22 June 2021
Six months with the Citroen C5 Aircross plug-in hybrid is up and it’s time to sum-up the experience.
However, the past six months (indeed the past 15 months) have not been normal. Various lockdowns due to the pandemic have meant that Zoom has been order of the day rather than face-to-face meetings. Only now does my diary for the next few months look like it’s filling up with meetings involving physical, rather than digital, travel.
But for the situation, a plug-hybrid was just about ideal. With the vast majority of my journeys short and local it meant most were driven on electricity rather than using the petrol engine. While the overall average petrol consumption was 57mpg using brim-to-brim sums, this didn’t include the final tank which was reading 235mpg when the car departed. And like all PHEVs the tax situation was also significantly better than the diesel equivalent.
So that’s score one for the Citroen.
Scores two and three were for the comfort and practicality. On the couple of longer motorway trips we experienced the C5 Aircross was ideal. Zero back ache and no numb bum. The boot was huge, despite being slightly smaller than that of it’s non-hybrid twin, so the C5 Aircross PHEV was great for runs to the tip or DIY store. The only negative here was the intrusion into the mega-boot by the plastic trim that supported the parcel shelf which meant the cage for our dogs didn’t fit in by about 2cm. But I accept this issue may only impact my life, and not that of most users.
However, the C5 loses points for the infotainment system and connectivity. The in-car touchscreen was slow to respond and the menu system far from intuitive.
When has a six-stage button-pressing process been acceptable to just mute the navigation instructions (or turn them back on)?
We also had connectivity issues between the Citroen app and the trip computer. But at least you could pre-heat the car on cold mornings which has to be one of the best winter functions of any car.
So, if your priorities are around comfort, economy and interior space, the C5 Aircross could go on your list for further investigation; just don’t expect that ease of use to carry over into the infotainment controls.
1 June 2021
In the past 45 days I’ve done a tiny 280 miles in the long-term Citroen C5 Aircross thanks mostly to the world of Zoom.
I know these numbers because it was 45 days ago that I last brimmed the petrol tank and zero’d the trip computer.
A diet of local-only journeys (mainly shopping and running my kids to various leisure activities) means I’ve completed almost all of these trips on EV power alone.
This shows two things. Firstly if used in this way, plug-in hybrids can return mega mpg, the C5’s showing 235mph, but secondly, maybe running a full-EV wouldn’t give me any range anxiety issues.
And for the record, even after 280 miles, there’s still more than three-quarters of a tank of fuel left.
18 May 2021
A recent conversation with Company Car Today editor Paul Barker reminded us both that not all PHEV systems are equal and that Citroen’s plug-in hybrid setup in the C5 Aircross is one of the better ones.
I’ve already mentioned the C5 is particularly good at sticking to electric-only power even in lower
temperatures where other PHEVs insist on starting their petrol engine at the first sign of a chill. However, the C5’s system is also particularly smooth with switching between EV and petrol modes in everyday driving when you do eventually run out of charge. When the petrol engine is most noticeable is at startup or sudden heavy acceleration – the latter is common to many cars.
What brough the former to my attention was that despite the temperature now being well above freezing the other day and the battery having full charge, the petrol engine kicked into life immediately on starting the car.
It turns out that if, as I’d done, you do almost all your miles in EV mode (the past 200 in my case) the engine starts up just to keep in tip top shape. The engine then runs for a few minutes and then reverts back to EV mode.
4 May 2021
Many PHEV versions of diesel or petrol engined cars have one compromise in common. The battery and motor have to go somewhere and that inevitably means boot space is robbed.
It’s the same in the Citroen C5 Aircross PHEV, its boot volume is smaller by 120 litres. However, in the C5 Aircross this just isn’t an issue because the boot is still massive at 460 litres. The rear seats also still fold flat and the only space you lose is under the floor, which you don’t really miss.
As such the C5 has proved the perfect companion for all those lockdown DIY projects and trips to the tip.
The only minor issue with the boot is that like other SUVs we’ve run, the plastic parcel shelf supports reduce the load width by about 2cm each side. This means the maximum width is 95cm, so if you happen to have a dog cage that’s 97cm wide it won’t fit in – even though there’s more than enough space otherwise.
20 April 2021
We’re nearing the end of our time with the Citroen C5 Aircross plug-in hybrid and it’s about time we looked more closely at the running costs because like any PHEV, they’re a little complicated because you have to work out not just the petrol costs but also the electricity costs.
Over the past four months we’ve only covered nearly 1,500 miles in the C5 thanks to lockdown but that give enough data to run the sums for the fuel costs.
With an average petrol economy of 53mpg and a price per litre running at £1.25 the per mile cost is 10.7p.
In the same period we’ve used £50.63 of electricity; all charging taking place at home at 15p a kWh. Over the same distance that’s an additional 3.6p a mile, bringing the total mileage cost to 14.3p a mile.
Given the C5 has a 1.6-litre petrol engine, the fuel-only official AFR mileage rate is 12p so we’re a little off that, but not a bad result, although a diesel at 60mpg would drop below the 10p a mile mark at today’s prices.
However, with a PHEV, you can never forget about the tax savings which well and truly offset any slight fuel cost disadvantage.
8 April 2021
Previously in these reports we’ve discussed problems with the MyCitroen connectivity app; mainly surrounding ‘missing miles’ where journeys just aren’t recorded resulting in trips that just don’t tally with the real world.
