Citroen C5 2.2 HDi

Quirky choice in this class scores on refinement and comfort.

  • C5 saloon is one of the most striking models in this group; gas-filled suspension to give the C5 a smooth ride.
  • Cabin space is disappointing; C5 can’t compete with the big hatchbacks’ versatility.

With one of the most unexpected advertising campaigns of the year, the Citroen C5 has already made a big splash. It’s claimed to be “unmistakably German”, indicating that Citroen has made huge steps forward in terms of quality and image. Yet this hasn’t come at the expense of quirky French design: fans of the brand will be pleased to learn a host of distinctive cues have gone into the C5, helping to increase its appeal.

As with the Accord, the Citroen is available only as a saloon or estate – it has similar aspirations to break into the executive class above, where four-doors rule the roost. However, the styling couldn’t contrast the Honda’s more.

At 4,779mm, this is the longest car here, if only by 1mm over the Mondeo, and it looks as substantial as the Ford. It has a more planted appearance than the version it replaces and there are design flourishes all over the place to catch your eye. From bulges on the bonnet to the stunning concave rear screen – a feature first seen on the larger C6 – it’s great to look at.

Open the door and the quirkiness is toned down. While the overall design is attractive, we’ve got the same issues with the C5’s dash as we did with its predecessor’s – ergonomics and build quality. At first the fit and finish seem fine, but over the course of a long drive you begin to notice the cabin creaking when cornering. What will it sound like after 50,000 miles?

It’s the details that let the big French model down. There are as many switches on the dash as on the Accord’s, but they are too small and tightly packed. The chronograph typeface on the dials is fantastic, yet the floating needles are tiny and can be hard to see at a glance. Cabin practicality falls short of the mark, as there are too many tiny cubbies and the glovebox could also be bigger.

Space is at a premium in the rear, too. Given its exterior dimensions, we expected the C5 to be one of the most generous cars on test, yet only the Accord has less legroom. The 439-litre boot capacity is only average in this company as well.

The handling is worlds apart from any rival’s, and it’s all down to the suspension. The 2.2-litre HDi gets the latest version of Citroen’s legendary Hydractive set-up. On a motorway it’s a revelation but, on a challenging, twisty road, it can struggle.

Along major highways, the car is perfectly capable, floating along with superb refinement and comfort. Yet on rural routes, the gas-filled system’s weaknesses become apparent as it fails to damp suspension movements accurately. Even in Sport mode, it’s the softest set-up here.

The C5 isn’t helped by the steering, either; it’s too light and offers no feel whatsoever. And while the new six-speed manual transmission is accurate enough – it’s certainly better than the gearbox in the Laguna – it’s far less engaging than the Accord’s snappy shifter.

However, for most C5 buyers, none of that matters. To them, the model’s quirks are all part of its charm and, if you do most of your mileage on motorways, you will soon reap the benefits of the Hydractive suspension.

At £21,395, the Citroen sits in the middle of the price range on this test. And it’s well equipped as standard, although it’s worth noting that our test car was fitted with plenty of options, taking the cost up to £26,555. Still, even without the extras, this is one family car that’s sure to be a talking point, wherever it goes.

Details

Price: £21,395Model tested: C5 2.2 HDi ExclusiveChart position: 4WHY: C5 has outstanding comfort and beautiful styling details, along with a strong 2.2-litre engine.

Economy

The test’s most powerful engine is the least efficient: the C5 returned only 35.7mpg. A 558-mile range is good, though.

Residuals

A resale value of 32.2 per cent is the worst here. But that’s on the C5’s full asking price, which could be discounted.

Tax

Hefty 172g/km CO2 output makes the C5 the priciest option on test for company drivers: low-rate earners shell out £1,176.

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