Citroen C5 X 1.6 Plug-in Hybrid 225 Sense Plus 5dr e-EAT8
It'd be easy, but wrong, to think all the platform-shared Stellantis cars are exactly the same beneath the surface. Citroen's 'progressive hydraulic' dampers are unique to the C-cars. DS has its own camera-based adaptive system, for instance.
Those dampers allow the C5 X to be super supple over most straight-line bumps, but give the suspension more discipline when it's in danger of reaching full excursion. Some of the previous efforts, the C5 Aircross for example, have felt slightly baggy in a straight line, but here the dampers, bushes and bump stops work in much cleaner harmony.
The steering and roll control are nicely calibrated, so it's easy and relaxing to trace your line through long motorway curves, but the nose is surprisingly happy to swing you through tighter stuff and takes a good while to lapse into understeer. The rim weighting's light but if you don't grip too hard you'll find encouraging traces of road feel – a depressingly scarce commodity on the rival crossovers.
You can get the C5 X with the three-cylinder 1.2-litre 128bhp plus eight-speed auto, the French group's signature dish, or its 178bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder. Or finally a PHEV which takes that more powerful engine and sandwiches an e-motor between combustion engine and auto 'box. Citroen expects UK buyers (however many or few) will almost all go for the bookends, the 1.2 or PHEV.
The 1.2 is torquey for its size and much better sound-insulated than in the firm's smaller cars. So it actually does an OK job, better than its 10.4-second 0–62mph time indicates anyway. The auto 'box is pretty smooth and has a manual mode with paddles. It only feels lethargic if you're trying to overtake up a long hill.
The 1.6 4cyl motor is a solid performer if you're not happy with the PHEV option – it builds up acceleration smoothly, so it won't race out of corners, but it does surge nicely along the motorway. We found the auto transmission a little jerky here, and it takes some getting used to if you want to get a takeoff from standstill that matches the car's suave, relaxed character.
The PHEV is good for up to 37 miles of WLTP electric range, and in that mode its silence goes well with the mood of the car. Full bore acceleration in petrol-electric mode is strong, but it doesn't exactly relish full throttle. The transmission gets confused, sometimes flailing down the gears and spiralling the revs, sometimes shifting up too far on the way into a corner. There are shift paddles but it immediately defaults back to auto mode, so it'll counter your instruction almost as soon as you've issued it.
And while the pure ICE version has reasonably predictable brakes, the hybrid gives uncertain slowing and jerky stopping. Not unique to this car of course: most hybrids have trouble coping with the reverse-torque of an engine and the regeneration function of the motor while the gearbox shifts down, all while blending the right amount of disc friction. _We_ couldn't do that calculation progressively in real time, and nor can the C5 X.
Since it denies you progressive control of either acceleration or deceleration, the hybrid becomes wearisome on a bendy road. Good for motorway or town though.
Worth saying that the hybrid versions also get adaptive dampers with normal, comfort and sport settings, which slightly improve urban and motorway comfort. They sharpen up corner entry a little too, but as noted cornering isn't the hybrid's thing so it's a moot point, and the passive system in the combustion cars makes the C5 X way more comfortable than rivals even on bumpy UK roads with the standard 19-inch wheels.
Most versions have a full suite of driver assists. The Level 2 motorway system is easy to use, and pretty good at finding the lines it's meant to be guiding you between. The steering nudges are too bitty and aggressive though. Other cars can ease the course more smoothly.
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