Just 500 examples of ‘Project 003’ will be made. And it’ll be a turbo hybrid
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£28,065 when new
Last time we saw this you were driving it through the desert and mountains of Morocco. Indeed. Having given the C5 Aircross a fairly exotic first test, it’s worth revisiting some of its claims in the light of a more mundane few days, visiting such places as the M1 in Northamptonshire. Not least to pit its ‘advanced comfort’ business against the aggravation of British roads. Advanced comfort? The headline-act suspension uses unusual dampers. They progressively exert extra control towards their distant excursions, but allow easy motion in the middle of their travel. The idea is to let the springs absorb small intrusions comfortably, without the whole thing turning to jelly in more vigorous driving. It works, mostly. Things like coarse urban streets, or jiggly motorways, or just normal roads at normal speeds, show up a really agreeable suppleness. The only drawback is that you do notice sharp ridges and the edges of potholes, but not too badly.
The seats are more welcoming than their banquette flatness would have you believe. Even over a long distance. Comfort is also about quietness, and the Aircross muffles road noise pretty well. Too soggy for corners though? Nope, roll is actually pretty moderate and body control unproblematic, despite that softness in the ride. So it’s a relaxing but reassuring thing to drive once you’ve zoned yourself in to the steering. The wheel is feathery light even at speed. Couple that with a surprisingly responsive zone just off the straight-ahead and it feels almost twitchy at first. Heading off up the M1 I found it tiring to keep in lane. After a couple of hundred miles I was fine with it. But while I’m no development engineer, I humbly submit less assistance might actually be more help. It would feel less nervous. After all. you’d expect a crossover to track solidly straight. And the engine? It’s a big car so even the petrol 1.6 turbo has to work. It comes as standard with an automatic gearbox that can be a bit indecisive on the open road, and curiously grabby when stopping or starting from traffic lights. But mostly it operates smoothly enough to meld into the background. Plus it turns out more economical than a petrol crossover might have you expect – 35-40mpg on our run. Mind you the M1 and M6 over-represent 50mph stretches at the moment. Roadworks all over the place. Still reckon it looks good? To our eyes, yes. It stands its ground visually in 2019’s British traffic. The simple shapes and rounded corners are well-balanced and free of aggression or pretence, but they don’t stray into the territory of the cloyingly cute. It’s a well-proportioned thing, with enough road presence, distinctive fenestration and nice details in the lights. (Mind you those halogen dipped beams are pretty feeble.) On the inside? The domestic flatness of the seats sets the tone. It’s not trying to be sporty or cockpit-like. More of a lounge. Most of it’s made of decent quality stuff. Only the touchpad switches below the screen are a bane, denying you the satisfaction of any positive click. Never mind the visual design, how’s work as a family charabanc? In the back, everyone gets their own adjustable seat and plenty of personal space. Remember, this car is meant to make up for the fact MPV sales are wilting. So it’s SUV on the outside, MPV(ish) within. The boot’s big, and gets bigger if you slide one or more of the back seats. Ownable? Economy is decent. You get lots of insurance-friendly safety systems too. Citroen seems to have got a handle on depreciation, as evidenced by a very decent PCP rate. Put £10k down over three years at 10k miles a year and this engine is yours for £180 a month. 8/10