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What’s a point of difference you look for in the oversaturated SUV market? Is it price? Warranty? Features? How about comfort?
There are a lot of mid-size SUVs in Australia. Most of them like to trade on their features or value or, more than ever, sportiness.
You can see it in the huge wheels, aggressive body kits, stiff suspension. The list goes on. But not for the Citroen C5 Aircross.
The most recent offering from the storied French automaker is all about one thing. Comfort.
My question is why is comfort in SUV-land such a niche concept? And how does this quirky orange Citroen get it so right? Read on to find out.
|Citroen C5 Aircross 2019: Feel|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The C5 Aircross enters Australia in just two spec levels, and the one reviewed here is the base Feel. Priced at $39,990, before on-road costs, it’s not exactly cheap, but is thankfully well specified.
And at the time of publication a Citroen drive-away pricing campaign pitched the Feel at $44,175 with all registration, dealer and other pre-delivery charges included.
In the box is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio and built-in sat nav, a 12.3-inch digital dash display, auto-dimming rear-vision mirror, auto headlights and windscreen wipers, keyless entry and push-start ignition, dual-zone climate control, LED DRLs, and an electric tailgate.
That’s the good. Not-so-good are the halogen headlights (kind of detracting from the slick front styling) and the lack of radar cruise control.
The Aircross does get a decent set of active safety features explored in the safety section of this review.
Competitors? Well there’s a good chance you’ll be cross-shopping the C5 Aircross against other alternate options in the mid-size space, including the Peugeot 3008 Allure (with which the Aircross shares an engine and chassis - $40,990), the Renault Koleos Intens FWD ($43,990), and perhaps the Skoda Karoq (just one spec-level in Australia - $35,290).
The Aircross’ secret weapon, which you can’t get on any other mid-size SUV, is its seats. Citroen calls them 'Advanced Comfort' seats, and they’re stuffed with memory foam “inspired by mattress technology.”
And it sounds like pamphlet hype, but it’s not. Once you’re seated, it’s like you're floating on air. A little bit of genius!
Citroen pairs this with reasonably-sized 18-inch alloy wheels and a unique suspension system which uses “progressive hydraulic cushions” (a nod to Citroens past) to soften the ride.
It’s a double down of comfort features, and really adds up to a lovely place to be behind the wheel. All for a similar price to its Peugeot sibling. Worth considering.
It wouldn’t be a French car without a solid dollop of style, and the Aircross has heaps of it.
From the orange paint, to its floating rear light fittings and chevron emblazoned grille, the Citroen is nothing if not unique.
Just like the C4 range before it, the C5 Aircross inherits the plastic 'airbump' fittings under the doors, with the plastic-clad soft-roader look continuing over the wheelarches and across the C5’s front and rear.
There’s a lot going on, on both the front and rear of this SUV, but somehow it’s not really over-complicated, all the flourishes and highlights manage to flow into each other to maintain some semblance of consistency.
The C5’s rear is a little more tame, with body coloured panels contrasted with the plastic strip, gloss black highlights, and dual-square exhaust facades. The floating gloss-clad roof rails are a flashy if silly touch.
I’d personally argue it’s a better-looking car than its Peugeot 3008 sibling, although it looks built entirely for city-slickers rather than the adventurous type.
Inside it’s normal. For a Citroen. Gone are the days of floating steering wheels or overtly wacky instrument clusters, it’s all quite tame and that’s for the betterment of the brand.
That’s not to say it’s not a cool place to be, and I was surprised to find myself surrounded by classy fittings, quality soft-touch materials and an understated blocky design theme. The C5 gets a small, oval steering wheel which feels great in the hands.
Those awesome memory foam seats are finished in a slightly odd grey synthetic denim kind of material. Some hated it, but I thought it contrasted the car’s exterior and interior schemes well. The raised centre console gives front passengers an extra secure premium sort of feel.
The grey materials will be slightly divisive, but the number one annoyance for me was the complete lack of tactile buttons for adjusting the climate control or media functions. Is a volume knob too much to ask?
Other than that, the C5 has one of the most tame, practical interior treatments on any Citroen… possibly ever… without managing to be boring.
The C5 Aircross is one of the most practical SUVs you can buy in this segment in terms of interior space. There’s just loads of it, and plenty of smart features to back it up.
In the front you get some small trenches in the doors, lovely big cupholders in the centre console, along with a top-box which was a little shallow, but still handy, as well as a small cavity (seemingly designed to hold the key) and a big bin for stowing your wallet or phone.
Back seat occupants get decent leg and headroom, but what’s really special here is each passenger gets their own memory foam seat with enough width to travel in decent comfort. The centre passenger’s legroom isn’t even impeded by a big transmission tunnel.
Rear passengers also get pockets on the back of the front seats, dual air vents, small cupholders in the doors, and a 12-volt power outlet. With no drop-down armrest, it would be nice to see more practical cupholders in the door cards.
The boot is truly gigantic. Like, biggest in the segment gigantic. At a minimum it weighs in at 580L (VDA), but as an added boost, the rear passenger seats can be slid forward on a rail to grant a whopping 140 extra litres of space to 720L. With the rear seats down you’ll be able to make use of 1630L.
A power tailgate, able to be operated by waving a foot under the car is also standard, revealing a totally unimpeded aperture. So, not only does it have a class leading luggage area, but it’s also easy to use.
The C5 Aircross is powered by just one powerplant no matter which grade you pick. It’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 121kW/240Nm.
It shares this engine with the Peugeot 3008 and the outputs compare well with the Renault Koleos’ Nissan-sourced 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine (126kW/226Nm) considering it’s much smaller and (theoretically) less thirsty.
The ever-smart Skoda Karoq is tough to beat in this segment with its 1.5-litre engine (110kW/250Nm) putting strong torque figures on the board.
The C5 Aircross sends power to the front wheels only via a six-speed automatic transmission, for a comparison the Koleos has a lackluster CVT auto, while the Karoq benefits from a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The 1430kg C5 is rated to consume 7.9 litres of mid-grade 95RON unleaded per 100km.
That’s about on-par for the segment, and in practice I managed a figure of 8.6L/100km. A litre over isn’t too bad for truly mixed driving.
The mid-grade fuel requirement is a bit of an annoyance, but it’s also to be expected from a small capacity turbocharged European engine. It’s primary competitors (with the exception of the Koleos) drink the same.
Straight up, the C5 Aircross is not the most exciting car you can drive. It’s not even exciting for the segment, with the focus being refreshingly distant from sporty.
You’ll be getting sluggish acceleration comprised of an occasionally lazy six-speed auto transmission and a dollop of turbo lag every time you depress the accelerator pedal.
But the C5 Aircross is, refreshingly, not about being sporty at all. I’d argue Citroen is one of the few carmakers that really ‘gets’ what driving an SUV should be about. Comfort.
See, this SUV more than makes up for its lackluster performance by being possibly the nicest place to be behind the wheel in the segment.
We’ve covered how unreal the seats are in terms of their quality memory foam padding, but it doesn’t end there. The C5 has the same excellent well balanced steering from the rest of the Citroen and Peugeot passenger car ranges, as well as sensibly-sized tyres on small alloy wheels and the hydraulic cushion suspension.
It all adds up to a ride that’s quiet and makes most road corrugations, imperfections and potholes a complete non-issue.
The suspension does have its limits, hitting a particularly sharp bump or pothole will have the car bouncing off its shocks, but it’s simply awesome on 90 per cent of Australian urban roads. I wish more SUV mid-sizers rode like it.
It’s also super quiet thanks to “extra insulation” in the engine bay and the small alloy wheels.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
The Aircross has the same set of active safety features no matter which grade you pick. This means auto emergency braking (AEB – works up to 85km/h) with forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW) with lane keep assist (LKAS), blind spot monitoring (BSM), driver attention alert (DAA), and traffic sign recognition (TSR) are all standard.
You’ll get the added benefit of front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree parking view, which is excellent in its functionality.
Expected refinements include six airbags and the regular suite of electronic stability and brake controls.
It’s an impressive suite and has everything you’d expect in a new car – apart from the strange omission of active cruise control.
The C5 Aircross has not yet been rated by ANCAP (although its European full-safety spec equivalents have a maximum five-star EuroNCAP score).
All current Citroens are covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometer warranty, matching the widely accepted industry standard.
That’s all well and good, but it’s the very erm… European service pricing which is the killer here.
The C5 Aircross is covered by a capped price servicing program which costs between $458 and $812 per yearly visit, for an average of $602 per year for the life of the five year warranty.
It’s a bit of a let down given the Citroen’s cheapest fixed-price service is the equivalent to an expensive service at more mainstream brands.
The C5 Aircross might seem like a niche European 'alternative' SUV, but I wish it wasn’t. The more mainstream players could learn a lot from how brilliantly this Citroen is packaged.
It is truly class leading in terms of passenger comfort and even luggage space, even shipping with great multimedia and safety in this base Feel grade.
Unless you really need to be towing, performance (or in this case, lack thereof) should be low on your SUV priority list anyway.
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