Citroen C5 Aircross review


What is it?

The C5 Aircross – launched back in 2017 – is a fairly conventional (by Citroen’s standards) family SUV. But not a particularly large one: there are only five seats available here, so you if you want to fit more people in you’ll need to look at the van-based electric Berlingo and SpaceTourer models. Or elsewhere entirely.

In early 2022 it received a mid-life facelift with a slightly tweaked look (though you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference), enhanced tech, and revised trim levels. Key rivals include the likes of the Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Seat Ateca, Skoda Karoq, and Vauxhall Grandland, among others.

Yet another samey SUV then?

So far, so boring, but the C5 Aircross has managed to bust out of the SUV mould by cheerfully rejecting the notion that such cars should sacrifice everything that makes them half-decent in pursuit of relentless sportiness. Who wants their little darlings chundering in the rear footwells while the dog howls as it’s flung about the boot? Instead, like other recent Citroens, the C5 Aircross’s shape articulates an inner comfort and a good-natured practicality.

It’s not just a pose, either. While the Aircross is based on a familiar Peugeot Group platform (sharing its undercrackers with the 3008 and Vauxhall Grandland), Citroen deploys some interesting engineering and packaging innovations to back up its visual message.

It looks… interesting.

Rounded corners and smooth surfaces bleed away any aggression from the looks. But the geometric simplicity and straight lines give it a formal discipline, saving it from any melted cuddliness. Airbumps bubble wrap the lower bodywork against the biffs of urban life.

The separate roof panel lends itself to customisation, and Citroen takes it further with coloured trim rings and strips. Take care, or you’ll find yourself back in cuddly territory. It’s a car, not a baby walker.

Is it as comfortable as Citroen claims?

Pleasantly so. It wafts along easily and absorbs most imperfections in the road, though don’t expect any miracles when it comes to the worst of our potholed roads. The steering too is feather-light, and while it can feel a little vague at times, this is a car that eases itself into family life. It won’t ever have you heading out in pursuit of a twisty B-road, but that’s not the point here.

The cabin leverages Citroen’s people carrier experience in pursuit of calmness for all passengers, as well as inanimate clobber. The seats use a novel construction to pamper your backside: it’s a genuine pleasure to sink into them, and all five individual seats each slide and recline. That should ease at least one source of inter-sibling, second-row friction. The boot and in-cabin boxes are pretty huge too.

What’s under the bonnet?

The C5 Aircross is available with a 1.2-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel, or a 1.6-litre petrol plus e-motor – that’s the plug-in hybrid. It offers up to 34 miles of EV range, useful if you’re able to get a plug put in at home for charging.

Interestingly Citroen elected to make its PHEV front-drive only to keep the price down, whereas Peugeot offers the 3008 with a more expensive PHEV system with 4WD via an extra rear-mounted motor.

Prices start from £26,930 for the internal combustion models, with a sizeable leap to the PHEV, which promises better fuel economy for commuting and lower tax, at £35,835.

Our choice from the range

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1.6 Plug-in Hybrid 225 Shine 5dr e-EAT8


What's the verdict?

“The C5 Aircross bursts out of the SUV mould by cheerfully rejecting sportiness”

We’d find it hard to scratch our driving itch by using one of these full-time. It’s a bit too laid back. But that’s just us. When you look at the way family crossovers are used and driven, this one seems impeccably targeted. It looks smart without being pushy. The cabin is also visually literate without any po-faced seriousness. It’s quiet and easy to drive. Most of all it’s extremely habitable: useful, comfortable, roomy, versatile. A part-of-the-family kind of car, at ease with itself.


What is it like to drive?

As promised, it’s soft riding. On many or even most roads, wonderfully so. Much of the time it wafts along as if borne on air, especially on medium-smooth surfaces. It’s an odd mix, though, because bad sharp edges will send a clang into the body, and there’s a bit of steering column quiver too.

Some rivals – notably those from Citroen’s German counterparts – proceed by more solid-sounding thuds and thumps and have stiffer steering, feel heavier. Some people prefer that German solidity, some the French levity.

So how does it steer?

If you pour it through bends progressively, it answers accurately and can make brisk progress. Roll is certainly a thing, but if you’re expecting the unsteadiness of a newborn lamb, you’ll be surprised at how resolute it is.

Putting it in sport mode (an incongruously labelled thing in a car with this mission) dials in a little extra weight, but it’s just a false inertial resistance rather than a plausible reduction of assistance. At least the featheriness of the steering matches the pedals – it’s a car you caress rather than wrestle.

It’s quiet, too. At a cruise that’s down to well suppressed tyre noise, and on acceleration the engines keep their peace, though the combustion engines both manage 10.5 seconds or so from 0–62mph, while the PHEV shuffles that down to 8.7s.

