What is it?
It’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen a new, large Citroen saloon, but this firm has plenty of history here. There have been iconic models like the original DS, and more recently the C5 and C6, but it’s been almost 10 years since there’s been a ‘big Citroen’.
But that’s changing now with the introduction of the C5 X – a new halo model for the French firm, and a slightly oddball one at that, as it aims to combine, in Citroen’s words, ‘all the appeal of an SUV, the elegance of a saloon and the practicality of an estate’ into one package. But has Citroen succeeded?
Blending those three car types together is no easy task, and it means at first the C5 is a slightly odd thing to look at, but more on that later.
In line with Citroen’s electrification targets, the C5 X is being offered with a plug-in hybrid alongside a pair of petrol engines, and no diesel. It’s also packed with technology, as it’s the first model for the firm to get its new touchscreen system, while a broad suite of technology is also introduced.
What’s under the bonnet?
Citroen is offering the C5 X with the choice of two petrol engines – a 128bhp 1.2-litre and a 178bhp 1.6-litre – as well as the plug-in hybrid we’re trying here.
Using that latter 1.6-litre engine as its base, this PHEV combines it with an electric motor for a total output of 222bhp and 360Nm of torque. Drive is sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox – as is the case on all versions across the C5 X line-up.
Getting up to 60mph takes 7.7 seconds (a second quicker than the regular 1.6-litre petrol), with the C5 X maxing out at 145mph. Once the PHEV’s 12.4kWh battery is charged, Citroen claims it can travel for up to 37 miles on electricity, though during our testing we only saw around 25 miles when the battery was full. The claimed fuel economy figure, like any plug-in hybrid, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, with our testing returning around 100mpg when running for the majority of the time on electricity, next to a claimed 236.2mpg figure. CO2 emissions stand at 30g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
Citroen engineered the C5 X first and foremost with comfort in mind, and it’s truly exemplary in this respect. Without a doubt one of the most comfortable cars on the market, it has the ability to smooth over almost any bumps in the road and is superb on the UK’s potholed surfaces. Some might find it a bit too soft and floaty, but it’s a welcome change over many of the firmly setup cars on the market.
Yet, it doesn’t fall apart when you get to a corner, as it handles well and doesn’t roll much through the corners. Granted, this is no driver’s car, but it feels much better sorted than Citroen’s other comfort-focused models.
Our one gripe is with the brakes on this plug-in hybrid, as they feel almost spongey, and it makes it quite hard to come to a smooth stop. The gearbox can sometimes be jerky, too.
How does it look?
On first glance, the C5 X’s design can be a bit confusing. There’s a lot going on, and if you’re used to your typical three-box saloon, it can prove hard to pigeonhole.
But though opinions on a car’s design are objective, we rather like it. The C5 X is a big car – it slots between a BMW 3 and 5 Series in terms of length – but there are lots of smart details. Large 19-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard, while the sharp LED lights at the front and rear help to give this Citroen further presence. The plastic cladding also suits it well, with the increased ride height helping to give it a more elevated look, but without too much like an SUV.
What’s it like inside?
The area which really feels like a big step up in the C5 X is the interior. The material quality is a cut above what we’re used to seeing from Citroen, with a combination of leather, soft-touch plastics and textured wood trim giving a genuinely premium feel and look. The big comfy seats, made from memory foam, are excellent as well, and perfect for those that struggle to get comfortable in a car.
The C5 X also introduces a new touchscreen (available in 10 or 12 inches), which is much slicker to use than past Citroen systems, and looks great too, though it’s slightly laggy on startup.
It also fulfils the brief of offering estate car-like space. There’s loads of room in the rear seats for adults, while even though the Hybrid’s boot is slightly smaller than the regular petrol versions (485 litres compared to 545), it’s still a great size.
What’s the spec like?
Citroen offers three trim levels on the C5 X, though all get plenty of kit. The entry-level Sense Plus trim receives automatic LED headlights, a 10-inch touchscreen and a reversing camera, with the Shine grade bringing a heated steering wheel, a larger 12-inch touchscreen and a sizeable head-up display. Right at the top of the range, the Shine Plus brings black leather upholstery, heated front seats and blind spot monitoring.
Prices for the C5 X kick off from an attractive £27,290, though you’ll spend £31,535 for the more powerful petrol. The plug-in hybrid commands quite a premium – costing from £36,470, or a slither under £40,000 for a top-spec version. It might seem a lot for a Citroen, but when you consider the space and equipment on offer, it’s not bad at all.
It was always going to be a challenge for Citroen to re-enter the large car segment, but the C5 X is most definitely the best car it could have for the job. With its outstanding levels of comfort, it offers a real selling point in a class where firmer suspension setups are common. Add in a vast amount of interior space and a really well-finished cabin, and the C5 X feels like one of Citroen’s best cars of recent years.
Though this plug-in hybrid could do with some tweaks to the gearbox and brake calibration to finesse it, this is a fine package that is well worth a look if you’re looking to break free of a conventional saloon, estate or SUV.