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Citroen C5 2.2 HDi VTR+

New hope blends great looks with promise of class-leading comfort

  • Exceptional brakes. The pedal is soft, but the Citroen stopped from 60mph in 30.4 metres – one of the best figures we’ve recorded.
  • The controls are complex and the gearshift lacks the positive action of the Mazda’s.

Talk about a transformation. The first C5 was best known for its dowdy styling, but the new one takes inspiration from the bold C6 executive saloon. That alone should guarantee it makes more of an impact in the family car sales charts than its predecessor.

It’s in dealers from next week, with a Tourer estate due in the summer, and Citroen says the C5 brings new vitality and personality to a class where status is key. Put simply, buyers aspire to German brands – could that be why the rear lights seem to have been taken from an Audi A4, while the sculpted flanks hint at the BMW 5-Series?

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Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Citroen C5

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Overall, it’s a handsome car with pronounced creases – especially the bonnet ridges. But it looks better from some angles than others, and is sensitive to colour and wheel choice. Stronger shades and larger-diameter rims help to disguise the fact that the new C5 is big.

It’s longer than the Ford – if only by a single millimetre – and is very nearly as wide, too. This bodes well for interior space, as does the large boot opening and split-fold rear seats.

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However, the saloon can’t match its two hatchback competitors in this test for practicality. And passenger space is also limited. Although there is a flat floor, it has 80mm less legroom than the Ford, while shoulder room and head clearance are tight. But with 70 per cent of cars in this sector going to fleet customers to spend their lives pounding motorways, it’s the driving environment that’s critical to the C5’s success.

The design is good on the whole. It’s not as user-friendly as the Mazda’s nor as attractive as the Ford’s, yet it’s individual and interesting. The stylish door panels are great, the seats are well shaped and it’s much easier to reach the buttons on the redesigned fixed-hub steering wheel.

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There are two major weaknesses, though. Firstly, we counted eight cubbies including the door pockets, and they’re all small and inaccessible. Secondly – and of much more importance given Citroen’s claim of improved quality – the C5 simply isn’t as well built as the Mondeo, let alone a premium German saloon. The materials don’t seem any more tactile or easy on the eye than those in the C4 hatch, the orange lighting looks cheap and there’s evidence of corner-cutting.

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Going for a drive will help put your mind at rest, largely because the Citroen is so soothing. The 2.2 HDi diesel never emits more than a distant hum, and power delivery is relaxed.

Performance is a secondary consideration. Just as well, because while the 171bhp C5 is ahead of the 138bhp Mazda and Ford in terms of output, it wasn’t much quicker at the test track.

It’s easy to see why. At 1,729kg, the Citroen is 200kg heavier than the Mazda. We blame the 2.2’s Hydractive suspension – a 2.0 HDi with standard springs weighs 121kg less.

Nevertheless, the gas suspension system gives the C5 a unique feel – and one that’s focused exclusively on comfort. Even with Sport mode engaged there’s no hint of athletic ability – the steering remains vague and the suspension soft, although roll is limited and grip good.

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If you spend plenty of time on motorways, you’ll love the way the Citroen seems to glide along. OK, the suspension is less able to deal with sharp ridges and potholes, but overall it’s a relaxing car.

And a good value one, too. Not only is the standard kit list generous, the C5’s long-term |running costs are manageable, too.

Details

Price: £19,895
Chart position: 2
WHY: The C5 is built on the C6 platform and promises a big step forward in build quality and space.

Economy

It’s by far the heaviest car here, as well as the most powerful – so we weren’t surprised the C5 was the least efficient. Its 35.7mpg average gave it the shortest range, at 558 miles, and fuel costs nearly £200 higher than the Mazda’s.

Residuals

AT first glance, a residual value of just over 40 per cent isn’t great news – but it’s a healthy seven per cent up on the old C5, and the same margin ahead of the executive C6. Overall, it loses £713 less than the Ford, yet still drops by £11,857.

Servicing

OUR Driver Power 2007 dealer survey rated Citroen’s network a lowly 24th out of 32. But you won’t have to visit very often, as the C5 has 20,000-mile intervals. The firm says the new car should cost less than its predecessor to service.

Tax

The C5 is the most powerful car, but this does mean extra CO2 – and that drives up its cost for business use. Lower-band drivers face a tax bill of £1,094. We suspect the 138bhp car – which emits 157g/km – will be more popular.

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