Say G’day to Citroen’s new C5 Aircross
Citroen’s new C5 Aircross is a mid-sized SUV with a big-sized job to do.
Based on the same platform as the Peugeot 3008 and 5008, the handsome Aircross has been tasked with spearheading the brand’s renaissance in this country.
The venerable French brand has not had the best of times in Australia in recent years, with cars like the C4 Cactus, Berlingo van and C4 Grand Picasso people mover — all recording disappointing sales.
As a result, they’ve been given the chop under a new strategy that will see the lineup reduced to the C3, C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross by year’s end.
To put the brand’s impact into perspective, Citroen’s 36 dealers sold just 51 cars here nationally last month, bringing the total for the year to a modest 221.
It’s disappointing given Citroen’s long history in this country, one that goes back 95 years to a car wearing the badge that became the first vehicle to circumnavigate Australia.
What makes the task even more of a challenge for the C5 Aircross is that it slots into the most competitive segment in the Australian market.
It’s up against Australia’s biggest-selling SUV – Mazda’s CX-5 – along with Hyundai’s Tucson, the Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4, VW Tiguan . . . and of course its own cousin the Peugeot 3008.
Admittedly, some of these SUVs boast all-wheel drive and seven seats, while the Aircross is front-wheel drive with just five seats.
It comes in two grades: Feel and the one with the lot — Shine.
Both models are powered by the same proven, turbocharged, four-cylinder, 1.6-litre e-THP petrol engine that is good for 121kW of power at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque at a relaxed 1400rpm.
The engine is mated to a traditional 6-speed torque-converter style auto and even the cheaper Feel version comes with fun-to-use paddle shifters.
Despite the fact it’s front-wheel drive, drivers can chose between five transmission modes – standard, snow, mud, sand and ESP off.
While Citroen claims fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km, we achieved 7.6L at the national media launch of the car – and that included city, freeway and various country-road conditions with a bit of spirited punting here and there.
It’s not a bad a result but the downside is that it takes 95 RON premium unleaded.
Citroen has always been noted for its homegrown suspension and in the Aircross the star attractioin is the patented, hydro-pneumatic “progressive hydraulic cushions” developed originally for the brand’s all-conquering world rally championship and Dakar cars.
It works by replacing the bump stops found in most vehicles with hydraulic units at either ends of the springs and dampers.
Up front there is what Citroen calls a “pseudo” MacPherson-strut setup while the rear uses a deformable cross member.
Both front and rear arrangements use the progressive hydraulic cushion dampers.
Stopping power is excellent, with 304 x 28mm ventilated discs at front and 290 x 12mm solid rear discs, both with sliding, single-piston calipers.
Even Feel is generously equipped, with six airbags, autonomous emergency braking (up to 85km/h), active blind-spot monitoring, active lane-departure assist, and four-mode grip control.
There’s also a 12.3-inch full digital instrument display, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers with washers, automatic-dimming rear-vision mirror and speed-limit recognition and recommendation.
Also standard is a “top-vision” 180-degree parking camera with front-and-rear parking sonar, keyless entry and ignition, halogen headlights with fog lights, privacy glass, roof rails, power-adjustable and folding door mirrors, automatic dual zone air conditioning with rear air vents.
The central touchscreen features navigation, DAB digital radio, CarPlay and Android Auto, plus voice recognition.
Move up to the top-spec Shine and you get Citroen’s “advanced comfort” seats with power adjust driver’s seat, combination leather and fabric trim, larger 19 inch alloys, wireless mobile phone charging, laminated windscreen and windows and sporty aluminium pedals.
Three individual second-row sliding seats (two with ISOfix and all with top tether anchors), with ambient interior lighting, LED daytime running lights and a hands-free, foot-operated electric tailgate.
The interior, especially the top-spec Shine, has really been given the premium treatment.
While there is a degree of ubiquitous hard plastic, this is more than balanced by the soft stuff and the result is a more luxurious ambiance than the price tag suggests.
The seriously clever digital dash can be customised by the driver and provides all the information you could ever need.
As far as storage is concerned, there are two front cup holders (but none in the rear), four big door pockets, map pockets behind the front-seat backs, a reasonable glove box, two open bins on the centre console and a huge deep bin beneath the split-lid/armrest that will chill your drinks.
A roof-mounted sunglasses holder would have been nice for this country.
With the second-row seats occupied, there’s 580 litres of luggage space. Slide them all the way forward and this rises to a handy 720 litres or drop the seat backs and it offers 1630 litres.
Only two factory options are offered: metallic paint that will set you back $690 or pearl paint that is a pretty rich $1050.
Speaking of paint, there are just seven colours on the pallet.
What’s the new C5 Aircross gonna set me back?
Feel opens the batting at $39,990 plus on-road costs and this rises to $43,990 plus on-roads for the Shine.
To keep the new C5 in top condition there is capped-price servicing — $458 for the first year, $812 for the second and $458 for the third.
Interestingly, though, the fourth service will again set back owners $812 before it returns to $470 for the fifth visit to the workshop.
Service intervals are 12 months or 20,000km, and it comes with a 5-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and 5-year roadside-assist.
What’s the new Aircross go like?
Climb behind the wheel and the first impression is one of comfort, especially Shine with its power adjustment and fancy memory foam.
There is, unfortunately, no power adjustment for the Shine’s front-seat passenger.
Beautifully padded and supportive, the seats are as good or better than anything in the class – even fancier classes.
The handsome leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel feels great to hold and is both height and reach adjustable.
Annoyingly, however, the start/stop button and gear shifter have been left on the far side of the centre console – perfect for front-seat passengers but not drivers here in Australia.
Hit the go pedal and the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine springs to life, pushing the car off the line in impressive fashion.
Left to its own devices, the 6-speed auto does a perfectly adequate job, but flick it over to manual mode, start using the paddle shifters — and it’s even better.
Out on the road the car is extremely refined with only minimal amounts of road and wind noise.
The tricky suspension really does work well, smoothing out bumps and potholes, and most of the time you can tell there’s something different underneath the car compared with traditional suspension set-ups.
The softly-softly suspension does however generate some body roll when pushed hard through corners.
C5 Aircross is clearly built for comfort, not speed and in this regard — it’s hard to fault.
The good bits?
- Comfort and refinement
- Handsome, not quirky styling
- Generous standard equipment
- Paddle shifters on both models
The not so good bits?
- Space-saver spare
- No electric adjustment for Shine front-passenger seat
- Start/stop button, gear shifter, lights and wiper stalks not positioned for right-hand drive
- No diesel option
So what’s the take home?
Citroen has high hopes for the C5 Aircross and 1500 pre-orders from its launch at the Paris Motor Show was a great start.
In Australia, it is vital the car sells strongly and helps to establish a strong foundation for the brand’s resurgence in this country.
In fact, from our point of view, it’s about the best-looking SUV out there.
As Citroen says, its cars are, and always have been, experimental and innovative, and its owners very much individuals.
Given that’s the case, the company has pretty-well nailed it.
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