After eight months, here's what it's like to daily a Citroen C5 X
Volvo has abandoned its saloons and estates in the UK, a no-doubt savvy commercial decision that still chills the bones. If Volvo can’t shift such staples, what chance does Citroën stand with its more idiosyncratic products?
I love the idea of the C5 X but eight months living with this quasi-crossover-estate mash-up left me feeling a bit confused. Unconventionally stylish, it’s always intriguing to see one on the move (still rare). The whole split headlight thing is divisive, and the rear end is incoherent, but there’s imagination here, and the spirit that infused the Seventies GS and CX is still detectable. So that’s all good.
No-one expects BMW 3 Series dynamics, but the C5 X PHEV has clearly been optimised for the motorway. The Advanced Comfort suspension is a key USP, with twin hydraulic bumpstops on each corner and adaptive dampers. In most instances it’s compliant and consistent, but there are anomalies: it can feel oddly discombobulating when it’s caught out by sharp ridges or expansion joints. The C5 X hybrid is relatively heavy and a combination of dips and crests can be problematic. So you just back off and stay in its – pretty broad – comfort zone. This isn’t one of those cars that encourages you to take the long way home.
On paper, the 1.6-litre PHEV range-topper sounds like the one to have, with its promise of 225bhp and a combined fuel economy of up to 236.2mpg. Yeah, right, and I’m not sure I’m a hybrid fan. The C5 X’s claimed 34-38 mile electric range never fully materialised, and even in warmer weather the 30 miles or so I did get seemed to disappear very rapidly. I simply didn’t get into the habit of charging it very often, either. In other words, the 12.4kWh battery and electric motor risks becoming expensive extra luggage.
Then there was the C5 X’s tiddly 40-litre fuel tank, which meant thrice-weekly visits to my local fuel emporium on a busy week. I saw 47mpg on average, which is impressive for a car this size, but even as a 250-mile range becomes the norm as we head into the EV sunlit uplands, I missed the 500-miles plus that made (makes?) running a diesel so useful. The eight-speed transmission can also get a bit flustered, shifting down or up too early, if tasked with anything other than cruising.
Yeah, I know this all sounds overly negative. The C5 X doubles down on Citroën’s mission to be different. It’s comfortable, the interior convincingly remixes Stellantis group hard- and software, and regardless of my inability to really utilise its hybrid attributes, it was efficient to run. It’s well-equipped and good value, too. There were occasions when the smartphone connectivity would inexplicably drop out only to mysteriously reappear, but that’s not an issue exclusive to Citroën.
The problems I found were more problems with me than the car, I guess. As much as I crave comfort and mindfulness, two qualities the C5 X really delivers on, my inner boy racer is still too vocal. A case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, perhaps.