First Drive

First Drive: Citroen C5 Aircross

The story:
Citroen finally enters the mid-size SUV market with a comfort-focused model.
Category:Mid-size SUV
Key rival:Nissan Qashqai
Citroen C5 Aircross Flair Plus BlueHDi 180 S&S EAT8 8-speed automatic
On sale:February 2019

Citroen’s recent focus on the compact SUV market has led to a noticeable absence in the more practical and spacious mid-size sector. The launch of its new C5 Aircross model rectifies this omission.

The C5 Aircross challenges family-orientated rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 and Renault Kadjar, while the VW Group is represented by the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq. If you’re after a five-seat mid-size SUV, these cars should all be on your shortlist.

Visually, Citroen’s offering is a bold one, with the C5 Aircross another exponent of the company’s eye-catching corporate grille, while the overall look is one of crisp lines and sensible proportions. The contrasting exterior colour combinations emphasise its flamboyant style, and its sheer contrast to its conservative rivals, while the car’s unusual ‘Airbump’ door trims mirror those of the smaller C4 Cactus family hatch.Citroen C5 Aircross 2018 - Image 8

In contrast, engine choice is more conventional. The base 130hp 1.2-litre petrol emits 121g/km of CO2, and can be had only in six-speed manual form, while the high power 1.6-litre 180hp comes with a new eight-speed auto gearbox and emits from 129g/km of CO2. The 1.5-litre 130hp diesel motor emits from 106g/km of CO2 and can be had with either transmission, while the flagship 2.0-litre 180hp diesel is mated to the eight-speed auto and emits 124g/km of CO2. A plug-in hybrid is due in 2020.

We tested the C5 Aircross in high-output diesel guise and top-spec Flair Plus trim (Feel and Flair trims are also available); the cabin is trimmed to a good standard and features Citroen’s latest comfort-oriented seats. Their soft yet supportive construction combines with Citroen’s range-wide comfort-focused suspension dubbed ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ to deliver a supple ride on all but the worst roads.

Performance is brisk, but the car’s comfort bias encourages a relaxed driving style. The new eight-speed auto is slick and the car’s steering is direct and with ample assistance. The main digital display and infotainment touchscreen are generous in size, with the latter allowing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – features that highlight the car’s average navigation and audio functionality. Safety kit, especially active technology, is generous across the board. It’s all familiar stuff, but Citroen clearly has one eye on duty of care-minded fleet decision-makers with its kitchen sink approach.Citroen C5 Aircross 2018 - Image 11

Elsewhere, the car’s three separate rear seats slide and fold independently to liberate more boot space or legroom as required and, at a push, can accommodate three adults.

Overall cabin space and oddment storage are good, while the car’s boot is rated at 1630 litres with the seats folded and 530 litres with them upright. The overriding impression is that practicality and design flair win the day here.

ian dooley

The verdict

As an antidote to the many ‘me too’-styled crossover, the Citroen C5 Aircross gets the basics right with a welcome sprinkling of flair. It’s also practical, refined and well equipped.