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Citroen C5 HDi 2004 Review

I became used to its rather unique style and its "relaxed" pace.

Take, for example, the car we've just finished driving – Citroen's C5 HDi Estate.

To be frank, our first impressions were not too complimentary. I found it noisy, desperately slow and, if that wasn't enough, it didn't even strike me as being all that pretty to look at.

But I guess that's why we test cars over a few days, rather than just a quick spin around the block.

Because, ever so slowly, this car began to win me over. Slowly being the operative word. It took a while to warm to a car that takes forever to get itself up and running, but the Citroen earned our affection in other ways.

In part, it's because I became used to its rather unique style and its "relaxed" pace.

Mainly, though, we loved the fact that even after driving it for more than a week, the fuel gauge was still showing almost half full.

So every time we'd spot a fuel station with prices reading well over $1 a litre, our Citroen C5 HDi Estate just kept on chugging happily past.

There's a reason for that, which I should explain. The HDi bit means this car is powered by a diesel engine; the Estate part is Euro-talk for station wagon; and the Citroen bit, well, that means it's French. And, if you know anything about French cars, that also means it's a bit quirky.

The Citroen name always reminds me of those exotic cars they built during the '60s and '70s; big, sleek-backed things with pneumatic suspension which, when stationary, would drop the rear-end almost to the ground.

They looked like a cross between a giant cockroach and something from another world which, in those days, they were.

Although Citroens don't look quite as "alien" these days, they still have a unique style and that pneumatic suspension remains, even if it's a bit more sophisticated.

And then there's the diesel engine, the likes of which have become hugely popular in Europe.

Unfortunately for Citroen, the C5's diesel is probably a generation behind some of the latest oil-burners, like those in the Audi A3/VW Golf, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW's X5.

By comparison, the Citroen diesel is a bit sluggish. At best. This was never more evident than when I pulled alongside an old truck, loaded up with boxes of fruit, at the traffic lights...and struggled to get ahead of it once the lights changed.

Changing the automatic transmission into "sport" mode helped a bit, but not much. We're talking about 15 seconds for the 0-100km/h "sprint".

At least the C5 has nice, plush leather seats, complete with arm rests in the front, so you can be comfortable while waiting for it to get motoring. And once it does, the big wagon isn't a bad thing at all. It handles well, even though that pneumatic suspension makes the ride feel a little soft and vague.

It's nicely fitted out and smartly finished. You get dual-zone climate control air; top-notch CD-stereo with wheel-mounted controls; automatic lights and rain-sensing wipers, electric everything (including mirrors that fold themselves in when you turn the engine off) plus lashings of leather. All pretty good buying for well under $50-grand.

Over a few weeks, we tested both the petrol-engined C5 sedan and diesel-engined Estate. Interestingly, it's the smartly-performed petrol version which Citroen is finding hardest to sell, even offering free trips to Paris for new buyers. Strange, really, because we thought it was a lovely thing.

So why would you opt for the diesel variant? Well it makes enormous sense if you're travelling regular long distances.

A work colleague recently began commuting from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane every day and reported that the C5 diesel made the journey, a daily round trip of about 180km, almost five times on one tank of fuel. That's fabulous going for a car so big, comfortable and so able to swallow a huge load.

Even around town, we were astonished to see the digital trip computer showing the C5 sipping just 7l/100km in heavy traffic. On the open road it will manage closer to five.

At highway speeds (once you get there) it's competent if not inspiring. It will happily sit on the speed limit but it's not exactly dynamic when you need to overtake.

I was a bit surprised to find my wife, who's never been a fan of noisy diesel engines, defending the Citroen.

"I think it's very nice. I don't know what you're complaining about," she said.

It's too slow, I protested. "You drive too fast," came the reply. "Nothing wrong with it."

So the Citroen, it seems, has even won over a committed diesel-hater.

And, I'd have to admit, by the end of the week it had won me over too.

Ever so slowly.

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Range and Specs

(base) 2.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,640 – 4,070 2004 Citroen C5 2004 (base) Pricing and Specs
HDi 2.0L, Diesel, 4 SP AUTO $5,170 – 7,590 2004 Citroen C5 2004 HDi Pricing and Specs
HDi LIMITED ED 2.0L, Diesel, 4 SP AUTO $6,270 – 8,800 2004 Citroen C5 2004 HDi LIMITED ED Pricing and Specs
V6 Exclusive 2.9L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,730 – 6,930 2004 Citroen C5 2004 V6 Exclusive Pricing and Specs
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