Pairing head-turning aesthetics with the usual quirky French flair, the Citroen has a lot of points of differentiation from its competitors, but does different mean better? Or just French?
We took home the range-topping Citroen C5 Aircross Shine for a week to find out of it has the chops to compete in Australia's most-popular, and competitive, vehicle segment.
Citroen C5 Aircross 2020: Shine
Regular Unleaded Petrol
Is there anything interesting about its design? 9/10
It takes just one look at the Citroen C5 Aircross to see that this mid-size SUV is not like the others.
Okay, our test car's bright orange ('Volcano Orange') paintwork definitely helps to turn heads, but it's the small cosmetic choices that elevate the C5 Aircross above its peers.
See the black-plastic cladding underneath the doors? Well they are actually 'airbumps' that Citroen first employed on the C4 Cactus to protect the body from unwanted damage.
The front facia is also a standout in design, integrating the Citroen badge into the grille and lighting signature to great effect. (image: Tung Nguyen)
Of course, they might have been more practical on the C4 Cactus, where they are positioned at around waist height to stop unwanted trolley dents, but it's still nice to see Citroen's unique design touches appear on the C5 Aircross.
The airbumps are also integrated a little more seamlessly when positioned lower down, giving the C5 Aircross a higher-riding look befitting a stylish mid-size SUV.
The front facia is also a standout in design, integrating the Citroen badge into the grille and lighting signature to great effect.
Overall, the exterior of the C5 Aircross is a definite head turner and a solid choice for those not wanting a samey-looking SUV.
The front seats especially are a pleasant place to be, thanks to a comfortable driving position and a large glasshouse that lets plenty of light in. (image: Tung Nguyen)
Of course, it's what's on the inside that really counts.
Fortunately, the cabin of the C5 Aircross has just as much character as the exterior, thanks to capacitive menu controls for the multimedia system, unique surface finishes and a fresh layout.
We are especially fans of the centre stack's clean design and giant air vents.
Measuring 4500mm long, 1859mm wide and 1695mm tall, the Citroen C5 Aircross is about line-ball in dimensions with its Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 competition. But crucially, its longer 2730mm wheelbase affords it a spacious and airy interior.
While the pews might look like lounge chairs from an art deco painting (this is not a criticism), they are soft, supple and supportive in all the right places.
The front seats especially are a pleasant place to be, thanks to a comfortable driving position and a large glasshouse that lets plenty of light in.
The second-row accommodation forgoes the usual bench arrangement for three individual seats. (image: Tung Nguyen)
Even after hours on the road, covering freeway and inner city running, we didn't detect a hint of fatigue or soreness from our bums or backs.
Storage cubbies also abound, although the door pockets are too shallow to accommodate water bottles standing up.
The second-row accommodation forgoes the usual bench arrangement for three individual seats, which are all full-sized and comfortable for tall-ish passengers.
We say tall-ish because legroom can be a just a touch lacking, with our 183cm (six-foot) frame in the front seating position.
However, head and shoulder room are great in the back of the C5, although with three adults abreast it can get a bit squeezy for wider people.
For those that need to carry a large load, the C5 Aircross has you covered, thanks to a 580-litre boot. (image: Tung Nguyen)
Deep and wide, the load area will easily accommodate bags for a weekend getaway or weekly groceries for a small family. (image: Tung Nguyen)
The boot can even extend to a 1630L capacity with the rear seats folded down. (image: Tung Nguyen)
Despite the small nit-picks, this mid-size SUV can easily ferry five adults in comfort and style.
For those that need to carry a large load, the C5 Aircross has you covered, thanks to a 580-litre boot, which outclasses the Mazda CX-5 by more than 100L.
Deep and wide, the load area will easily accommodate bags for a weekend getaway or weekly groceries for a small family, and can even extend to a 1630L capacity with the rear seats folded down.
The second-road seats don't fold completely flat, however, which could make trips to Ikea tricky, although each position is able to slide and stow individually.
The rear tailgate also doesn't lift all that high, meaning we couldn't stand up completely straight underneath it. Then again, I am on the tall side.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
The Citroen C5 Aircross Shine is priced at $43,990, before on-road costs, while the base Feel version can be had for $39,990.
The Citroen might wear a higher price tag than its competitors from South Korea and Japan, but it is also loaded with standard equipment only found in the higher grades of vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson.
The instrument cluster is all digital, spread across a 12.3-inch screen that can be customised to show driving data, satellite-navigation information or media.
We're big fans of digital instrument displays when they are done well, and by borrowing more than a few elements from its sister-brand Peugeot, and its wonderful 3008 and 5008 SUVs, the C5 Aircross is onto a winning formula.
It comes with 19-inch alloy wheels. (image: Tung Nguyen)
A wireless smartphone charger is also found in the storage tray positioned in front of the shifter, while devices can also be plugged in at one of the two USB sockets or two 12-volt outlets.
