how much of the ever-more expensive go juice it will consume.

Well there is good news there as well as this entry level Shine trim e-EAT8 PureTech version will do a claimed 157 to 222 miles per gallon depending on your driving style.

There is also a range of 33 to 40 miles on electric only after a full charge which can be achieved, say Citroen, in less than two hours on a high power socket. I put the car on a slower three pin plug home charge overnight and that also gave a full charge.

Now at £35,000 it is not cheap (the non-hybrid models start from £25,000) but the list of equipment adds to this car’s appeal as it includes adaptive cruise control, all round parking sensors and cameras, an 8” central infotainment screen with sat nav and voice control, power folding and heated door mirrors, special ‘diamond cut’ 18 inch alloy wheels and a whole raft of safety systems.

The C5 Aircross is also comfortable and spacious and drives well, with only a small loss of boot space compared to the diesel and petrol versions, and has comfortable seats and lots of room for adults in the back seats.

This Citroen’s distinctive exterior is reflected by an eye-catching interior design featuring chunky seats and futuristic design with a rounded rectangular theme and high centre console, although some of the interior materials used are a bit disappointing

You’re vaguely aware of the automatic gearbox shuffling between its eight speeds, but it’s all very smooth. Using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles is largely a waste of time, as is selecting the car’s Sport mode, because the tweaks it makes fail to make the C5 feel remotely sporty.

Like the petrol and diesel versions there are the same thin LED daytime running lights at the leading edge of the bonnet, large Citroen badges and prominent wheel arches with plenty of plastic cladding helping the C5 Aircross to stand out from more conservative SUVs.

So what is the C5 Aircross Hybrid like to live with? Well after a week of very mixed driving, including a trip to the tip with an old wardrobe, it proved a practical motor which can cope with anything you need to do with peppy performance, comfort and great interior space plus a distinctive style which makes it stand out from the SUV crowd.

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By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth