Citroen C5 review
The Citroen C5 is a hugely comfortable saloon that excels at motorway cruising, while top-spec cars rival compact executives for luxury
The C5 harks back to Citroens of old - large, quirky cars which focus on superb comfort over almost anything else. It's intended as a rival to family cars like the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia - but put it up against those cars and it soon begins to fall short in many areas. Space is the biggest problem - this isn't a very practical car, and while the Citroen C5 Tourer (estate) goes some way to aiding this, it still falls short of class rivals. The C5's age counts against it too, and it's not as generously kitted out as more modern rivals. Entry-level VTR cars are stingily equipped, and while models higher in the range are better, the price soon starts to rise towards Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series money - at which point the C5 feels totally outclassed.
Our choice: C5 2.0 HDi Exclusive
Engines, performance and drive
If you want a smooth, quiet and comfortable car, the C5 should be top of your list. The most expensive C5 Exclusive version gets laminated glass to reduce noise and air-suspension for pillow-soft ride quality, but even the lesser models offer executive saloon levels of refinement. While this makes for a superb driving experience on the motorway, the C5's shortcomings become very clear as soon as you turn off onto a more challenging road. The soft suspension allows the car to pitch and roll significantly under braking and through corners, which will put off keen drivers more used to the sharper responses of a Mondeo. As regards engines, it's hard to look past the mid-range 2.0-litre HDi diesel, as it offers the best compromise between power and efficiency. The smaller 1.6-litre diesel can feel overwhelmed at times – especially with four people and their luggage on board – while the larger 3.0-litre engine doesn't deliver enough extra power to justify its poorer fuel economy.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
All Citroen C5s are relatively affordable to run, as diesel engines are the only option. Choosing an automatic gearbox does hurt fuel economy, of course, but you should see at least 45mpg whichever model you choose. If you want maximum economy, go for the 1.6-litre HDi diesel in special eco-friendly C5 Airdream spec, which can achieve over 60mpg. It does feel pretty underpowered at times, though – the 2.0-litre HDi paired with a six-speed manual gearbox offers a more relaxed driving experience. The basic VTR model looks like good value at a shade over £20,000, until you consider how poorly equipped it is. VTR+ is a much better-value choice. Exclusive models have all the toys, but they're so expensive that they pitch the C5 against compact executive cars such as the Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series – all of which drive better and have much stronger residual values than the C5.
Interior, design and technology
Despite a conventional four-door saloon body, the C5 looks a lot more distinctive and sophisticated than most of its rivals. Some styling touches have been inspired by the larger and even more unusual-looking C6 executive saloon – such as the sleek, rounded front-end and large Citroen double chevron badge on the grille. The C5's cabin is one of its best features: it's stylish and well built throughout, with top-spec Exclusive models adding wood trim and leather upholstery to the mix. The only downside is that the C5's driving experience doesn't live up to the very impressive looks.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Citroen C5 is a four-door saloon, so it's immediately at a disadvantage compared to hatchbacks like the Mazda 6 and Ford Mondeo. Its 439-litre boot falls well short of the Mondeo's 528-litre load space, although you do get 60:40 split folding rear. seats. Things are better in the cabin, where front and rear seat occupants enjoy plenty of head, knee and legroom, however the small glovebox and door pockets don't offer much space for your odds and ends.
Reliability and Safety
Citroen is keen to market the fact that its cars are much more reliable these days than back in the eighties or nineties – but models like the C5 continue to lag behind rivals when it comes to mechanical and electrical problems. Many recalls have been issued since it went on sale, however as it's been available for several years now and been facelifted recently, a lot of the worst bugs should have been ironed out. Citroen was the 24th-ranked manufacturer in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, while the C5 itself placed 139th out of 150 cars. Safety is a much stronger suit for this car: it reassures with the maximum five-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP and ESP is standard across the range. The top-spec Exclusive adds further peace of mind with its eTouch system, which will alert the emergency services if the car is involved in an accident.