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Citroen C5

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Citroen - C5 3.0i V6 Car Review | October 5, 2004

Driven March 2008

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So the styling and interior vibe is more rational, but not dull. The handling and performance are pretty similar. The C5 is offered with two suspension systems - one the comfort-skewed Hydractive III + hydropneumatic that everyone so loved on the waftacious C6 limo, the other a more traditional set of steel springs that Citroen says give a 'more direct road feel'. The complicated one is the more expensive, though Citroen expects a roughly 50/50 uptake in the UK.

There are six engines coming to the UK: two petrols and four diesels. Top of the range is a twin-turbo, 208bhp,V6 diesel that comes with a six-speed auto only, bottom is a 127bhp, 1.8-litre four.

The 2.0 and 2.2-litre HDI diesels are expected to be popular in the UK- Citroen wants to hit the fleet markets pretty hard with this car - and both are more than capable of punting the C5 around without apparent effort, though don't get cocky at the lights, because any of the rivals you care to mention have a definitively more sporting bent.

This isn't a quick car, but keeping up isn't a problem. The characterful version is the one with Hydractive. You can stick it in 'Sport' and have a cheerful old time with the generous available grip, although you'll be disappointed by slightly dulled steering and virtually complete isolation from the wheels.

The trade-off, when you stick the car in 'Comfort' and stop being silly, is a Lexus-lite ride quality. The C5 is tauter than a C6, so it's lost that slightly seasick compression wobble, but keeps the ability to tune out masses of stuff that really annoys.

It's not the magic carpet that some people seem to think; there's still a bit of transference of high-amplitude grumble, but you'll be impressed nevertheless. Thank goodness that Citroen has kept the ride quality French - beating the Germans at driving dynamics isn't just a tall order, it's an overcrowded niche; some of us would prefer a slightly more relaxed air.

So it's a comfy, well-engineered, good-looking attempt on making Citroen feel a bit more premium. It's well priced - generally undercutting Mondeo and Passat, never mind BMW and Audi - and with more kit. Job done, brilliant. There's just one problem: Citroen, in pretty much every advert I've seen, is portraying itself as a value-for-money brand. Money off. Prices down. Cheap.

Then you want to sell me a car that's supposed to have all the premium qualities? Not sure sunshine, I think I might stick to a 3-Series in so spartan a spec that I have to pedal and tune the radio from my fillings. Don't want the neighbours thinking all I can afford is a big Citroen. Our loss though.

Citroen can be proud of the C5 - it is a car that makes you feel good about the company. It isn't the best-handling or most dynamic out there, but it is a well-judged compromise.

So if Citroen can get people to put aside their prejudices long enough to take a test drive, I think it may have a car in the C5 that could take the French firm to places it's never been before. It's a slice of middle-market brilliance. And that's a hard thing to carry off, even if you are reverse-engineering from existing German product.

Words by Tom Ford

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