What is it?
The C5 Aircross is the larger of Citroen’s two SUVs and comes in two grades, Feel and Shine.
We’ve just finished driving the Shine to Broken Hill and back, a distance of 3500km over a two-week period with a couple of two-night stopovers.
The Citroen wasn’t our first choice for such an arduous road trip, but it turned out to be a bit of an eye-opener — both in terms of the car and the brand itself.
We’re happy to report nothing fell off, nor did it break down, with hundreds of kilometres on dirt roads and a little light off-roading under our belt.
Despite a plethora of road kill, we didn’t hit any emus or kangaroos either — and thankfully we didn’t get a flat tyre.
In fact, all things considered, the C5 Aircross is pretty damn impressive and deserves more attention than it gets.
What’s it cost?
Prices for the five-seater start from $38,990 for Feel or $43,990 for the Shine grade, both prices driveaway at the moment.
Both models are powered by the same 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, paired with a 6-speed auto, and both are fitted with a new suspension setup that Citroen calls Progressive Hydraulic Cushions (PHC).
Cloth trim and two-zone climate air are standard, along with rear air outlets for back seat passengers.
The rear seats by the way can be adjusted individually, with slide, fold and incline adjustment, with ISOFIX car seat mounting points for each.
Citroen claims best-in-class boot capacity, with 580 litres that expands to 720 litres with the rear seats down.
The 12.3-inch instrument cluster is fully digitised and offers several different looks that you can scroll through with a roller button on the steering wheel.
The big easy to use 8.0-inch touchscreen includes navigation, voice control, digital radio plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Other items include LED daytime lights, LED ambient interior lighting, auto lights and wipers, the latter with magic wash, plus an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
There’s also Speed Limit Recognition and a 360 degree overhead parking camera, together with front and rear parking sensors and a powered tailgate that will open with a wave of your foot.
Standard safety kit includes six airbags, rear view camera, Autonomous Emergency Braking (up to 85km/h), Active Blind Spot Monitoring, Active Lane Departure Assist and Four-mode Grip Control.
The better equipped Shine adds Advanced Comfort seats with electric driver’s seat adjustment, combination leather and fabric-covered trim, 19-inch alloy wheels, a wireless phone charging pad, laminated windows and windscreen plus sporty looking aluminium pedals.
What’s it go like?
Both models are powered by a 1.6-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, with 121kW of power and 240Nm of torque — the latter from a low 1400 revs.
It’s paired with PSA’s generic, full fluid 6-speed automatic that comes with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Grip Control offers four different modes, including snow, sand and mud.
BUT it’s not real all-wheel drive, so any benefits are limited.
The system uses the vehicle’s traction control system to simulate all-wheel drive.
Ground clearance could be a limiting factor too, although it’s a claimed 230mm — but Aircross certainly appears to sit low.
The start button is positioned awkwardly on the far side of the centre console, with access blocked by the transmission lever and any drink bottles you might have in the two cupholders.
The joystick style shift lever has a side mounted thumb button that must be fully depressed before it will engage, with separate buttons for Park and Manual shift mode.
We kept forgetting that it had to be moved forward for reverse.
C5 Aircross is the Citroen equivalent of the Peugeot 3008.
It’s 4500mm long, 1840mm wide and 1670mm high, with 230mm of ground clearance, and sits on either 18 or 19-inch alloys depending on grade.
The Advanced Comfort seats have been designed based on experience gained from the bedding industry.
Foam of different densities and hardness is used depending on the role of the seat component concerned: support or cushioning.
Can’t say we noticed any major difference, but by the same token we didn’t succumb to “bumbago” on our long haul road trip, despite several hours in the seat.
The rear seats are a little small and narrow with limited legroom, and suggested for two adults only.
You can however slide the rear seats backwards and forwards, so it might be worth experimenting.
Back seat passengers get air vents and a USB port, but there is a lag before the air gets going, according to our passengers.
Otherwise the air worked fine in the 50 degree plus heat we encountered.
