Citroen’s C5 X is in its own league. Not necessarily because it’s perfect, but because there’s no natural competitor, says Tim Barnes-Clay.
With a slightly elevated ride height to satisfy the SUV appeal and a sloping roofline which compares the back with a Porsche Panamera, there’s nothing quite like it.
Citroens are known for quirky looks, and the C5 X is no different – the car has a busy front end that blends jagged edges and angles. It also sports headlights that look like arrows pointing inwards and a lower grille made up of vertical, rather than horizontal, lines.
There is a pronounced indentation in the doors, while the rear bulges out at each side, with the taillights separating as they tuck in towards the top of the rear wheel arch.
It is typically Citroen: a bit outrageous, probably divisive, yet very stylish – and certainly not dull.
The model is also long – 4.8-metres, to be precise. Based on the Stellantis EMP2 platform, it comes with a bunch of powertrains. The 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech 130 produces 131PS, while the PureTech 180 puts out 181PS thanks to its larger 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is the most powerful, which adds an electric motor to the 1.6-litre engine, generating 225 horses.
There are a few trims to pick from. The entry-level Sense Plus gets 19-inch alloys, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The grade also boasts keyless entry, a leather steering wheel, LED fog lights and automatic wipers.
You get a larger 12-inch screen in the other two trims, with Shine adding dual-zone air conditioning, a head-up display, and a wireless phone charger. Meanwhile, Shine Plus adds heated, electrically adjustable leather seats, automatic air conditioning and a powered boot lid.
The hybridised French motor takes 7.8-seconds to get to the hallowed 62mph. And other than a slight delay in the power delivery, it’s smooth and reasonably refined. The PureTech 180 is no slouch, achieving 0-62mph in 8.8-seconds without feeling much slower than the PHEV.
However, none of the cars is loud, thanks to Citroen working hard to limit the noise of the wind and tyres. But the PHEV is undoubtedly the one to go for if you want quietness. This is due to the claimed 37-mile all-electric range on its 12.4kWh battery.
The hybrid can be charged up in less than two hours with a 7kW home wall box, while it returns 217mpg, emitting just 30g/km of CO2. This compares with 43mpg and 147g/km CO2 in the PureTech 180.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox in the C5 X range is fine. However, it can be hesitant at lower speeds, and it’s quicker to change down under acceleration in the non-hybrids.
Ride comfort is the highlight. The name ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ might sound like something out of a chiropractor’s equipment catalogue, but it makes the ride sublime.
The hybrid adds active dampers, too, although the extra comfort here is offset by the added weight of the motor and batteries. Nevertheless, in all C5 X variants, ride quality is almost on par with German premium brands.
The Germans’ superiority means they can combine ride comfort with sharp handling – and the C5 X can’t live up to that. Chuck it into a bend, and you quickly find its limits, with some body roll in the corners due to the springiness of the absorbing suspension.
It isn’t terrible, however, thanks to the Citroen’s good steering. Indeed, it gives the typical crossover a run for its money. But the C5 X is not designed for the enthusiast who wants to have fun tackling twisty bucolic backroads.
On the other hand, it’s in its element as a comfortable cruiser.
The interior is arguably Citroen’s best, with a hexagonal steering wheel, plenty of silver trim and a strip of patterned wood across the dashboard.
The infotainment screen has shaped surrounds and a responsive display, and it’s a reasonably good system. Meanwhile, physical buttons and dials remain for the air conditioning system.
All models get a digital instrument cluster which has various layouts to choose from.
The seats are comfy, which is no surprise given they incorporate memory foam, and adjustable lumbar support will hug you in the bends.
Thick pillars, especially at the back, limit visibility somewhat. But all C5 X models have parking sensors, plus a rear-view camera, upgraded to a 360-degree camera in Shine Plus trim.
There is a lot of room in the front and back, but taller rear-seat passengers may brush their heads on the sloping roofline. At the same time, there’s a good chunk of storage space inside the cabin.
Boot space is 545 litres, expanding to 1,640 litres (485 to 1,580 litres in the hybrid) with the rear seats down in a 60/40 configuration.
Overall, the C5 X puts up a strong argument. The vehicle is well-equipped, very relaxing to drive, and at the premium end of Citroen’s range. Of course, the price reflects this, but you get a lot for your money compared with quality crossovers. And the well-designed, spacious interior makes the C5 X even more inviting.
The car’s so-so handling is unsuited to thrill-seekers, but, in terms of going in a straight line, the powertrains do a decent job, while higher mileage drivers will want to check out the hybrid.
Helped by its eccentric looks, the C5 X has plenty going for it and offers something different that stands out from the crowd.