Citroen returns to the large car space with its C5 X part-SUV, part-wagon, part-sedan crossover. Tough to pigeonhole and with an emphasis on ride comfort, it’s textbook Citroen. But can it justify its $60,000+ drive-away price?
The Citroen C5 X is an automotive ‘what the heck?’ come to life. The ever-innovative, sometimes bonkers French brand has somehow found a niche other companies haven’t yet exploited.
That’s right, the SUV-wagon-sedan mashup. Citroen says it “amalgamates the best features of three different vehicle types,” but in doing so is it a crossover too far?
Not if you’re Citroen. Here’s a brand that leads rather than follows. Sometimes that results in genius and success – witness history’s Traction Avant, DS, 2CV and CX – but, sadly, it has meant a hefty number of flops too. Citroen’s legacy is awash with brilliance, but in recent decades many of its offerings have either been too vanilla or too damn oddball to justify opening your wallet. C4 Cactus, anyone?
Citroen’s arguably at its best when it pushes boundaries, yet knows exactly what it wants the car to offer. The C5 X unashamedly strives to be outstandingly comfortable, practical, bursting with tech and serve as a striking flagship large car. On first taste, all boxes have been ticked. Performance? A sporty nature? Unsealed road abilities? Nope. It won’t do it, so let’s not pretend otherwise.
But will Australians buy this Chinese-built C5 X? Citroen’s not a brand renowned for chasing large volumes, and the C5 X’s price tag of $57,670 before on-roads (or over $60k drive-away) shows it’s not trying to undercut large wagon or SUV rivals. You can hop in a Skoda Superb wagon from $55,790; a Kia Stinger from $51,250, a high-spec Subaru Outback Touring from $50,990 or slightly smaller Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 162TSI from $50,690.
Fact is, Citroen pricing flirts near premium brand territory, and it’s a big ask to expect potential BMW or Mercedes-Benz buyers to amble into a Citroen showroom to see what the Gallic neighbours offer.
But vive la difference and all that. Perhaps you covert something that very few others will own, and Citroen’s circa 200 annual Australian sales guarantees that. But the C5 X deserves more buyers than just iconoclasts and Citroen tragics: it’s a blissfully comfy family wagon (crossover) bringing SUV-like ease of entry and exit and ride height without the me-too SUV styling.
In the metal it’s the wagon shape that dominates – a good thing. At 4805mm it’s almost as long as a Toyota Camry sedan, boasts fat wheel arches front and rear and a beautifully sleek back end with a sail-like D-pillar featuring one-way glass.
Bold touches include indents through a clam-shell bonnet and lower doors, a black roof, skinny V-shaped high-mounted 3D LED daytime running lights with LED headlights below and a sporty-looking rear wing. It’s just a shame colour choices are fifty shades of grey, a black, white and one blue – the latter the only free hue.
There’s just one grade – Shine – for now, running Citroen’s familiar 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol. It’s good for 133kW of power and 250Nm of torque and is mated to an eight-speed torque converter automatic. Sister brand Peugeot’s 1.6-litre turbo (in the rivalling 508 Sportswagon) manages 165kW/300Nm, highlighting the C5 X’s cruisier nature.
A plug-in hybrid version – already on sale in Europe – adds an extra 80kW to the party with an electric motor backing up the same 1.6-litre turbo engine. It’s coming to Australia, but not until the second half of 2023. Globally, all C5 X powertrains are currently front-wheel drive.
Like a proper family tourer. Comfort and ride quality are front and centre, but thankfully the C5 X hasn’t inherited wobbly top-heavy SUV cornering quirks. I was expecting a festival of understeer thanks to its soft ride and relatively skinny (205mm), high-profile tyres, but aside from a dash of body roll, the big Citroen displayed decent balance and grip. That was even in the face of standing water and giant pot-holes on our monsoon-like Sydney test drive.
It wouldn’t be a proper large Citroen without some innovative, pillow-like suspension. While the costly and oft-problematic (though incredibly comfortable) hydropneumatic suspension of old is long gone, the C5 X uses the brand’s trademarked Advanced Comfort Suspension.
More TM here – Progressive Hydraulic Cushions – are hydraulic compression and rebound stops, which are basically dampers for your dampers. The idea is to eliminate the nasty ‘bump stop’ hits when you find one pothole too many.
Show it a good or even reasonable road surface and it excels. It floats over imperfections, cabin insulation is superb at city speeds and mattress-like seats make for a relaxing, cossetting cruise. Sydney’s pothole-littered urban streets proved a stern test for the fancy suspension and 19-inch rims, and unfortunately there were no miracles. You feel bigger hits jarring through the cabin, but at least the big Citroen quickly settled after the initial shock.
Perhaps I was expecting too much. A few weeks prior to driving the C5 X I tested a 1972 Citroen DS, and quite honestly I don’t think I’ve ever piloted a car that can so expertly brush aside holes in the road.
The engine’s no firecracker either, but it suits the touring nature of the C5 X. Decent torque shove arrives from just past idle, and response is good if you prompt the gearbox into a lower gear using steering wheel paddles. Don’t expect things to happen quickly if you stomp on the throttle while gently cruising – the eight-speed auto likes to enjoy a croissant and espresso before coming to the party.