Cabin storage is good, with two cupholders in the centre console and good-sized, cooled console box with button operated, split lid.
The door pockets are a decent size too.
There’s a 12 volt outlet in the luggage area which was perfect for our car fridge, but its position means it could easily be damaged by other luggage.
We were hesitant to take a vehicle of this kind on a long and challenging Australian road trip.
Firstly, it’s petrol powered. Secondly it relies on a space saver spare, and thirdly we weren’t sure what sort of road conditions we were going to encounter.
Our itinerary included remote Lake Mungo National Park and the outback mining town of White Cliffs, both of them off the beaten track.
Our fears were unfounded however because the Aircross performed like a champion.
Performance is surprisingly strong, given the modest engine outputs, especially in Sport mode and using the change paddles to operate the gears manually.
There was plenty in the tank for overtaking, and we encountered some long road trains, sometimes two or three of them in convoy, but most of the time the car seemed to go fine left in Drive.
The “hydraulic cushions” do a good job of isolating the bumps and the ride is overall very good, considering it has not been tuned for our roads — apart from some judder over low amplitude bumps.
Pushing it up to 120km/h on well formed dirt roads with drive mode set to Sand added some discernible control, although did push up fuel consumption.
We note however that Shine, although it gets larger 19 inch wheels, is actually fitted with taller, skinnier 205/55 series tyres, which is not going to help stability (Feel gets 235s).
The steering is light and responsive, while pushing hard through corners produces a tendency to oversteer, even though it’s front-wheel drive.
The brakes do the job but are overly aggressive and tend to grab on the slightest provocation.
Not sure what the story is with adaptive cruise control.
It usually goes hand in hand with autonomous emergency braking, which this model does have?
Long stretches of open road and no traffic for minutes at a time allowed us to play with the active lane departure assistance.
Takes your hands off the wheel and the thing will steer itself for a good 30 seconds before you’re warned to put your hands back on the wheel.
After that it stops working, or seems to . . . can’t see how that is very safe?
The satnav made life easy, but adding way points resulted in cumulative total, rather the total distance from A to B.
With a 53-litre tank, the C5 Aircross takes 95 premium unleaded, with fuel consumption rated at 7.9L/100km.
We were getting 8.1L after 3509km, but bear in mind most places out west carry only 98 which at White Cliffs was $1.73.9 a litre.
That’s good. Usually, we’re told — it’s 2 bucks.
What we like?
- Different but pleasing styling
- Customisable instrument display
- Speed limit recognition and over-speed warning
- Sport button and gear change paddles
- Easy drive mode selection
- Plenty in the tank for overtaking
- Excellent fuel consumption
What we don’t like?
- Awkward placement of start button on far side of console
- Tricky gear selection (need to fully and firmly depress button)
- Gets auto braking but misses out on active cruise control
- Bonnet release located on passenger side
- Can’t fully lift windscreen wipers to clean screen
- Aircon takes too long to get going in the back
- No speed camera warnings
- Overly responsive brakes
The bottom line?
After 3500km travelling to the far west of the State and back, through the challenging NSW Outback, there’s not much we don’t know about the Citroen C5 Aircross.
Through thick and thin, hundreds of high speed dirt kilometres, clouds of locusts and 50 degree plus heat, the Aircross didn’t miss a beat.
It has really changed the way we feel about the brand. We’ve always found Citroen’s cars interesting, but probably best avoided.
Now however we regard them as a realistic proposition, especially as they come with a 5-year warranty.
After all, plenty of French people drive them — n’est ce pas?
CHECKOUT: Citroen C3 Aircross: Going for a song
Citroen C5 Aircross Shine, priced from $43,990 driveaway
- Looks - 8/108/10
- Performance - 7.5/107.5/10
- Safety - 7.5/107.5/10
- Thirst - 7.5/107.5/10
- Practicality - 7.5/107.5/10
- Comfort - 7.5/107.5/10
- Tech - 8/108/10
- Value - 8/108/10