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Citroen C5 sedan 2008 review

Citroen's new, second generation C5 could be the car to dispel those ancient cliches about French autos. You know the ones. They ride like melting camembert — and the build quality is about as sound.

A great deal more time than our 300km stint behind the wheel and 70km in the passenger seat will be needed to assess the latter. But we can say with certainty that this is the most complete Citroen in years.

Not only is the new C5 a giant step forward from its predecessor (which was itself the precursor to the now outgoing first-generation range of C-designated cars), the new range-topper points to an almost radical departure in style and perception. It bodes interestingly for the forthcoming product rollout which includes the new C4 hatch, Berlingo and Nemo vans and possibly the C-Crossover SUV.

While the appearance and on-road experience of the first C5 was about as invigorating as being immersed in a bath of warm milk while listening to the talking clock, the second-gen sedan is cut from a very different and decidedly designer cloth.

So, too, appears to be the Touring (that would be “wagon” to us) but we'll wait to see one in the metal before making up our minds.

The four-door, meanwhile, is just that. A four-door. Gone is the liftback of Gen One, now apparently deemed too dowdy and utilitarian.

Whatever the reason, the new shape is sleek and striking with that trademark long front overhang and pert rear. The interior is singular, with the fixed steering wheel hub on which are positioned cruise control and audio buttons.

Material quality has risen and you have to love the driver's seat massager. It's all a neat combination of functionality and funkiness.

Seen from behind there's more than a hint of Audi A4, which is not coincidental. Indeed, Citroen Australia chief Miles Williams asserts that in addition to the usual mid-priced, middle-class Europeans that the C5 is pitted against (Volkswagen, Peugeot, Volvo, Saab), “we'll attract Audi A4 people in the top-end car”.

It’s a measure of the new C5’s sheer presence and interior quality that you don’t laugh aloud at this.

The C5 comes in two levels of specification — Comfort and Exclusive — and one fuel.

“Diesel represents where our customers are,” Williams says. And as to the new range starting $10K north of the old: “There was no demand for the old 2.0-litre petrol.”

So the C5 Comfort starts at 10 bucks under $50K, the Touring (when it arrives) is $52,740. These are powered by a Francophile favourite 2.0-litre turbo diesel four cylinder, good for 100kW at top revs and 320Nm from under 2000rpm. No entry-level models were available at launch, though the spec sheet suggests it will be competitively equipped for the price.

Even so, the jump to $54,990 for the Exclusive 2.0 HDI sedan ($57,740 Touring) appears worth it. The 150kW/440Nm V6 Exclusive, which boasts the same superb PSA/Ford bi-turbo powertrain that's considered quite good enough for a $100K plus Jaguar, starts from $62,990 ($65,740 Touring).

All models registered five-star NCAP crash safety and the full cluster for pedestrian impacts. The Exclusive gets two extra airbags (nine in all), but all have ABS with brake assist and brake-force distribution, stability program with integrated traction control.

In an accident, the active front headrest moves forward to capture the neck, potentially averting whiplash or even brain damage. Options include 19-inch alloys (the Exclusive has 18s, the Comfort 17s), sunroof (full-lengthin the Touring), Bluetooth, lane departure warning and 10 gigabyte MP3.

If visually the C5 has shed its cardigan fora Paul Smith jacket, on the road it retains membership at Club Comfort.

It's quiet too, eerily so when combined with the effortless mid-range acceleration of the V6. Alarming numbers can register on the in-dash digital speedo before you're really aware of the speed. Thing is, with both suspension and the six-speed auto's shift program fixed to Sport (as opposed to the quite aquatic normal mode), the C5 has some dynamic life to it, though its remit remains joy through comfort.

Nose-heavy understeer is, of course, the default position, but it arrives later than you'd reasonably expect. The lesser-engined model wasn't much behind the emphatic V6, weighing in well under the top dog's 1765kg.

Capable dynamically, and unflustered when the road goes to rubbish, makes you wonder if the C5 is the ideal Euro sedan for this country. Really, what's of more use in speed limited Australia with its Third World road surfaces — sporting pose or composure and poise?

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
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Range and Specs

2.0 HDi Comfort 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $5,400 – 8,360 2008 Citroen C5 2008 2.0 HDi Comfort Pricing and Specs
2.0 HDi Exclusive 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $5,900 – 9,130 2008 Citroen C5 2008 2.0 HDi Exclusive Pricing and Specs
2.7 V6 HDi Exclusive 2.7L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $6,700 – 10,450 2008 Citroen C5 2008 2.7 V6 HDi Exclusive Pricing and Specs
3.0 V6 2.9L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,300 – 11,330 2008 Citroen C5 2008 3.0 V6 Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


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