Review: Citroen C5 Aircross SUV
This may be a crossover that doesn’t seem too thrilled to take on the off-road trail but how well does it do everything else?
It’s a bit weird that Citroen has taken this much time to make an official presence in India. Considering that it’s not impossible to spot classic Citroens of various styles in the country, the globally available brand’s absence from the local market seemed like a grossly missed opportunity, until now. With the Citroen C5 Aircross, the French company has turned its missing identity to that of a well-rounded premium carmaker. While it remains to be seen how the upcoming C3 hatchback widens Citroen’s reach — and turns its Indian operations into commercial success — what’s clear is that it’s off to a promising start. An unconventional start, but a good one, nevertheless. But how good is the C5 Aircross?
Responsible for keeping its comfort quotient high, the C5 Aircross’s noise insulation is worth a mention too. Both the engine and road noise are kept out of the cabin, and even for a tall crossover, it doesn’t seem to be affected by too much wind noise. This, though, is a double-edged sword, as one can very much forget that it’s a diesel, for it doesn’t sound like one at low revs. But that by no means is an indication that the 2.0-litre (177hp, 400 Nm) engine can’t get vocal; it does so as the revs climb up. But you’d hardly need to do that, as even with part throttle, the car reaches triple-digit speeds in no time, and the 8-speed automatic gearbox isn’t a bother, either. The car’s ECO mode does suck some of the urgency out, and the Sport mode, as expected, does the opposite. I didn’t get a chance to test the traction modes, but it’s a front-wheel-drive crossover, so I don’t expect that to transform it into an off-road-ready machine.
The Citroen C5 Aircross is aimed to be a personal, everyday vehicle and not a recreational one, so it’s not surprising to see the lack of AWD. Plus it excels at being the former, which is a big positive.
On the inside, the interior space and cabin comfort both are good if not exceptional. The division of the rear bench into three individual seats is bound to divide people’s opinions, but in practice, I feel that a more conventional split would’ve worked better. On the other hand, the front seats are just about perfect, not just in the way they provide comfort but also in the choice of materials and looks. The dashboard design is pretty in line with that; although the weird left-hand-drive-orientated positioning of controls can be slightly irksome.
The panoramic sunroof on the top-spec Shine version makes the already nice cabin feel a touch nicer, especially when the weather’s good. But more than any of the aforementioned, it’s how with small touches, it feels as if the car is trying to make your journey a tiny bit more special than anything else in the segment. For instance, the minimal design of the all-digital instrument cluster is classy and while not as functional as other ‘cockpits’, it sets the C5 Aircross apart. The way the indicators and warning sounds are made pleasing to the ear is another big positive. The fit and finish seem good, and the way the whole cabin feels is very different from some of the characterless rivals.
First, it’s imperative that I tell you about the weirdly confusing segment the C5 is positioned in. If one were to make a Venn diagram of the kind of cars being offered at around Rs 30 lakh, they’d be surprised to see how many different segments intersect at this point. There’s something for everyone: from seven-seat MPVs, full-sized/often-pickup-based SUVs, to monocoque-chassis (more car-like) crossovers. The Citroen C5 Aircross falls in the latter category, and devoid of all-wheel drive and any intent to go off-road, it’s genuinely a crossover that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. What it does offer is the ability to traverse bad roads gracefully without wallowing like jelly on wheels or jumping around like a pogo stick.
Another impressive bit is Citroen Service, which while nowhere close to rival carmakers in terms of reach, has another trick up its sleeve. Every dealer has been allocated a service van, which can be sent to you whenever there’s a regular service requirement for your vehicle. This effectively means one can buy and run a Citroen C5 Aircross even if there isn’t a dealership or service centre in their city. It must also be noted that this is different from the emergency roadside assistance that the brand provides.
So, is the Citroen C5 perfect?
In a way, yes; as long as it’s asked to be one’s daily runabout, it performs flawlessly. If you want it to handle off-road, it’ll falter. If you want it to offer the kind of performance focus that some crossovers have, it’ll fail there too. And worst of all, if you want the C5 Aircross to be a replacement for a company car (which in many cases is an upper-D-segment sedan), it mightn’t be able to match the comfort, either.
Should you consider one?
People who’ve experienced the C5 Aircross (journalists, customers, bloggers, etc.), they’d unanimously say that it’s worth a try, this car. For everyday driving, it handles most tasks with ease, and the ride quality on less-than-perfect roads is unimaginably good. Its quirks aren’t too pronounced either, and it is quite possibly the best looking car in the segment.
What I like:
Apart from the aforementioned, there are some features common in global cars which are present in the C5 Aircross, too: blind-spot monitor, coffee break alert, hands-free tailgate operation, flexible seating system, etc. Then there’s the suspension which with the help of cushions manage to offer unmatched ability to absorb bumps and both compression and rebound are handled well.
What can Citroen improve?
Rear-seat space and comfort; although the individual seats can be reclined and adjusted for knee room, these lack the kind of space one would expect from individual seats.
The largely touch-based operations do clean up the dashboard but it’s irritating controlling air-con from the screen. Also, the capacitive shortcut buttons under the screen aren’t the best way to interact with the infotainment system. Ventilated seats and a better camera solution at this price point would’ve made life easier, too.
The Citreon C5 Aircross has been updated globally with a fresh face and other improvements. It’s yet to be announced when that’ll come to India, but the current model is hardly a bad-looking car. Prices for the current version start at Rs 32.23 lakh for the ‘Feel’ variant and Rs 33.78 lakh for the better-specced ‘Shine’ version.