Long-term tests

Citroen C5 Aircross PHEV: long-term test review

First report: our plug-in hybrid Citroen C5 Aircross SUV brings the promise of superb economy

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

Verdict

The Citroen C5 Aircross delights and frustrates in equal measures. I love the unique looks inside and out, and how easy it is to live with. It’s just a shame that the flat-battery economy isn’t stronger. The next few months will be very interesting indeed.

  • Mileage: 3,597
  • Economy: 33.6mpg

Platform sharing. It’s now commonplace for cars to share the same basic chassis toolkit. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything becomes the same. Sometimes, it allows brands the freedom to take a few risks.

It’s these quirks that I’ve been enjoying most with the Citroen C5 Aircross over the past few months. I love the off-beat styling, the bold paintwork and the funky interior. In a world of Russian-doll styling and monochrome paint – as demonstrated above – it’s a breath of fresh air.

It’s the complete reverse of the Vauxhall Grandland X I ran back in 2018, a car that, like the C5 Aircross, is underpinned by Stellantis’s EMP2 platform. That car was conservatively styled in the extreme, and the fuel economy didn’t impress – two criticisms that can’t be levelled at the Volcano Red plug-in hybrid you see here.

The £35,000 asking price isn’t too bad either, especially when the C5 Aircross undercuts hybrid versions of both the Peugeot 3008 and DS 7 Crossback.

So what do you get for your money? Well, as standard, my Flair model (since renamed as Shine) gets the City Camera Pack with a combination of displays, including a handy composite bird’s-eye view, a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument display, AEB with modes to detect pedestrians (not yet put to the test, fortunately), and traffic sign recognition. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a very good thing indeed, because the touchscreen interface isn’t the most intuitive or responsive. 

Of more importance to the young-family car driver are the buttons to disable the rear window switches and to activate the child locks, which puts an end to the need to flick fiddly switches in the door jambs.

The business end of charging works well. There’s a 6.6kW onboard charger that means a full battery top-up takes less than two hours, something that’s good for a WLTP-certified range of 33-40 miles. In reality, and mostly cool weather conditions, I’ve been covering more like 23 miles.

The charging flap is on the passenger-side rear wing, which isn’t ideal because it means I have a slightly tricky reverse parking manoeuvre to execute to get close to my Pod Point wallbox.

Naturally, with any kind of PHEV your efficiency may vary. Early on, and with a full battery charge, the trip readout was indicating 100mpg-plus economy figures. With the battery depleted, it’s settled to 33.6mpg on mostly round-town journeys. So I’ll be hooking it up to my wallbox on a regular basis to try to improve those figures.

All the usual drive modes are available; it’ll default to Electric when the battery has a slug of charge, and Hybrid when it doesn’t. Sport mode is largely redundant, but the charge hold function is handy for ensuring electric-only driving in towns and cities.

Acoustically insulated front side windows are fitted to all hybrid models, and they certainly help to make electric-only progress really very quiet indeed. When the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine kicks in, it does so very smoothly, although it gets rather thrashy if you come anywhere close to replicating the 8.7-second 0-62mph time.

While the Aircross doesn’t offer one-pedal driving, an enhanced brake regen mode is accessed by a tug of the gearstick. It’s not perfect though: the gearlever is on the left side of the transmission tunnel – a slight stretch away and likely a result of the switch from left to right-hand drive.

That aside, there’s a healthy amount of storage: wide door bins, cubbies ahead and to the side of the gearlever, and vast space between the front seats for a large pack of anti-bacterial wipes, bottles of alcohol gel and rubber gloves – items that have come to define the past 12 months.

Model:Citroen C5 Aircross PHEV e-EAT8 Flair
On fleet since:February 2021
Price new:£35,370
Engine:1.6-litre 4cyl petrol + e-motor, 222bhp
CO2/tax:32-41g/km/£140
Options:Volcano Red paint (£545), White Anodised Colour pack (£0)
Insurance*:Group: 27  Quote: £487
Mileage/mpg:3,597/33.6mpg
Any problems?None so far

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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