Citroen C5 Aircross PureTech 130 review

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Citroen's stylish C5 Aircross model aims to offer something a little different in the mid-sized SUV segment. Jonathan Crouch looks at the latest version of the PureTech 130 petrol variant.

Ten Second Review

What if the kind of ride comfort you'd get on a large luxury SUV could be replicated - or even improved upon - in an affordable mid-sized model? Well that's what this car, Citroen's C5 Aircross, sets out to provide to 'Qashqai-class' folk. It was first launched in 2018, then updated in early 2022 to create the version we're looking at here in base Puretech 130 petrol form.

Background

Citroen has been turning around its SUV fortunes and the little C3 Aircross, updated in 2021, has sold well in the small supermini-derived SUV sector. This family hatch-based C5 Aircross will be equally important in the class above and claims to bring 'an all-new level of overall comfort' to the segment. That comes courtesy of super-supportive 'Advanced Comfort' seats and a clever suspension system using what the marque calls 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushions'.

The C5 Aircross might sell itself to you in terms of its practicality too, though it's not large enough to offer a seven-seat option. Still, if that's not an issue and you're buying in this segment, there's plenty else to catch your attention, especially with this updated model with offers a smarter look and a usefully upgraded interior. We're going to check it out in base PureTech 130 petrol form.

Driving Experience

Set off in a C5 Aircross and one of the first things that Citroen hopes you'll notice is the impressive ride quality, embellished by a clever 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushions' suspension system which delivers class-leading comfort over poorer surfaces. Hydraulic dampers cushion the top and bottom of wheel travel at the top and bottom of wheel travel and allow the fitment of softer springs and dampers, producing what the brand describes as a 'magic carpet'-like feel. Thick quilted 'Advanced Comfort' front seats further embellish the feeling of Gallic luxury. The inevitable flip-side of that is that there's a little more roll through the bends than you'd get from an obvious class rival. But if you can ignore this, there's actually more grip and traction than you'd think, though the somewhat over-light electric steering does its best to disguise the fact.

Here, we're looking at the base 1.2-litre three cylinder PureTech petrol unit. This offers 130hp (more than you'd get with the base petrol engines found in some rivals) and seems on paper to offer a reasonable set of performance stats - rest to 62mph in 10.5s en route to 121mph. On the road though, the efforts of the little triple-cylinder powerplant are somewhat hobbled by the fact that the kerb weight of this SUV is likely to be up around 1.5-tonnes, once you've fitted a few extras. Across the range, there's no 4WD system offered, but buyers do get 'Grip Control with Hill Descent Assist', for extra front-driven traction in slippery conditions. There's also Hill Start Assist, to help you starting off up steep slopes. And Trailer Stability Control, to reduce trailer sway if you're towing. That's about as much as most likely buyers will ever need.

Design and Build

Citroen has carefully sized this C5 Aircross, making it a five-seat design but quite a large one, with a 4.5-metre length that slots it into the centre of the mid-sized SUV segment. Familiar brand styling features include a raised muscular bonnet and the usual Citroen two-tier lighting signature, with the top units housing the LED daytime running lights, the lower ones being for the headlamps.

This revised C5 Aircross borrows some of the styling cues of the brand's executive C5 X as part of a refreshed exterior design, with a more vertical and modern front end that's brought sleeker aerodynamics. The front grille's been restyled and there's a revised version of the iconic Citroen logo, now seemingly detached from the daytime running lights, with chevrons that appear in black lacquer in a chrome setting, this now standing out more overtly against the central grille. Around the car, extra glossy or anodised detailing has been added - in colours such as Glossy Black and Dark Chrome, all of it intended to demonstrate the model's more up-market positioning.

Inside, front seat occupants get the brand's unique 'Advanced Comfort' seat design, which features a core of high-density foam and an additional 15mm top layer of textured foam to ensure maximum comfort and support for the driver and passengers. There's a 12.3-inch digital driver's display and a revised 10-inch high-definition touchscreen that's been positioned higher up on the dashboard to reduce stress by ensuring the driver keeps their eyes on the road. Nice touches include an active air quality system that uses an air-purifying carbon filter.

