Road tests

New Citroen C5 X PHEV 2022 review

The new Citroen C5 X has hit the UK, but does it make the most sense in plug-in hybrid form? We find out…

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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You might not think a big hatchback-cum-estate would be all that appealing in a world obsessed with SUVs, but thanks to some crossover cues and plenty of talent, the C5 X most definitely is. It feels like relatively good value, especially given the level of kit on offer, while in PHEV form it offers the kind of comfort and refinement you expect from premium machinery.

It might be SUVs that sell in big numbers today, but Citroen hasn't completely turned its back on its heritage when it comes to trend-bucking cars, shown by the new C5 X.

Think of this as a kind of catch-all rival that covers ground occupied by the Skoda Superb and other large family hatchbacks (as well as those that don't want a family SUV) that will also appeal to company car drivers – no surprise, then, that Citroen offers the C5 X with a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

It's this model we're testing here for the first time in the UK, which combines a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a 12.4kWh battery that feeds an electric motor. While the powertrain is similar to that in the brand's recently updated C5 Aircross SUV, the battery is actually smaller, yet the C5 X claims a similar 38 miles of zero-emissions electric range thanks to its more slippery shape.

The two power sources produce 222bhp and 250Nm of torque, so the PHEV will accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, and it feels swift enough on the move. But the C5 X plug-in isn't about out-right performance or handling and the powertrain is much more at home if you opt for a relaxed style.

Here the petrol-electric set-up's refinement comes to the fore, with the e-motor assisting so that the combustion engine doesn't have to work as hard. It means you don't hear that much from the four-cylinder unit, plus the electrical assistance feels like it helps the e-EAT8 eight-speed automatic gearbox deliver smoother shifts. Accelerate harder and the transmission's responses are more staccato and not quite as slick.

Key to any large Citroen like this is ride comfort, and all plug-in hybrid C5 X models feature the brand's Advanced Comfort Active adaptive suspension with clever Progressive Hydraulic Cushion tech.

While the standard suspension on pure-petrol versions is still compliant, this set-up takes a step on in terms of ride comfort and refinement, showing the C5 X off in its best light along with the plug-in powertrain.

It's not totally immune from sharper bumps – especially at low speed – but the system soaks them up well and feels like a return to form for the brand when it comes to big, comfortable cars. As you up the speed the ride gets smoother too, with the C5 X at its best on sweeping A roads and motorways, where the engine's easy-going nature aligns nicely with the chassis. It's no doubt helped by a more sophisticated multi-link rear axle set-up rather than a simpler torsion beam system as you get with some rivals.

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This focus on comfort and refinement means it's not the sharpest car to drive, but it actually doesn't sacrifice as much as you might think dynamically. The light steering is precise, which means the C5 X steers and changes direction predictably, if not with the most alertness, but there's enough grip and composure.

Ultimate handling is not what this Citroen is about, though. It's a family-focused machine that puts practicality and technology above involvement and enjoyment from behind the wheel.

With that in mind the C5 X's big tailgate reveals 485 litres of boot space in this PHEV, which is 60 litres down on its ICE sibling – but this deficit isn't as much as going for a PHEV Skoda Superb compared with a pure-petrol model. Plus the C5 X's load bay is a good shape, and thanks to the scalable EMP2 platform it's based on, which delivers a 2,785mm wheelbase here, there's a good level of legroom in the rear seats, too.

Despite the car's slightly raised ride height giving the C5 X almost crossover connotations along with the chunkier wheel arch cladding, it could be a little easier to get into the rear, but this is a very minor gripe and there's still a good level of headroom despite a relatively sport silhouette to the rear roofline.

Pricing for the PHEV starts from £36,470 and rises to £39,960 for this top-spec Shine Plus model, coming in under the all-important £40,000 threshold for the VED surcharge.

For that price you get lots of kit, including dual-zone climate control, all-round parking sensors with a rear-view camera, 19-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, a heated steering wheel, plenty of advanced driver assistance systems and a seven-inch digital dash.

It's a nice piece of technology (although we'd like a little more configurability) that's joined by a useful head-up display, while all C5 X's feature a widescreen 12-inch central touchscreen running the brand's latest MyCitroen Drive Plus infotainment system. It's new software that works fairly well and is an improvement on Citroen's previous set-up.

But by far the biggest plus point is that Citroen has separated out the climate controls with physicals knobs and buttons. No longer do you have to prod the screen to tweak the temperature.

The finish inside is mostly good, with some soft materials and nice metal detailing, plus leather seats that feature chevron-effect stitching – a motif repeated on the wood-like dashboard insert  - and the C5 X mostly offers a relatively upmarket air. It's tarnished by some solid, hard surfaces, such as the glovebox lid, but it's not bad given the price tag.

Model: Citroen C5 X Plug-in Hybrid 225 Shine Plus
Price:  £39,960
Engine:  1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol + e-motor
Power/torque:  222bhp/250Nm
Transmission:  Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:  7.9 seconds
Top speed:  145mph
Economy/CO2:  236mpg/30g/km
On sale:  Now

Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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