After a chat to Citroen there appear to be two main issues.
The first is that the app doesn’t actually record travelled distance, instead, according to Citroen’s experts, it just records your start and end point and then uses mapping software to estimate how far you’ve travelled.
The other issue is a temperamental Bluetooth connection that means some journeys just go missing, never to be found again, as the accompanying picture shows. Each trip is shown with a start and end point. In the morning I went shopping (although in the first instance the app didn’t know where), then returned home. In the afternoon the car appears to magically move 30 miles away before I drove home. The outbound journey just wasn’t recorded.
As a result of this repeatedly happening, I’ve given up trusting the app on any data it provides so I now only use it to pre-heat the car, the one thing it’s very good at.
16 March 2021
Tristan and I have done a Citroen-themed swap recently, as I have taken custody of his C5 Aircross while he nabbed the keys to my Berlingo Crew Van.
In doing so I became one of ‘those’ plug-in hybrid drivers. The sort who, for whatever reason, never quite gets around to using the ‘plug-in’ element of the hybrid. With no wall-box charger at home, no public ones within easy reach, a national lockdown and a new-born baby at home I think my situation is not totally typical, but it did allow me to see how the C5 performs on petrol power alone.
The result has been favourable, with the Citroen showing just how far plug-in-hybrid SUVs have come since the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV found its way onto many a fleet for its BIK-busting emissions. Despite officially having no battery, the C5 performed like a conventional hybrid, with the various regeneration systems giving a glimpse at how it would feel if you did have a full battery. It gives you a little bit of battery power at junctions, even if it runs out very soon after.
That said, the petrol engine is impressively smooth and unobtrusive, and doesn’t seem to be working hard to haul the Citroen’s weight around – it weighs about 270kg more than the heaviest diesel model.
There are many reasons why I’m loathed to swap back with Tristan, but most of them centre around the smaller passengers I’m duty bound to ferry around. The three Isofix points in the back are glorious as is the rear-facing camera. Not only does my three-year-old cry out in glee whenever it pops up, it also means I can park without having to look back at whatever mess she’s made in the back…
26 February 2021
Business mileage may have fallen off a cliff during the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still occasions for essential journeys. One such trip to Citroen HQ in Coventry to drive the new C4 highlighted one of the C5 Aircross’s key skills; being a supremely comfortable and relaxing way of covering motorway miles.
Not only are the suspension and seats perfect for this kind of route, meaning you get to your destination in comfort, but the standard clever cruise (with lane keeping) makes things even easier and more relaxing. And for those that don’t like lane keeping, there’s a proper button you can use to simply switch it off.
12 February 2021
Connectivity is all with the latest cars and this goes double for cars you plug in and charge up. Our long term Citroen C5 Aircross is no exception thanks to the MyCitroen app.
After an easy setup procedure, the app will show information such as the state of charge, electric and total range, when a service is due and you can also send destinations direct to the satnav from the app, or wonderfully set the car to pre-heat before you even go near the car on a frosty morning.
But for company car drivers, the app also records your journeys and allows you to tag and filter them by work or pleasure, or anything you like really. Which would be great, but for some unknown reason it only records some of my journeys. This is doubly odd because it knows my total distance, it’s just missing some of my trip data. The result is that if you look at the journeys I’ve taken the car seems to jump locations like it’s been put on a transporter and moved to a new location to start a new journey.
I currently suspect the problems may be linked to Bluetooth which the app asks requests permission to use every time I get in the car despite my phone being set to ‘allow Bluetooth every time’.
I’ll see if the issue can be ironed out, because currently it means I can’t trust what the app says and makes the trip function useless.
29 January 2021
Looking backwards in the C5 Aircross is a mixed experience.
Firstly, it’s worth pointing out the positive; the C5 Aircross has three identically sized, proper, seats. That’s something of a rarity in this sector with most just offering two and a raised, smaller middle seat. All three rear seats also have Isofix points so you’ll get three child seats in too.
However, looking backward in the rearview mirror it’s quickly obvious that, rear seat passengers or not, the rear screen is tiny and doesn’t give the best view out.
The C-pillar is also large which makes reversing round corners tricky, even with the standard reversing camera.
15 January 2021
Showing that carrots work better than sticks at persuading people to change their habits, the incentives to pick a plug-in company car rather than a purely petrol or diesel one are having a massive impact on the market.
Car makers have realised the only way to succeed in the company car arena is to offer PHEVs, EVs, or both to take advantage of that market change. Company Car Today’s latest fleet arrival, the Citroen C5 Aircross, illustrates why perfectly.
With the PHEV version sitting in the 10% BIK band, a 20% tax payer will save £1,134 every year in take-home pay over the equivalent diesel. For a 40% payer that saving jumps to £2,267 a year.
So that’s why you’d pick the PHEV version of Citroen’s small family SUV, but how does the rest of the car stack up?
Over the next six months we’ll be finding out if there are any real-world compromises to picking the plug-in and finding out what the C5 Aircross is like to live with.
At this early stage it’s worth pointing out a few official stats for the C5 Aircross that every PHEV buyer should know about their car, or prospective car. The battery capacity is 13.2kWh, the official electric range is 34 miles and the car is capable of charging at 6.6kW which means it will go from empty to full off a home 7kW charger in less than two hours.