A Sport mode holds gears longer, sharpens throttle response and adds weight to the otherwise too-light and rather lifeless steering. Use this on a country road and there’s enough power to enjoy, although an extra 80kW (as the PHEV will bring) would be welcome when pushing on.
The plug-in would also (hopefully) eliminate another minor annoyance. The auto gearbox typically worked away seamlessly, but on occasion when pulling away or coming to a stop it abandons its smooth nature and develops a mild stutter. A bit rubber-bandy for want of a better term.
This low-speed urban work would be done on electric power only in the PHEV, which offers roughly 50km of pure electric range. This silent cruising, and ironing out that slight jerkiness, would wholeheartedly suit this graceful big C5 X. That said, if the Peugeot 508 PHEV is referenced, it will add close to $20,000 to the Citroen’s already chunky price.
Regardless, after three hours of city, highway and rural driving I came away totally fresh. The above are minor complaints as the ride comfort is otherwise quite lovely. The new-for-Citroen Active Lane Positioning and lane keep assist proved too nannying and controlling so was swiftly turned off, as was the Stop-Start system. The intelligent cruise control was far more successful, adapting speed to the car in front very well. The car comes to a complete stop in this way, giving your braking foot a rest. Well, except for one instance in the city where it appeared to get confused.
Pretty standout. Luxurious, interesting and spacious, and with all the key technology modern buyers expect at over $60k drive-away.
Let’s start with the seats. Their padding acts the same way as a mattress topper, giving a squdgy layer of foam beneath a perforated real leather/faux leather covering. They’re not sink-in armchair-like, but blend comfort and support successfully, are well bolstered and very wide. Fronts are electric and heated, but miss out on ventilation and any sort of massage feature.
The dash and door tops are soft plastics; armrests and most of the door skins are padded and the small steering wheel is part circle, part square to exude Citroenness. The centre console has decent storage and a small recessed toggle gear selector, leaving the central area neatly open. There are subtle (Citroen badge) chevrons in the door panels, seats, dash and door trim, the latter looking like it should be real wood for proper class and warmth, but sadly feel a bit plasticky instead.
Citroen’s long been guilty of putting its climate controls exclusively through a touchscreen, but blessedly not here. Rotary dials cover your dual-zone climate, with stylish panels of vents in the dash and more (as expected) for rear seat passengers.
A 12.0-inch central infotainment screen is of decent quality and has welcome customisability where you can easily place shortcut widgets for rapid access to your most important functions. Three-years free connected services (traffic updates, live parking spaces, fuel prices, speed camera locations), Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, 360-degree camera and four USB-C (two front, two rear) show the Citroen’s bang up to date. Well, except for the 7.0-inch digital driver display – its small size and basic functions are a bit of a letdown, but an excellent customisable colour head-up display compensates.
A glass sunroof has a quite flimsy-feeling manual sliding cover, and the glass itself doesn’t extend over the rear occupants. A shame, as it’s an otherwise lovely place to travel. The two outboard seats feel as wide as the fronts, and even the middle seat, although firmer, accommodated my six-foot height. Despite the feeling you sit quite high, the two main rear chairs offer decent head, leg and toe room, although they lack a reclining feature and a central armrest which would surely suit such a family tourer?
An auto tailgate (liftback style on this quasi-wagon) opens with a foot swipe under the plasticky black bumper. It reveals a decent 545-litre boot, extending to 1640-litre with rear seats folded at the pull of a handle. Ample, but well shaded by a Skoda Superb wagon with 660 and 1950 litres. Oh, and no rear wiper for this crossover of crossovers because it’s not a wagon, apparently. Let’s just say in our wet weather conditions, I’d have liked one.
Citroen quotes an impressive 6.0L/100km fuel economy, although it needs pricier 95RON.
Our test returned an acceptable 7.4L/100km, and that included some spirited driving and city traffic.
Warranty is an average one: five-years and unlimited kilometres. A bonus is five-years of roadside assistance, but although services prices are capped, they’re not cheap at $2818 over five years, though you can save $818 if you purchase a service pack up front.
Servicing intervals for the C5 X are every 12 months or 20,000km.
With Citroen not being a big player, there are only 10 sales dealers throughout Australia. Better news is 36 official Citroen service centres nationally.
A car for the SUV rejector. The C5 X has the agreeable ride height for ease of access – plus the seemingly imperative plastic wheel arch mouldings and lower bumpers – but feels far more a smart wagon than SUV. And that fits the idea of what a Citroen should be. The car less ordinary.
Interestingly styled, a roomy and comfy tech-packed cabin and it’s one of the most relaxing cars you’ll ever drive. Its smart suspension doesn’t work miracles over poor surfaces and the gearbox could be smoother, but otherwise it shines as a long distance tourer and city slicker. It doesn’t embarrass itself around a corner, either.
The incoming PHEV version – extra power, greener and silent running in town – will be the powertrain best suited to this big smoothie, but the already high price will blow out further. A niche model for the niche buyer, but it deserves some love.
In a car market drowning in SUVs, the Subaru Outback manages to be both unique and incredibly popular. So we decided to find out why by attempting to clock 10,000km in a top-spec MY21 Outback Touring over the next six months
Variant tested SHINE 1.6 THP 132
Key specs (as tested)
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