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The Top Gear car review:Citroen C5 Aircross
For:Very comfortable in all sorts of ways. Looks different. No sporty pretence
Against:No sporty actuality. Ride not as consistent as billed. Occasionally irritating screen system
What is it?
The C5 Aircross is Citroen’s leap onto the family-crossover bandwagon. Late, yes, but at least it’s got something to say for itself, so’s to avoid sinking into the me-too morass.
Its design, inside and out, rejects the orthodoxy that mainstream crossovers should prostrate themselves before the altar of sportiness. Who wants their little darlings vomiting in the rear footwells while dog howls as he’s chucked around the boot? Instead, like other recent Citroens, the C5 Aircross’s shape articulates an inner comfort and a cheery practicality.
It’s not just a pose. While the Aircross is based on a familiar Group platform (3008-Grandland), Citroen deploys some interesting engineering and packaging innovations to back up its visual message.
The suspension uses pretty-well unique dampers, in search of a caressing ride. Their principle was actually invented for keeping Citroen’s rally cars on the ground, and is still used on the C3 world rally car. But here the purpose is comfort rather than banzai-speed control. The seats too use novel construction to pamper your backside.
The cabin leverages Citroen’s people-carrier experience in pursuit of equanimity for all the passengers, as well as inanimate clobber. Citroen’s research says lots of people have shifted out of MPVs into crossovers, and then felt thwarted by their hatchback-like cabins. The C5 Aircross is supposed to be the remedy: crossover without, MPV within. Ish.
Five individual seats each slide and recline. That should ease at least one source of inter-sibling second-row friction. The boot and in-cabin boxes are pretty huge.
The C5 Aircross launches with familiar Peugeot-Citroen engines, though upgraded to the newest emissions standards. It’s FWD only, but you can order a switchable set of ESP parameters and hill descent control to help when it’s slippery or steep.
A plug-in hybrid arrives early in 2020. The big draw with that one will be better fuel economy for commuting, and lower tax. Interestingly Citroen elected to make its PHEV front-drive only to keep the price down. Whereas Peugeot, which sells 3008s at a higher price, went for a more expensive PHEV system with 4WD via an extra rear-mounted motor.
Rounded corners and smooth surfaces bleed away any aggression from the looks. But the geometric simplicity and straight lines give it a formal discipline, saving it from any melted cuddliness. Airbumps bubble-wrap the lower bodywork against the biffs of urban life.
The separate roof panel lends itself to customisation, and Citroen takes it further with coloured trim rings and strips. Take care, or you’ll find yourself back in cuddly territory. It’s a car, not a baby-walker.