Citroen C5 X: a better handling car than you might expect
Pity the poor C5 X this month. Having alluded to its superlative comfort in previous dispatches, and the fact that its big, comfy seats are fine by me, it’s had the misfortune of mixing it with some major new performance cars this past month. How does a BMW M3 Touring, Aston Martin Valkyrie, Ferrari Purosangue, and Honda Civic Type-R sound, pretty much back-to-back? All four are startlingly good, as you’d hope, though not flawless by any means. The Valkyrie is bonkers, the Ferrari a curious thing in some ways. No-one will ever be able to explain to me why the elongation of the M3’s roof and its extra versatility turns it into the best version of that car. But my favourite of the four is the Honda, not just because it’s as brilliant to drive as everyone says it is, it’s also useable. And it has a manual gearbox, long a fast Honda signature but more welcome in 2023 than ever. What a wonderful car.
The Citroen can’t feel anything other than a boat by comparison. Most things would. Yet the C5 X has located a sweet spot between old-fashioned comfort and a flash of dynamism. It has a beautifully long-legged gait, and you can feel the amplitude of its springs and the – Citroen-specific – ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions TM’ – as it loads up through corners. It’s not a car I would ever choose to razz along my favourite road, and I’m not a big fan of its steering, but it’s better overall than you might expect.
It’s better than better on the motorway, though. We’re planning a trip in it to Paris soon, and it’s difficult to think of a car better suited to a journey like that. Its design even conjures up memories of big Citroens past, a romantic through-line that works for me as a fully paid-up Francophile (music, films, food, and cars).
But there are grumbles. The 1.6-litre PHEV should be the one to go for on paper, and 225bhp and a combined fuel economy of between 186.2mpg and 236.2mpg is surely cake and eat it stuff. It’s utter nonsense of course. The claimed 34-38 electric range has yet to materialise, and shamefully I often forget to plug it in when I get home. Most of the time, then, I’m inefficiently lugging a 12.4kWh battery and electric motor about. The eight-speed transmission can also get a bit flustered, shifting down or up too early. More irritating is the C5 X’s paltry 40-litre fuel tank, which means more non-luxury time on petrol station forecourts. I’m seeing around 47mpg on average, which is good for this size of car. But I’d like more range and a bigger tank, please.
Mostly, though, this is a lovely car to reconnect with, one that repels the irritations of modern life with an unusual mix of style, thoughtfulness and technology. And its seats really are fabulous.