How do the powertrains compare?

We’ve only driven the PHEV so far, which gets a 13.2kWh battery with a claimed electric range of around 34 miles. You’ll get a little less than 30 miles in mixed driving, and in our experience around 47mpg in the real world.

In EV mode the C5 Aircross is very quiet and smooth, though you may notice a few pulses in the power delivery as the eight-speed auto sorts itself out. Still, the engine kicking in is barely noticeable, and impressively quiet too.

There is regen braking, with a ‘B’ mode that harvests as much energy as it can when you’re braking or coasting. The brakes themselves are a bit springy and grabby at low speeds, such is the hybrid way.

Any fancy driver aids to note of?

The driver assist on the top-spec Aircross will ease you along the centre of a motorway lane and keep your following distance to the car in front, and in the auto it runs right down to stop-go traffic. It works just as smoothly, and just as not-smoothly, as the best systems in rivals. So usual caveats apply: don’t cede control. Active safety braking is standard on all, which you’d expect, and so’s blind spot warning, which you wouldn’t.


What is it like on the inside?

Citroen’s dogged insistence on not being like other crossovers continues in the cabin. The seats look flat, more like lounge furniture, and the dash and doors carry rectangular pads like the bar in a diner. It’s pretty refreshing actually.

And the seats are a lot more comfortable than they look. A soft layer of foam relaxes around you, but firmer shaping beneath holds you for the distance. The top-end driver’s chair has multiple electric adjustments. Also massage programmes from the subtle to the borderline kinky.

Those three back seats give decent legroom when they’re slid back. Individually, remember. If there aren’t three tall adults back there, one or two can slide forward up to 15cm to free up even more boot space.

What’s the tech like?

All versions get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in place of traditional dials plus a 10-inch central touchscreen, complete with a row of touch buttons below. Having those instead of physical switches is a bit of an interior miss – you can cause all sorts of havoc if you rest your hand on the little ledge below the touchscreen. There’s a random smattering of switches below, but you’ll still need to venture into the infotainment to sort out some of the basics.

Switching between screen menus is more satisfying on a Peugeot 3008 because though it runs the same system, the shortcuts themselves are nice aluminium keys. On the Citroen they’re shiny plastic touch buttons, like a cheap microwave.

Still, phone mirroring on every version means you’ve got traffic-aware navigation whenever you’re within signal. Step up a trim level and the in-built system uses TomTom maps (and handily shows petrol and EV stations) with their own traffic. Citroen’s built-in dashcam is also available, recording automatically when there’s a big braking event, and sending it to your phone.

Is there much storage space?

At minimum you have a segment leading 580 litres, but moving the backrests upright and sliding the seats forward opens up 720 litres, while folding them completely flat gives you 1,630 litres. In the ICE models, anyway. In the PHEV, it’s 460, 600 and 1,630 litres respectively, due to the battery.

A big centre console bin and glovebox take cabin storage to 33 litres, or a whole big bunch of picnic and devices. For which there’s an inductive charge pad in some versions, and phone mirroring in all.


What should I be paying?

The purely combustion version of the C5 Aircross comes in Sense Plus, Shine and C-Series Edition specs, with a choice of petrol or diesel engine, both with 129bhp. You get those with a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Prices start at £26,930, £28,080 and £30,520 respectively.

The PHEV option comes in Shine or C-Series Edition specification, with a combined 221bhp and a £35,835 or £38,275 price tag, plus a Benefit-in-Kind tax rate of 12 per cent, appealing for business users.

If you’re planning on leasing Citroen will sell you a C5 Aircross for £279, £310, or £369/month for the petrol, diesel and PHEV models respectively.

What’s the kit like?

The basic spec of the C5 Aircross is fairly decent: you get a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10-inch touchscreen, Citroen’s Connect Nav set-up, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, plus a smattering of safety tech.

One up Shine trim gets a Dark Chrome colour pack and Airbump inserts, plus the Drive Assist Pack, which adds Blind Spot Monitoring and Adaptive Cruise Control.

Top-spec C-Series Edition models get an Anodised Bronze colour pack, bi-tone paintwork, panoramic sunroof, and 19-inch alloy wheels, plus the safety tech featured in the Shine trim.

What’s the best spec?

We’d wager that if you’re buying on a budget the Sense Plus trim offers more than enough kit as standard, paired with the petrol engine. If your budget can stretch further, however, the PHEV suitably adds to the sense of serenity and offers a handy dosage of electric range for ferrying the kids to school and/or the weekly supermarket run.

Shine trim should have most buyers’ needs covered too, meaning you’re looking at £35,835, or £369 per month on lease.

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