Citroen C5

Big, diesel-powered automatics are nothing new, but with petrol costs now at an all-time high, these models are fast becoming a staple choice for families on the move.

The C5 is showing its age, but the addition of a six-speed auto option certainly improves its appeal. However, in top-spec Exclusive trim, the 2.0-litre HDi is pricey. Buyers are likely to get a hefty discount, but even the engine and gearbox combination is unlikely to prevent heavier depreciation than on newer, better looking rivals.

Big, diesel-powered automatics are nothing new, but with petrol costs now at an all-time high, these models are fast becoming a staple choice for families on the move.

Citroen hopes that buyers searching for economical and relaxed transport will give the latest addition to its C5 range a look, as it builds on the car's recent facelift with a new six-speed self-shifting gearbox.

This is the first time the family hatchback has been available with so many gears in automatic mode, so to see how it measures up, we tried a range-topping Exclusive model for size.

With the firm's 136bhp 2.0-litre HDi oil-burner under the bonnet, there's strong performance on offer, and the sprint from 0-60mph takes 11.3 seconds. More importantly, there is also an impressive 320Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm.

The adaptive gearbox - which is also available with the 3.0-litre V6 petrol powerplant - makes for a smooth drive around town. However, the quirky-looking Citroen's real forte has always been motorways, and the newcomer upholds that tradition.

Keeping up with traffic requires only modest effort from the engine, while the clever Hydractive 3 pneumatic suspension isolates bumpy surfaces to offer serene progress. The floaty ride won't appeal to everyone though, and enthusiastic drivers will be put off by excessive dive under braking and pronounced body roll through bends.

The suspension's Sport setting does improve matters by firming up the ride slightly, but the big hatchback is still more about comfort and space, rather than performance. The uncommunicative steering merely confirms this feeling once you're behind the rake and reach adjustable wheel.

If the urge does take you, there's the option to select ratios manually by engaging the sequential function. Shifts can be made either up or down simply by pushing forward or pulling back on the metallic gearlever. As with the suspension, the new transmission also includes a sharper Sport mode, which makes the oil-burner more eager to kick down when accelerating.

With front and rear parking sensors, directional xenon headlights and tyre pressure monitors all standard, the Exclusive comes loaded with equipment. However, the leather upholstery (£1,300) and satellite navigation system (£1,500) fitted to our test car inflate the price to more than £24,000.

On the plus side, a quick phone call to a dealer revealed the firm is offering £3,200 cashback throughout January on this flagship model's £21,395 list price. Yet no matter what the specification, for some people that's still a lot of money to spend on a Citroen.

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