Looking for a good looking, reliable, fast, big diesel car? Citroen might not be your first port of call but the latest C5 BlueHDi 180 is well worth a look. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
If you're in the market for a Mondeo-class car that's a little less obvious than the usual contenders, the Citroen C5 is a great choice. It's a car that always surprises and never more so than when it has a 180bhp BlueHDi diesel engine under its bonnet. With 60mph arriving in 8.7 seconds and around 65mpg attainable, it's a car with a reassuringly broad spread of abilities.
The first generation Citroen C5 was certainly a bit of an acquired taste. It was perfectly at home lolloping along autoroutes and back roads of France, where its incredibly comfortable ride and lazy power delivery made all kinds of sense. I loved the fact that it was softer than a Nick Clegg election promise and respected it primarily for the reason that it wasn't trying to be a BMW 3 Series. Yet the British public hated it because it wasn't trying to be a BMW 3 Series. We like things to be sharper and sportier over here and the big Citroen really wasn't cutting it. Hence the second generation car launched in 2008 with the advertising strapline 'Reassuringly German. Unmistakably Citroen'. And it was true. Cover the badges of the car and most would take the strong, chiselled styling to be something from the Vaterland. It looked as if it could be a genius move. Fast forward a few years and Citroen's big hopes have withered somewhat. The C5, whether in Saloon or Tourer estate guise, remains a rare sight on our roads. Perhaps the message needed driving home further, who knows? What is certain is that in the shape of the range-topping BlueHDi 180 model, Citroen offers a genuinely impressive performer at a very competitive price.
Citroen has toyed with a few engines as its range-topper in the C5. There was originally a 2.7-litre HDi unit, which was then replaced by a 237bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel that was shared with Jaguar XF, but with figures of 39.2mpg and 189g/km, it wasn't attractive to business users. Next Citroen offered a 2.2-litre diesel with 200bhp, but that wasn't much more efficient. Now though, the brand may have found the sweet spot, equipping this car with its latest BlueHDi 180 engine and mating this powerplant with its smoother-shifting EAT6 automatic transmission. It's certainly not slow, stopping the stopwatch to 62mph at 8.7s and running on to a top speed of 130mph. It's effortless too, the automatic gearbox slurring its way through the ratios smoothly. In fact it's one of those cars where you rarely feel inclined to flog it hard, instead feeling reassured that with 400Nm of torque available at just 2,000rpm, instant acceleration is there for the taking. Ride quality is assured thanks to Hydractive 3 Plus self levelling suspension which adapts to the road surface in order to deliver a smooth 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.
Design and Build
This C5 is one of the biggest contenders in the medium range class. The saloon is fractionally longer than its Ford Mondeo equivalent and almost as wide, with the 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 old executive segment C6 mdel. The interior sets out to mirror the high quality feel of that C6 and 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 help the driver access the more important features without diverting attention from the road. Space for rear seat passengers is helped by the flat floor. The boot's a decent size at 439-litres to the parcel shelf but if you need more, you'll need to go for the cavernous Tourer estate variant. The BlueHDi 180 engine is only available in Exclusive trim and comes with the Techno Pack that gives you satellite navigation.
Market and Model
The Saloon model is priced at around the £28,000 mark, with the Tourer estate adding £1,100 to that figure. That might seem a lot to shell out for a Citroen but take a look at what those sums buy you elsewhere and you'll find that for this class of car, it's not unreasonable. Do remember to factor in the automatic gearbox that many other manufacturers will charge well over £1,500 for. Plus, consider that as this C5 BlueHDi 180 variant is only offered in range-topping Exclusive trim, it comes with a serious slug of standard equipment. There are automatic lights and wipers, satellite navigation, a tyre pressure monitor, leather trim for the steering wheel, interior mood lighting, electrically adjustable front seats with a memory function on the driver's side, front parking sensors, a rear reversing camera and a multi function onboard computer. There's also cruise control and a speed limiter as well as six airbags, ABS and ESP stability control. There's also a collapsible pedal assembly that protects the driver's legs in the event of an accident.
Cost of Ownership
The inescapable fact is that the C5 BlueHDi 180 is going to depreciate strongly. It would be remiss of us to skirt around this fact but big discounts are available from list price that take a big percentage off the real world depreciation figures. Get a deal from Citroen and this C5 leaps straight back into contention and if you're looking to keep the car for the longer term, it becomes a strong choice. Fuel economy is rated at 64.2mpg on the combined cycle, 54.3mpg in town and up to 74.3mpg on the open road. Emissions are very good indeed at 114g/km. Insurance is group 25E.
There's much to be admired about the Citroen C5 BlueHDi 180. The engine is a cracker with plenty of muscle at its elbow and the transmission suits its power delivery very well. It offers a comfortable and relaxing driving environment with plenty of equipment and styling that still looks great. Judged purely as a design and engineering exercise, this Citroen is a stand out performer. It's got great safety credentials, its reliability record stands up to scrutiny and there's plenty of space, especially if you choose the handsome Tourer model. The thing is, people don't tend to buy cars in this class on the strength of their objective merits. They buy largely due to a number that an Excel spreadsheet will generate which is often the total cost in pence per mile over a three year/36,000 mile running period. This is where the Citroen stumbles. If you're not quite so focused on the hard financials, you'll enjoy this car but sales data would seem to suggest you're part of a very rare breed indeed.