Citroen C5 X long-term review: are hybrids a meaningful real-world answer?
Lots of miles this month. This is good and bad news for the C5 X. The good news is that it tackles long-haul journeys with the aplomb of cars costing two or even three times the Citroen’s sticker price. Its two predecessors on my drive – the Mercedes S500 and BMW iX – were obviously world-class in this department, and yet the C5 X’s rolling comfort and motorway speed refinement is close indeed to those German paragons.
Less welcome is its compromised range. In fact, it needs replenished about as often as the pure-electric BMW, which regularly managed 340 miles on a full charge. The TG C5 X is the plug-in hybrid version, but as I’m only seeing 18 miles fully juiced up, that’s gone in no time. Maybe if the weather ever improves, I’ll get closer to the 37 mile claimed e-range. This leaves the ICE to do almost all of the heavy lifting, and a 40-litre tank just isn’t big enough. From my base in north Essex to Goodwood, for example, is a round trip of about 250 miles, which should be easily doable, and is. But with three long-ish trips back-to-back, I had to fuel up three days out of four. Sure, it costs a modest £40-45 per fill-up, but I’d rather have a 70-litre tank, spend more, and not see quite so much of my local petrol retailer. Sorry, but hybrids still seem to me more about company car tax efficiency than a truly meaningful real world answer.
The C5 X can also be clunky around town, as it works out what gear it should be in and when. It’s seamless when it’s in e-mode, but it just doesn’t go far enough. It’s by no means the only offender; I tried a Mercedes GLC 300e hybrid recently and it didn’t really float my boat – although its 31.2kWh battery means a more useful amount of electric range (about 60 miles). Harmonising all the constituent parts in these cars is quite the engineering challenge. Talking to Lamborghini’s CTO Rouven Mohr recently about how important this is on a car like the new Revuelto rams the point home. On that car at least, he says you shouldn’t know it’s a hybrid. All the magic stays in the background… Maybe it’s more feasible on a half-million pound hypercar. We’ll find out soon.
Still, at least the C5 X isn’t an SUV or crossover. I’m a huge fan of the Seventies and Eighties CX, and this is a 2023 interpretation of that fine machine (good ones have risen sharply in value recently by the way). It straddles a fine line between being needlessly idiosyncratic and a plausible alternative. We certainly need more of that as everything threatens to homogenise and converge.