Citroen C5 X First Drive – Is Citroen's Flagship Style Over Substance?
The Citroen C5 X sits somewhere between a souped-up crossover and an SUV but it promises to be one of Citroen's most comfortable offerings.
For the most part of its 103-year existence, Citroen has put comfort at the centre of every car it has built. The C5 X – a new flagship model that sits somewhere between a jacked-up crossover and a conventional SUV – promises to carry that tradition forward, albeit in a suaver package.
A MIX OF EVERYTHING
Citroen claims to have set designers their toughest task yet with the C5 X. It needed the elegance of a saloon, the practicality of an estate and the robustness and higher seating position of a SUV. Have they achieved what they were asked?
Styling is a subjective matter but few can argue with the fact this car oozes charisma from every angle. It is a cohesive piece of work as is reflected by the double Chevron badge that integrates seamlessly with the slender DRLs, V-shaped LED tail-lights that are consistent with the front, and a side profile that incorporates all three of the body styles mentioned in the initial brief.
Raising the ride height – no doubt helped by 19-inch wheels that are standard right across the three-car line-up – is not just in keeping with the SUV theme, however; this extra elevation is said to give drivers a much-improved field of vision by 10cm. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a pseudo off-roader if it didn’t have the usual protective rubbing strips.
A PETROL-ONLY AFFAIR
Citroen is also renowned for leading the development of diesel but in recent years that focus has switched to small displacement petrol units which has led to plug-in petrol electric systems. The entry-point to the C5 X is called ‘Sense Plus’ and buyers can pair an 8-speed automatic to either a 1.2-litre petrol (128bhp) or a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol with an electric motor and a 13.2kWh battery for a combined output of 222bhp.
A maximum electric range of 31-miles is quoted thanks to an impressive drag co-efficient of 0.29 achieved by a double spoiler arrangement at the rear. With 7.4kW single phase charging as standard, a full battery takes around two hours. ‘Shine’ and range-topping ‘Shine Plus’ introduce a third engine choice in the form of the larger of the two petrol motors minus any electrification.
Although a pure-electric C5 X is understood to be highly unlikely, Citroen bosses are exploring ways to extend the zero-emissions range moving forward.
A NICE ENVIRONMENT TO BE IN
Much like the exterior elements, Citroen’s designers are bang on the money when it comes to the C5 X’s interior. Every touch of a panel is greeted by squidgy materials, and the impression of real quality is heightened by contrast seats upholstered in soft two-tone leather and finished off with a ribbon of stitching that apes the Citroen badge – a highlight that is carried over to the door cards and the seats in the rear.
Our test car had wood-effect inlays on the dash and the larger 12-inch colour display that function as well as it looks, so there is no real need to bypass it by plugging in your Android or Apple smartphone. Citroen’s previous attempt at a giving us a multimedia system was nothing short of poor, but this is a big step forward and most definitely fits in with the car’s classier demeanour.
A 7-inch instrument cluster is also included and can be changed one of four ways to show speed, economy, battery range and sat-nav directions. We also applaud Citroen for listening to customer feedback and restoring actual knobs for climate and ventilation options.
IT IS STLYE OVER SUBSTANCE?
Yes and no. A Skoda Superb, for instance, delivers superior shoulder space in the second row over the C5 X but when it comes to head and leg room, the pair are pretty evenly matched. That sloping roofline and dark glass certainly look elegant, but this translates into a morbid environment for those being ferried around in the back as the headlining is black in colour and the £1,300 glass sunroof is not full-length.
Still, four people can expect to get around with no complaints but three across the rear bench might be a big ask for picky adult passengers. Boot space is not bad, even if it isn’t the biggest compared to some rivals’. In petrol versions, there’s 545-litres to play around with and 485-litres on the PHEV which loses out due to the that’s space taken up by the cables and the onboard battery.
The floor is wide and level for easy loading and unloading of everyday items, and via one of two levers the 40/20/40 split-folding back seats can be instantly lowered.
A SERENE DRIVE
All C5 X PHEVs deploy what Citroen calls ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’. To you and me, that means adaptive dampers and they do a superb job of ironing out everything from pimply Tarmac to poorly fitted manhole covers. These do take on a different edge depending on which of the five drive modes you choose from.
We found ‘Comfort’ worked best and didn’t leave ‘Sport’ engaged for too long as it tears up the French car’s otherwise superb ride prowess. The petrol-electric set-up ensures you can get a spurt on – reassuring in a car weighing 1.7 tonne and measuring 4.8 metres long – but the mechanics behind it lack polish.
Under moderate acceleration you detect chatter through the steering wheel and pedals. Not what you would expect in a £40,000 car.
ELECTRIC MODE: Running the C5 X in electric mode makes perfect sense when the opportunity presents itself. From behind the wheel, there is virtually no noise to speak of and performance is still sprightly considering the weight of the battery and the electric motor. As for plugging in and charging the lithium-ion pack, Citroen quotes two hours using a 7.4kW home – or work – wallbox.
INTERIOR: We cannot fault the fit and finish of the C5 X’s cabin – and the same goes for the array of materials Citroen’s settled on in its construction. Standard equipment is generous and includes heated seats assembled from soft memory foam, a head-up display, and a 360-degree parking camera. Customers can request a massage function and ventilation for the two front seats (£800).
STYLING: One solid, four metallic and a single pearl shade make up the C5 X colour palette; our test car’s ‘Amazonite Grey’ suits the body shape and complements the optional black roof (£350) and two-tone 19-inch alloy wheels. The ‘upside down’ lights that place the main units lower down the front bumper have the latest LED technology and includes High Beam Assist with adjustment.
PRACTICALITY: The front and rear door pockets are rubber lined which is useful as it stops items from rattling around on the move. Storage compartments are plentiful as are USB charge points; each rear passenger even has their own reading light. Less practical is the fuel tank size on PHEV cars; these are 17-litres smaller than the petrol models. The lack of a rear wiper blade also irks.
Price: £41,670 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4cyl petrol plus one e-motor
Power/torque: 225bhp/184lb ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 145mph
PROS & CONS
- Charming appeal
- Immensely comfortable
- Interior very upmarket
- Spongy feeling brakes
- Options pricey
- PHEV’s boot takes a hit