New Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 136 review

A new mild hybrid petrol engine option enhances Citroen’s family car offering with extra efficiency and refinement

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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You certainly can’t accuse Citroen of forgetting its family SUV, the C5 Aircross. It facelifted the comfort-focused model only last year, improved some of its electric-range figures a few months later – and now it has introduced a fresh mild-hybrid edition.

Called the C5 Aircross Hybrid 136, the new variant features a fresh version of Stellantis’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech petrol engine (Citroen claims 40 per cent of the oily bits have changed), producing 134bhp and 230Nm. This unit is paired with a 48v mild-hybrid electric motor that adds up to 12bhp and 55Nm.

The end result is a car whose performance figures on paper are remarkably close to those of the regular eight-speed auto PureTech 130. But the on-the-road difference could be more significant than the raw numbers suggest, because the electric motor comes integrated into an all-new six-speed dual-clutch transmission, called e-DSC6, that’s been designed specifically to work with the hybrid systems.

There are certainly potential gains in fuel economy; Citroen claims users could save as much as 15 per cent in consumption over a regular PureTech 130 auto, and the official combined economy figure is up to 53mpg, with 129g/km of CO2 compared with the non-hybrid’s 148g/km. Company-car users will still be better off looking at the (more expensive) BiK-busting plug-in hybrid version, of course, but Citroen hopes private buyers might find the Hybrid 136 a viable alternative to the diesel

As such, it has thrown the new model properly into the mix with its stablemates on list price. You’ll pay a premium of around £1,200 over a regular eight-speed automatic PureTech 130, and around half that amount more than an auto BlueHDi diesel. The Hybrid 136 starts at £32,295, in fact, which is more than £2,000 less than the 48v mild-hybrid version of Hyundai’s Tucson, our class favourite and an obvious rival.

On the road, the Hybrid 136 is probably the most convincing C5 Aircross to date. There’s a bit of three-cylinder grumble from the PureTech as you fire it up, but pull away and you’ll soon find yourself driving on electric power alone. Citroen claims the car can run in zero-emissions mode up to half the time around town, and based on our predominantly urban route, we wouldn’t expect it to fall far short of this. 

The powertrain’s relaxed approach fits nicely with the C5 Aircross’s focus on comfort, in fact. The electric motor does a good job of smoothing out the shifts and its torque reserves mean that the gearbox can shift up pretty early, allowing a torque boost to fill in where the engine might otherwise be found lacking at low revs. The end result is a car that’s happy to cruise along on motorways, with commendable refinement; the biggest noise you’ll hear at 70mph is some wind rush from around the side mirrors. Citroen has done a good job of modulating the brake pedal too, so the transition between energy recuperation and good old-fashioned discs and pads is genuinely hard to detect.

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The chassis remains targeted on comfort, so there are no thrills to be had here, and you’ll encounter plenty of body roll if you throw the C5 at a corner. But that’s a price worth paying when the mix of Stellantis’s EMP2 platform and Citroen’s ‘hydraulic cushions’ (in effect, hydraulic bump stops) does a decent job of soothing out road imperfections. A few telltale EMP2 platform traits do remain – so sharp, rapid-frequency surface inputs can still go beyond the limits of the hydraulic cushions and jolt through to the cabin – but in general, this remains one of the cushiest offerings in the class.

If there’s a gripe with the powertrain, it’s that the electric motor itself is a little noisier when it’s acting as an inverter to harness brake energy than it is when it’s assisting the petrol engine. So you get a bit of a noticeable whine when you lift off the throttle. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s a near-constant reminder that you’ve got some electrified tech beneath you.

The rest of the C5 package is unchanged – so the cabin has a reasonably well-optimised mix of materials, with squidgy finishes in the key areas and, thankfully, a relative lack of Stellantis’s poor-wearing gloss-black plastic. Citroen is currently in the process of revamping its entire trim-level line-up, but for now at least, the Shine model that introduces the Hybrid 136 has a fair level of standard kit, including 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, heated front seats, dual-zone air-con, a 12.30-inch digital instrument cluster, and LED head and tail-lights.

There’s space on board for four adults, and practicality is boosted further by three rear seats that can slide fore and aft to prioritise individual passenger space or the boot capacity.

The load bay itself is a decent size and shape (580 litres, or 1,630 if you fold down the second row seats), and a variable-height floor means you can extend its space if you’re willing to haul items in over a chunkier lip. It’s a shame, though, that Citroen hasn’t seen fit to include even a single sidewall hook for shopping bags in such a family-oriented model.

Arguably the weakest point is infotainment, since the C5 Aircross still has to make do with the older system instead of the slicker and faster set-up that features in the C5 X and even the smaller C4 and C4 X. As such, you get clunky mapping, slow responses and an interface that requires a few too many prods for some common functions. It’s in this area, perhaps more than ever, where the C5 Aircross still lags behind the Korean opposition.

Model: Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 136 Shine
Price: £32,295
Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 134bhp/230Nm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 45.6-53.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 129g/km
On sale: Now

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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