After some time in the Australian automotive wilderness Citroen, under new importer Inchcape, has been rejuvenated, albeit with a range of just four models: the C3 small hatchback, C4 wagon, C5 X wagon and this one the mid-sized SUV C5 Aircross.
Sadly, for a brand with such a long and proud history, and some impressive vehicles, sales continue to be negligible.
The original C5 Aircross, launched here in 2020, came in two variants, Feel and Shine, but with the 2023 upgrade dropped back to a single high-spec Sport variant.
Aircross has an imposing stance on the road which makes it look and feel larger than it actually is.
In fact, at 4.5-metres long, it’s smaller than leading competitors such as Hyundai Tucson, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4.
What’s it cost?
Aircross is priced from $54,990 plus on-road costs.
There’s a choice of six colours. Only one is standard, with four metallic ($690) and one premium ($1050) options.
The overall shape sticks to traditional SUV body styling but with an imposing grille highlighted by the latest version of the iconic Citroen chevron badge leading to a high-tech two-tiered bonnet, stylish side vents with coloured inserts and four-piece taillights.
There are roof rails around a panoramic sun roof and 19-inch Art full black diamond cut alloy wheels.
Both sides have lower cladding featuring Citroen’s clever air bumps, a more subtle version of the side protectors that we first encountered in the C4 Cactus.
Ground clearance is 182mm so it’s not suitable for any serious off-road conditions.
There are two screens, a 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver.
Both are crisp, clear and easy to read.
Unfortunately, Citroen has followed the current trend of tablet-style controls in place of the traditional buttons and knobs.
Only the audio on/off and volume control gets the latter, and it’s on the left-hand side of the centre console.
Everything else, including the air conditioning controls, need a series of taps with the resultant driver distraction.
By contrast the digital driver display is very user-friendly and provides information with minimal time needed from the road ahead.
Even better it can be configured to fits each driver’s preferences.
Integrated satellite navigation is standard as are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, along with DAB+ digital radio, voice recognition for phone, radio and satnav and USB sockets in the centre console and the rear of the front armrest.
There is a wireless smartphone charging pad at the base of the dashboard.
Standard safety features include six airbags, adaptive cruise control with stop/start, function and front autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
There’s also blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and correction, speed sign recognition, driver inattention alert, distance alert system, traffic sign recognition, speed limit recommendation and speed limiter function, front and rear parking sensors, 180-degree reversing camera with top-down view and tyre pressure monitoring.
Add to this child lock functionality for the rear doors and windows and ISOFIX mounting points in the rear window seats.
What’s it go like?
The 2023 upgrade adds extra power and torque to the existing 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with power up from 121 kW to 133 kW at 5500 rpm and torque from 240 to 250 Nm at 1650 rpm.
Transmission also steps up from the previous Aisin six-speed automatic transmission to an eight-speed Efficient Automatic.
As before, drive is to the front wheels; there’s no all-wheel drive option.
Fuel consumption is listed at 5.7L/100km on the combined city/highway cycle.
We averaged 7.4 L/100km during our week-long test.
The interior of the C5 Aircross is large, comfortable and functional with a high-driving position and height and reach steering wheel adjustment.
The steering wheel, with built-in controls, has a lovely feel to it.
It has a thick rim with a flat base paired with a gloss black and satin chrome finish and full-grain leather.
The seats are wide and comfortable.
According to Citroen they have been inspired by modern bedding and its use of ‘memory materials’, including foams of different densities and hardness depending on the role – support or cushioning – of the component.
Both driver and front passenger seats have heating, but only the driver has powered adjustment, multi-point massage and lumbar support.
There is plenty of practical storage spaces including a large butterfly-style storage box in the centre console.
In front of it are two cup holders and a long slot ideal for wallets or phones.
At the base of the front console there’s another tray with two USB ports and a 12V power socket.
Rear passengers get directional air vents and another USB port.
There’s plenty of headroom both front and rear with the three individual rear seats able to slide forward and back, tilted or folded although the centre seat folds flat rather than providing a centre armrest.
Legroom isn’t quite so good even with the seats set back.
C5 Aircross has an impressive cargo capacity of 580 litres, expanding to 720 litres when the rear seats are folded, up to 1630 litres to roof height.
The boot floor can be set to two different levels, with a space saver spare wheel beneath it.
Unlike its Peugeot 3008 sibling/rival there’s no plug-in hybrid variant for the Aircross at this stage although it is available overseas.
The standout feature of C5 Aircross is comfort, not only inside but also in its driving qualities.
It uses Citroen’s all-new Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension which use two hydraulic stops – one for compression and one for rebound which work in tandem to further slow down the whole action of the shocks.
Advanced soundproofing reduces road and wind noise by using double-laminated front windows, while attention has also been paid to the engine compartment’s soundproofing.
Although C5 Aircross doesn’t come with all-wheel drive, it does have Citroen’s Advanced Grip Control which provides some AWD-like capability on low-grip surfaces – snow, mud, sand, ESP off — through the vehicle’s traction control system.
Performance is much as you would expect from a four-cylinder 1.6-litre engine
It works fine around the suburbs and cruises well enough on the motorway, but did struggle to accelerate quickly when needed a hilly segment of our rural test route.
What we like?
Driver display user-friendly
Good fuel consumption
Wireless smartphone charging
What we don’t like?
Smaller than leading competitors
Needs more power for overtaking
Only 182mm of ground clearance
No all-wheel drive option
The bottom line?
Unfortunately for Citroen the C5 Aircross sits in the congested mid-sized SUV market segment.
Although, at $54,990 plus on-road costs, it’s priced around the same level as the top spec models of its rivals it’s languishing near the bottom of sales ladder.
It’s disappointing because it offers so much in terms of performance, styling, comfort and individuality. Well worth a comparison test drive.