As before, this Gallic SUV's lengthy wheelbase translates into a cabin that feels significantly larger than that of most models in this class.

In the rear, the car continues to feature three individual, same-width seats that slide, recline and fold flat. Not only does this mean that everyone on-board enjoys an exceptional level of comfort no matter where they sit, but it also creates the numerous possibilities for configuring the interior space. It means the boot can be increased in size from 580-litres, to 720-litres with the rear seats in place. With the rear seats folded down, there's up to 1,630-litres of boot space

Market and Model

So, let's get to the pricing, which from the launch of this updated model was pitched from around £25,500 for the base Puretech 130 petrol variant we're looking at here which comes with manual transmission or, for around £1,700 more, Citroen's EAT8 8-speed automatic. C5 Aircross buyers are offered all three trim choices - 'Sense Plus', mid-range 'Shine'-spec or top 'C Series Edition'. Standard kit on the base 'Sense Plus'-spec version includes quite a bit but most C5 Aircross buyers in this country will find the £1,100 premium that Citroen asks to trade up to the mid-range 'Shine'-spec.

Even with base 'Sense Plus' trim, owners benefit from features including 18-inch 'Pulsar' diamond-cut alloy wheels, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, Keyless Entry & Start and electric folding exterior mirrors. With 'Shine Trim', buyers enjoy the Drive Assist Pack with Adaptive Cruise Control, Advanced Comfort Seats with Alcantara upholstery and Active Safety Brake with video and radar assistance, while the 'Urban Black' interior ambience brings an upmarket feel to the cabin.

The 'C-Series Edition' sits at the top of the range. It has been tailored specifically for the UK market and gains a 'Perla Nera Black' bi-tone roof with an exclusive Anodised Bronze Colour Pack. There is also an opening panoramic glass sunroof, wireless charging and a motorised tailgate with hands-free access.

Cost of Ownership

We're used to modern Citroens being rather light by class standards, particularly models that are, like this one, built upon the Stellantis Group's stiff, sophisticated EMP2 platform. So the news that the fastest and best-equipped versions of this C5 Aircross tip the scales at well over 1.5-tonnes may prepare you for the fact that in trading up from the brand's smaller C3 Aircross model (which is a massive 400kgs lighter), your running cost returns are going to be very different. Of course, many C5 Aircross buyers won't be switching from something smaller in the Crossover class and these people will merely be happy to see that this car's efficiency stats number amongst the better readings that you can expect to get from a mid-sized volume brand SUV of this kind.

In evaluating them, we'll quote you figures based on readings calculated using the 'WLTP' ('World harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure') cycle. The base 1.2-litre PureTech 130 petrol powerplant is supposed to be able to manage up to 49.5Or 46.7mpg and 147g/km as an automatic. mpg on the combined cycle and up to 140g/km of CO2. The BiK tax rate is 32% for a manual or 33% for an auto.

Summary

The 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushion' suspension of a C5 Aircross isn't going to be of much use to it in the Saharan desert, but it'll help it immensely in the much more challenging environment this car will actually spend its life in. Yours. A school run world of speed humps, potholes, tarmac tears and long taxing days that require your automobile to look after you on the drive home.

This car's emphasis on comfort won't endear it to magazine road testers or people who, rather mystifyingly, want their family SUV to handle with sporting sharpness. And there are cheaper cars in the Qashqai class and contenders that might tempt you with classier cabins - or an extra row of seats. But if you can look beyond all that, there's much here to like beyond the cossetting ride, espoecially with this improved model. The spacious interior, the versatile back seat arrangement and neat equipment touches too. In summary, it's refreshing to see this Gallic brand getting back to what it does best. We think that this car stands out as a result. You might too.

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