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In-depth reviews

Citroen C5 Aircross review - Engines, performance and drive

Frugal yet powerful petrol and diesel engines are slightly let down by the softly-sprung suspension

Citroen’s unique approach to developing the C5 Aircross doesn’t just extend to the exterior design. The car benefits from Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension that we first saw on the C4 Cactus when it received its mid-life facelift. The suspension works by replacing the usual bump stops in a car’s suspension with a pair of hydraulic dampers. The theory is that it will make the C5 Aircross feel like a Citroen from the days when cars carrying the double chevrons were famous for gliding over bumps.

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Does it work? Sadly, it’s something of an acquired taste. At a 70mph cruise, the C5 Aircross rides exactly as advertised, gliding along with occupants completely cocooned from the outside world. Refinement is excellent, too, thanks to double-glazing and extra sound-proofing crammed into the engine bay that ensure things remain seriously serene. However, it all goes wrong when you approach a bend. While the car is never especially short of grip, the softly sprung setup means you’ll be leaning on the outside door, or an unwilling passenger, when cornering enthusiastically.

Of more concern is that the C5 Aircross thumps into even mild potholes and bumps, sending a nasty shiver through the car’s body. The effect is that the Aircross’s suspension manages to tell you about bumps you might not even see – which is confusing given that you’re unlikely to feel them through the numb steering. While not full of feel, that steering is at least light and the turning circle is usefully tight. 

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The C5 Aircross is fitted with Advanced Comfort Seats; they’re a strange mixture of plenty of under-thigh support but little to keep you in place laterally when the car turns. Through brisker bends they compound the problem of the softer suspension that has you swaying this way and that. On the plus side, the driving position itself is good, with decent visibility and large door mirrors to make manoeuvring easy.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

We tried the 1.5 BlueHDi diesel engine, coupled to the eight-speed automatic gearbox. The engine is a perky yet frugal choice, with noise levels very well subdued by extra sound proofing under the bonnet. We’re not particular fans of the eight-speed automatic gearbox - it’s okay most of the time, but gets flummoxed too easily when you stomp the throttle hoping for a lower gear.

Both the 1.2 three-cylinder PureTech petrol and 1.5 BlueHDi develop 129bhp. The latter is 70Nm more torquey, however, and a fine choice in various other Peugeot and Citroen models, especially when combined with the six-speed manual gearbox -  able to advance from 0-62mph in a little over 10 seconds, while the more potent 2.0 diesel cuts this by a couple of seconds. 

The new C5 Aircross Hybrid uses the PureTech 180 engine, but with an electric motor sandwiched between the power unit and the eight-speed automatic gearbox. As a result of combining the petrol unit with an 80kW electric motor, the plug-in model produces a total combined power output of 222bhp.

If you’re swayed by the Citroen’s emphasis on comfort, however, the petrol unit could well be the one to choose. In the Peugeot 3008, it’s quiet and refined, and, despite its small size, still powerful enough to match the Skoda Kodiaq in our in-gear tests.

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