Other key features include keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, power-folding mirrors, roof rails, electronic tail-gate with kick-to-open control, laminated acoustic glass and 19-inch alloy wheels – the latter two are restricted to the top-spec Shine grade.
Take note though, there are no heated or cooled seats here.
While the C5 Aircross misses out on some of the stand-out equipment you might find in its competitors, like an in-built SIM card for remote vehicle monitoring, what is included is practical and easy to use.
While you might think a 1.6-litre engine is better suited to an economy hatchback rather than a family hauler, there is a surprising pep in the C5 Aircross's step.
Peak power comes in at 6000rpm, quite high in the rev range, but maximum torque is available at 1400rpm, giving the C5 Aircross enough punch to come away from the lights briskly and without hassle.
Power comes from a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine. (image: Tung Nguyen)
While the engine does run out of huff in the top end, the C5 Aircross isn't exactly designed to keep up with track-slaying sports cars.
The torque converter automatic transmission is also a gem, shifting up smoothly and eagerly, whether around town or getting up to cruising speed on the freeway.
The transmission can, however, make mistakes with its down shifts, as a quick dab of throttle will hang up the automatic for a second as it works out what to do next.
For reference, the official 0-100km/h acceleration time is 9.9 seconds, but we doubt anyone looking at a C5 Aircross is going to worry about that number.
How much fuel does it consume? 9/10
Official fuel consumption figures for the Citroen C5 Aircross peg it at 7.9 litres per 100km, and in our week with the car, we managed an average fuel usage of 8.2/100km over a distance of 419km.
Usually our test cars are way off the official consumption numbers, due in part to our inner-city-heavy use, but our week with the C5 Aircross also included a roughly 200km weekend (freeway) round trip from Melbourne to Cape Schanck.
Our real-world-economy figure is certainly on the lower side of mid-size SUVs we've tested, barring those with a hybrid or plug-in powertrain, so top marks to Citroen for serving up a frugal, but not gutless, engine.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
Citroens have been lauded in the past for their plush ride comfort, and the new C5 Aircross is no exception.
Fitted as standard across all C5 Aircross vehicles is the brand's unique 'progressive hydraulic cushion' suspension set-up, which is a fancy way of saying it's really comfortable over bumps.
Our top-spec Shine variant gains advanced comfort features that soak up the road even better and the system does exactly as advertised, probably helped by the plush seats.
Small road bumps are nearly imperceptible, while larger road ruts are also easily handled by the suspension.
What really struck us in our time with the car was the sharp and dynamic steering.
Tip the C5 Aircross into a corner and the wheel doesn't go numb as it does on other mid-size SUVs, it actually offers loads of feedback right to the driver's hands.
Don't get us wrong, this isn't an MX-5 or a Porsche 911, but there is certainly enough communication to allow you to feel the limits of the car, and it's actually fun to chuck it around a few bends.
One aspect that might be a deal breaker for some, though, is the fact that the C5 Aircross is front-drive only.
Some might bemoan the lack of an all-wheel drive option as they might want to head down an unsealed road or do some occasional (very) light off-roading. But Citroen has bundled a selectable drive mode to try and make up for it.
Options available include downhill descent and sand modes to adjust traction controls to suit, but we didn't get the chance to fully test these settings.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
Although the car scored highly on the adult-occupant and child-occupant protection tests, notching 87 and 88 per cent respectively, the vulnerable-road-user-protection examination yielded a 58 per cent result.
It comes with a space saver spare. (image: Tung Nguyen)
Other standard safety technology includes cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera (with a wide field of view), automatic headlights and wipers, and driver-attention alert.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 6/10
Like all new Citroens, the C5 Aircross comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty alongside five year's worth of roadside assist and capped-price servicing.
Service intervals are set at 12 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first.
However, servicing costs are on the high side, with the first scheduled maintenance coming in at $458, while the next is set at $812.
These costs alternate until the five year/100,000km service, priced at $470, before pricing becomes unavailable.
As such, after five years of ownership, the C5 Aircross will incur $3010 in scheduled-servicing fees.
Taken as a whole, the Citroen C5 Aircross offers a tantalising alternative to the mainstream mid-size SUV fare, if you are keen to stand out from the crowd.
Its small failings aside, such as the lack of some creature comforts and advanced driver-assistance tech, the C5 Aircross delivers a comfortable, even enjoyable driving experience, with plenty of practical space.
We also wish the cost of ownership was a bit more compelling and the four-star safety rating might turn off some, but as a fit-for-purpose family hauler, the Citroen mid-size SUV ticks our boxes.
If you are bored with the same-same styling of other SUVs out there, the Citroen C5 Aircross might just be the breath of fresh air you are looking for.
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