Citroen C5 Aircross Review 2023 | Top Gear
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The C5 Aircross won't scratch your driver's itch, but it's a part-of-the-family kind of car, at ease with itself

Good stuff

Very comfortable in all sorts of ways, looks different, no sporty pretence

Bad stuff

No sporty actuality, ride not as consistent as billed, occasionally irritating screen system


What is it?

The C5 Aircross – launched back in 2017 – is a fairly conventional (by Citroen’s standards) family SUV. But not a particularly large one: there are only five seats available here, so you if you want to fit more people in you’ll need to look at the van-based electric Berlingo and SpaceTourer models. Or elsewhere entirely.

In early 2022 it received a mid-life facelift with a slightly tweaked look (though you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference), enhanced tech, and revised trim levels. Key rivals include the likes of the Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Seat Ateca, Skoda Karoq, and Vauxhall Grandland, among others.

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Yet another samey SUV then?

So far, so boring, but the C5 Aircross has managed to bust out of the SUV mould by cheerfully rejecting the notion that such cars should sacrifice everything that makes them half-decent in pursuit of relentless sportiness. Who wants their little darlings chundering in the rear footwells while the dog howls as it's flung about the boot? Instead, like other recent Citroens, the C5 Aircross's shape articulates an inner comfort and a good-natured practicality.

It's not just a pose, either. While the Aircross is based on a familiar Peugeot Group platform (sharing its undercrackers with the 3008 and Vauxhall Grandland), Citroen deploys some interesting engineering and packaging innovations to back up its visual message.

It looks... interesting.

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.

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Is it as comfortable as Citroen claims?

Pleasantly so. It wafts along easily and absorbs most imperfections in the road, though don't expect any miracles when it comes to the worst of our potholed roads. The steering too is feather-light, and while it can feel a little vague at times, this is a car that eases itself into family life. It won't ever have you heading out in pursuit of a twisty B-road, but that's not the point here.

The cabin leverages Citroen's people carrier experience in pursuit of calmness for all passengers, as well as inanimate clobber. The seats use a novel construction to pamper your backside: it's a genuine pleasure to sink into them, and all 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 too.

What's under the bonnet?

The C5 Aircross is available with a 1.2-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel, or a 1.6-litre petrol plus e-motor – that’s the plug-in hybrid. It offers up to 34 miles of EV range, useful if you’re able to get a plug put in at home for charging. 

Interestingly Citroen elected to make its PHEV front-drive only to keep the price down, whereas Peugeot offers the 3008 with a more expensive PHEV system with 4WD via an extra rear-mounted motor.

Prices start from £26,930 for the internal combustion models, with a sizeable leap to the PHEV, which promises better fuel economy for commuting and lower tax, at £35,835.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

The C5 Aircross bursts out of the SUV mould by cheerfully rejecting sportiness

We'd find it hard to scratch our driving itch by using one of these full-time. It's a bit too laid back. But that's just us. When you look at the way family crossovers are used and driven, this one seems impeccably targeted. It looks smart without being pushy. The cabin is also visually literate without any po-faced seriousness. It's quiet and easy to drive. Most of all it's extremely habitable: useful, comfortable, roomy, versatile. A part-of-the-family kind of car, at ease with itself.

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