Agreeably distinctive, nice to be in, comfy, better to drive than most crossovers
The PHEV version has too many dynamic drawbacks
What is it?
Citroen has a tradition of big eccentric cars. For all of their unique attractions, none of them has been without irritation. So none of them have been big sellers. Which makes you wonder how thirsty Britain will be for this one, the C5 X. Which is a pity, because it's actually quite good, and ploughs a unique furrow compared with the relentlessly sport-obsessed German opposition.
In technical terms it might not be as revolutionary as some of those forebears, but the non-conformist body more than makes up for it. Look carefully and you might even spot some cheeky nods to Citroen's quirky Eighties heyday.
But what actually is it?
There isn't really an answer to that question. In some ways it's a big hatchback, except the tail end is longer and there's no loading sill, so you could use it as an estate. The body is raised up slightly like a crossover's, and there's a bit of lower body cladding. But the roof isn't as high as a crossover's and the drag and weight are lower. It's also quite hulking in the metal. So it's a bit of many things but not wholly anything, except, Citroen thinks, a new thing.
So does it look a bit of a mongrel?
It's a confidently handsome thing. For sure it doesn't look like anything else. You wouldn't say 'there's an estate' or 'there's a crossover'. The face allows it to be recognisable as a modern Citroen, while the interestingly shaped arches and floating roof give some intrigue to the side profile. The rear end gets more LED lights and no fewer than two spoilers. For those interested, the drag coefficient is an impressive 0.29.
Is it a boat to drive?
Despite the height and softness, the C5 X doesn't go all Marie Rose at the first corner. Not at all. The steering's really well done, and roll is well checked. It manages to feel both substantial yet light – especially the three-cylinder petrol one.
Whatever you look for in your car, Citroen is to be applauded for offering something a bit different, and we like how the C5 X quite overtly focuses on comfort, and does it well. It encourages you to be smooth and progressive with your driving to get the best out of the set-up.
And of course the powertrains are pretty critical to the experience here. There are two petrol engines – one with 128bhp and one with 178bhp – both exclusively available with eight-speed auto gearboxes. They're straightforward and pleasant enough, and they let you bowl down a B-road pleasantly enough.
There's also a plug-in hybrid, which does miracles for fuel economy on short trips, and BIK tax, and gives you lovely silent urban electric running. But on curvy roads it casts a miserable shadow on throttle response, gearchange strategy and braking progression. Don't say we didn't warn you. Click through to the driving tab for more.
How much will it cost me?
In the UK prices start at £27,790 for the base spec petrol-powered C5 X. That puts it in the ballpark of a fair number of estate and crossover rivals, although it is a lot of car for the money. Top-end is the fully-loaded PHEV at £39,960.
If you’re worried about depreciation (it’s a big Citroen, so of course you are) then Citroen points to its much improved residual values. It claims that from January 2021 to June 2022, it improved its residual values across its range by 17.3 per cent. That was apparently compared to an industry standard of 11 per cent in the same period, so whatever Citroen you’re running it should hold its value better than before. Will the C5 X be the same? Only time will tell.
What are its rivals?
Good question. Citroen does quote a few – things like the Mazda 6 Tourer, the Skoda Superb Estate, the Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake and the Genesis G70 Shooting Brake. And that’s before you enter the world of many crossover options in the same price bracket.
What's the verdict?
Just because there's nothing like it doesn't mean it has no rivals. When you look at what people might own – a budget-brand big estate, or a midsize crossover most likely – the C5 X is fine value. Always a good start, especially for a French flagship.
It's also a very pleasant thing to sit in, to ride in and – more of a surprise this – to drive. It doesn't feel like a redressed Peugeot 508 either. It has a definite, comfortable character of its own.
Despite TG’s best efforts over the years to point out that crossovers aren't great to drive, they keep taking over the family car world. That very dominance is making them even more boring. The C5 X is a better driving, more interesting alternative.