The introduction of the Citroen C5 Aircross bolsters the French brand's range, delivering a flagship SUV. Stand-out looks tie in with the rest of the models in the Citroen line-up and make the C5 Aircross clearly recognisable in what is an unquestionably style-conscious segment of the market. Beneath that form is no shortage of function, although sticking rigidly to a five-seat setup may preclude some potential buyers that need a higher seat count. The upside to fewer seats is more space for passengers and luggage, of course.
In the Metal:
One of the first things you notice about Citroen's C5 Aircross is its presence. The high front design and double-stacked headlight are not only eye-catching, but also a little imposing. There are many similarities in its design cues to other models in the Citroen range, though the C5 Aircross is arguably the best-executed of the lot.
Sitting into the driver's seat, you're greeted by a higher quality of finish than many are used to seeing from the French brand. There's a high centre console that features a stubby automatic drive selector and optional Grip Control dial. It also accommodates a deep storage bin inside. These are carried over from the Peugeot 3008 and 5008 models, and the eight-inch touchscreen display is also familiar, but it's all very well put together. Most models will feature the 12.3-inch digital instrument display. The C5 Aircross feels more spacious than its Peugeot rivals, despite sharing many components.
That sense of space continues in the rear, where Citroen provides three independent seats rather than the usual bench arrangement. The two outer seats carry ISOFIX points (as does the front passenger seat), and all three can slide fore and aft by up to 150mm, while the seatbacks recline through five different positions. By using the sliding function, the already sizeable 580-litre boot can increase to 720 litres. With all three seats folded flat, the total capacity is 1,630 litres. An electrically operated tailgate is available, as is the option of a hands-free kick-to-open function.
To differentiate the C5 Aircross from the plethora of other SUVs in the segment, Citroen is focusing on comfort - an aspect that surprisingly few other brands have pushed. At the core of this is the company's progressive hydraulic cushion suspension setup, which first appeared in the smaller C4 Cactus. In the C5 Aircross, these deliver a plush ride that does an excellent job of absorbing sharper bumps. The body control through bends is noticeably better than in the Cactus, though. The C5 Aircross is composed and competent, although its front-wheel-drive only setup does limit traction.
The larger 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine tested here adds somewhat to the C5 Aircross' refinement levels. With 178hp and 400Nm of torque on tap, it doesn't have to work quite as hard as the more popular 1.5-litre unit will, although the larger engine does consume more fuel and emit more CO2, which will make it costlier to run.
A switch to using an eight-speed automatic transmission (from the six-speed manual) adds to the smoothness of power delivery, especially when getting up to speed. By having two more gear ratios, there is less of a jump between gears when accelerating. Citroen still expects most buyers to opt for the manual gearbox, but cost aside, the automatic does add slight gains in fuel efficiency and given how well it operates it may be worth considering if you frequently drive in heavy traffic.
An added benefit to this is the availability of an adaptive cruise control system that stops and starts with the flow of traffic. The stop-start system can active at speeds up to 20km/h, allowing for longer periods of engine-off when required and the restart is one of the fastest in the segment.
While the Moroccan landscape provided a spectacular backdrop in which to get our first taste of the C5 Aircross, its weather-beaten roads were rough, giving us a real insight into how the car performs. Many of these roads were probably more severe than a lot of buyers may use, which bodes well for the expected comfort levels in the car. It retains a reasonable degree of composure at higher speeds and the noise level inside the cabin is lower than in many rivals. The steering is nicely weighted and when stationary or when parking it becomes fingertip-light. An array of parking sensors and cameras are available to assist, though overall visibility from the driver's seat is quite good.
What you get for your Money:
Official pricing and specifications for the Citroen C5 Aircross aren't going to be released until February 2019, just ahead of the car's official launch in Ireland in March, so until then, we aren't going to give a rating to this section of the review. We will update this when we have confirmation of the details.
What we can tell you is that the familiar Citroen trim levels will be offered and all models will get the progressive hydraulic cushion suspension setup. Inside, every C5 Aircross will also come with the eight-inch touchscreen display and three independent rear seats.
If you don't have the requirement for the occasional use of seven seats, then the new Citroen C5 Aircross makes for an appealing crossover option. With a striking design, generous space inside and some features that make it both comfortable and practical, this is a well-rounded SUV. We'll have to wait until the car arrives in Ireland to see how the smaller 1.5-litre diesel engine and manual gearbox drive, but on this first taste, the new entrant delivers a solid performance.