The second generation Citroen C5 continues to offer a surprisingly strong package in the Mondeo-sized medium range market sector. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the improved version
Ten Second Review
Citroen's C5 is a rare choice in the Mondeo medium range segment - but an interesting one. If you're not interested in cornering on your door handles, you'll love the way it glides over the most terrible tarmac and the BlueHDi diesel engines are amongst the cleanest and most frugal in the whole market segment. There's also a very spacious Tourer estate option. Get the right deal and here's a car you could really bond with.
Though it's had its moments with Xantia and BX models, Citroen has always made rather heavy weather of selling family-sized medium range models. It was a trend that continued with the first generation C5 model, launched in 2001 but hampered by bland looks, high depreciation and soggy handling. A strong range of diesel engines and the Hydractive 3 self-levelling suspension system were plus points though and it was clear that these needed to be part of the huge step forward the MK2 C5 model would have to make if Citroen was not to have to limit its aspirations only to small car sales. When that car was launched in 2007, it was clearly a huge step forward. Virtually all the outstanding issues had been addressed and there was a far more palatable form of the styling flair we first saw in the marque's executive class C6 model. But medium range Mondeo buyers continued to largely ignore it, even when Citroen added a series of hi-tech and efficient engines. So the French brand is redoubling its efforts, improving equipment levels and adding frugal BlueHDi diesel technology. Thus equipped, if this C5 doesn't propel Citroen into contention in this sector, then they might as well give up.
This still isn't the sharpest steer in its sector - think Vauxhall Insignia rather than Ford Mondeo - but it's now there or thereabouts. It's also far better suited to the kind of driving that most of the time, these kinds of cars actually do, thanks to supple ride quality. Go for the top BueHDi 180 variant and you get a choice of suspension set-ups - an important choice for buyers to make. The first option is a conventional arrangement that uses double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link system at the rear - but that won't deliver you the proper Citroen driving experience. Much better to go for the Hydractive 3 Plus self levelling suspension that adapts to the road surface in order to deliver a smooth magic carpet ride. This system lets the driver to select from three modes that offer progressively firmer suspension settings for a sportier driving experience or a more comfortable one as required. The original version of this car carried over most of its engines from the previous generation model but since launch, a lot of work has gone in to improve things. It's an all-diesel line-up now, with the range starting point being a 150bhp BlueHDi unit, also offered in pokier BlueHDi 180 form, where you get an EAT6 auto gearbox.
Design and Build
This C5 is a larger car than the previous generation model and one of the biggest in its class. The saloon is fractionally longer than its Ford Mondeo equivalent and almost as wide, with the Tourer estate measuring in with an extra 5cm of length. Citroen has paid particular attention to soundproofing in the cabin, fitting laminated side windows and an acoustic windscreen to supplement the absorbent body and roof linings that were developed for the larger C6. Inside, although the centre console looks a little overloaded with buttons, the clean lines of the fascia and the chrome detailing create an upmarket effect. Citroen is well known for including high levels of gadgetry in its vehicles and a cluster of controls on the fixed-hub steering wheel helps the driver access the more important features without diverting attention from the road. Space for rear seat passengers is helped by the flat floor. Go for the Tourer estate and the 439 litres of bootspace offered by the saloon rises to 505 litres with all the seats in place and nearly 1500 litres with the seats flat folded. When placing heavy items into the car, a button located on the rear lowers or raises the car's suspension, bringing the boot floor to a more convenient height. Simply closing the tailgate automatically returns the rear suspension to the correct level. Styling was not a strong suit of the original C5 but today's car appears to have banished the frumpiness that scuppered its predecessor. The highlight at the rear is the concave glass area as seen on the old luxury C6 model. The deep swage lines that run down the flanks just below the line of the door handles are very BMW, while the sculpted wheelarches help produce a dynamic stance. If anything, the estate version is an even better looking car than the saloon with its sloping roofline and rear light clusters that curve right round the corners of the vehicle.
Market and Model
Prices lie in the expected £24,000-£28,000 bracket common to this class of car, with, as usual, a premium of around £1,100 if you want the estate Tourer version. To make driving easier, the C5 includes Citroen's eMyWay satellite navigation system combined with a Connecting Box - jack socket, USB port and Bluetooth - as part of the standard Techno Pack. On the C5 Tourer, the eMyWay system can be hooked up to a reversing camera to make parking manoeuvres even safer. In fact all variants are extremely well specified. Cruise control and a speed limiter, air-conditioning, an acoustic windscreen and an adaptive front-lighting system (AFS) are all fitted as standard, along with an automatic electric parking-brake and hill-start assist. For ease of parking and pedestrian safety, the C5 Tourer is also available with front and rear parking sensors, as well as a parking gap assistance system. Citroen's eTouch Emergency & Assistance System is also standard, an innovative service that automatically or manually makes emergency calls and allows manual assistance calls - using a built-in SIM card - for a rapid response in the event of an accident or if the car is immobilised. The system also allows drivers to consult information online at their 'MyCitroen' personal space, which allows them to monitor their vehicle's maintenance requirements and to receive advice on improving fuel economy.
Cost of Ownership
The diesel engines deliver strong economy and low emissions. Economy first: the 2.0 BlueHDi 150 model most will choose delivers 68.9mpg on the combined cycle and 106g/km of CO2. The BlueHDi 180 automatic manages 64.2mpg and 114g/km. All the diesels in the range are fitted with a diesel particulate filter that cuts particulate emissions to next to nothing. It should all go to make the C5 an environmentally-friendly car and, therefore, an affordable one to run. Depreciation is a step forward from that of the first generation C5 (which wasn't difficult) but still slightly behind some of this car's mainstream rivals as the market struggles to adjust to the idea of a largish Citroen with BMW build quality. And insurance? Expect group 25.
Of all the market sectors you could buy from, standards in this one are the highest. Which means that when we tell you that this C5 is surprisingly good, then you can take it that it's very good indeed. It's certainly the best riding car of its kind and right up there in all other aspects save that of ultimate, on the limit handling. For all that, there will be many who won't consider it because it's a Citroen: their loss. As far as we're concerned, this improved second generation C5 has all the credentials to count as an informed choice in the medium range market. It's a car that effectively handles all the basics while remaining just different enough to stand out.