The Citroen C5 Aircross gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain to add a further layer of refinement to the already plush SUV. But comfort aside, it provides yet more choice in the increasingly electrified SUV market that could help to reduce local emissions, and your running costs.
In the Metal:
Even though the Citroen C5 Aircross is only a five-seat SUV, it's a sizeable thing and isn't lacking in presence on the road. It's a bold design but not one that's brash or too in-your-face. The double-stacked headlights, with LED daytime running lamps in the upper portion, ensure that it is unlikely to be mistaken for anything else. Meanwhile, the double chevron of the Citroen logo blends into the grille. Anodised Blue accents in the front bumper and along the 'airbumps' that span the lower door sections signify that this is the plug-in hybrid version, but these are optional. Without those, there is little else to indicate that this is the plug-in hybrid variant, other than the addition of a flap on the passenger side to access the charging port.
Due to the placement of the 13.2kWh lithium-ion battery in the rear of the car, the amount of cargo volume in the boot is impacted, reducing by 120 litres. Still, it remains decently sized at 460 litres, and the versatility of the three individual rear seats is not affected. The Citroen is one of the few cars in the segment that offers seating like this, as all three are the same size and with the functionality to slide fore and aft by as much as 150mm. The two outer rear seats are also equipped with ISOFIX points.
Up in the front row, Citroen fits its hugely comfortable Advanced Comfort seats. More akin to an armchair you'd happily spent a few hours sitting in while you read a good book, these are some of the most comfortable seats you'll find without having to splash out on a Mercedes-Maybach or Rolls-Royce. They feature soft foam with a thickness of 15mm in parts and they're wider seats than what is typically found in cars too. Elsewhere, a 12.3-inch digital instrument display shows specific hybrid information, including which part of the powertrain is in use and how much battery charge is remaining. A drive mode function allows you to switch between different configurations, or to select a fully electric mode.
Comfort is the name of the game in the case of the Citroen C5 Aircross hybrid. Part of that comes from the plush seating we mentioned above, but the C5 also employs Citroen's patented Progressive Hydraulic Cushions in the suspension. These add above-average levels of comfort in both shock absorption (when you hit the initial bump) and damping (how the car deals with the reaction to it). It does all come together rather well, and even on larger optional 19-inch wheels it doesn't bang over bumps or transmit much road noise through the cabin.
The hybrid system enhances the quietness of the interior, especially when it runs in its electric mode. Only the faint whirr of the electric motor driving the front wheels is detectable. With 320Nm of torque available from the electric motor, the C5 Aircross can not only get away from the traffic lights in a brisk fashion, but it can also travel beyond motorway cruising speeds using the 80kW motor alone. Doing so will make a bigger dent in the quoted 55 kilometres of electric range. However, if you use the electric part of the system for primarily urban and city driving then that figure becomes far more achievable. As ever with plug-in hybrids, you do need to be very regimented at plugging it in to charge the battery at every opportunity if you want to come close to seeing the official fuel consumption figures. Do so, and you will reap the financial rewards of lower running costs as well as reducing the local emissions coming from the car's exhaust.
Speaking of charging, using a typical domestic 7.3kW wallbox will see the battery fully recharged in two hours, though with a 3.2kW charge unit that time increases to 4 hours 15 minutes. Relying on a domestic three-pin plug socket obviously take longer again, at 7 hours 25 minutes to bring the battery to 100 per cent. As you drive, it is possible to choose to save a set level of battery energy, for example, if you know you're going to be driving into a low or zero-emission zone in a city or town. Accessing this is quickly done through the eight-inch touchscreen display on the centre console. Alternatively, you can leave the Citroen in its default setting, which sees the car decide which part of the powertrain is best to use at a particular time.
The 1.6-litre petrol engine is reasonably smooth when running and has adequate performance for the car's size. There is even a Sport setting, though as mentioned, this car is more about comfort than sharp, dynamic handling and performance. You do feel as if you're sitting in an armchair when driving and the light steering, combined with supple ride quality, makes this quite a relaxing car to drive. In reality, once you spend even a short amount of time driving in its electric mode, you won't want to do it any other way.
What you get for your Money:
The Citroen C5 Aircross hybrid is due to go on sale in Ireland in January 2021. As yet, there is no official pricing or specifications available concerning equipment. When these details are confirmed, we will update this section of the review and appoint a rating.
Plug-in hybrid SUVs are rapidly becoming commonplace and, to a certain extent, many of them offer similar performance and pricing. What sets the Citroen C5 Aircross apart is the greater degree of comfort that it provides to its occupants. Its calm driving experience is one that exemplifies the positives of a plug-in hybrid.