What is it?
Like plenty of carmakers, Citroen has had to adapt and change to remain relevant to buyers. Nowhere better is this seen than with its C5. This was a saloon and estate model that, for a good part of this century, served as a rival to the once best-selling Ford Mondeo.
But today, the C5 nameplate instead resides on an SUV – Citroen’s largest model in this respect. Rivalling the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca, the C5 Aircross was introduced as a funkier option in this class in 2019, with a choice of petrol and diesel options.
Now, though, there’s a new plug-in hybrid, but is it worth considering?
This model’s important for numerous reasons – not least because it’s Citroen’s first hybrid and helps to establish the brand’s plan of offering either a hybrid or PHEV version of every car it sells by 2025.
It’s being followed by the C4 this year, which will also be offered as an EV. But the C5 Aircross Hybrid’s powertrain is not an entirely new one, though, as it uses an existing engine, while the setup also features in similar models from sister brands – the Vauxhall Grandland X and Peugeot 3008.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powering the C5 Aircross Hybrid is a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine that combines with an 80kW electric motor, and together they produce 222bhp – making this the most powerful Citroen you can buy today. Performance figures aren’t going to embarrass any sports car, but a 0-60mph time of 8.5 seconds is respectable. A smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox is used, with power being delivered to the front wheels.
It’s also accompanied by a 13.2kWh battery, which once charged (expect it to take around two hours via a 7kW wallbox or public charger) allows for a claimed electric range of up to 40 miles. On a cold January day, though, we never saw more than 30 miles of zero-emissions ability. Citroen claims it will return up to 222mpg, with CO2 emissions of 32g/km giving it a benefit-in-kind of 10 per cent – ideal for company car drivers.
What’s it like to drive?
Due to the additional stiffening required for a car to be able to cope with the extra weight of a heavy battery, it can often lead to a poorer quality ride. Now that’s at odds with Citroen’s key strength of delivering maximum comfort, but thankfully this French marque has got around the problem by fitting a new multi-arm rear suspension setup that means this hybrid Aircross remains just as comfortable as the standard car.
— Ted Welford (@TedWelford) January 21, 2021
It’s a really rather pleasant thing behind the wheel, with a swift powertrain, strong refinement and a general feeling of security and comfort. Don’t buy this Citroen for its sportiness, though, as despite decent performance, the lifeless steering and tendency to roll through corners means it doesn’t respond well if you try and thrash it.
How does it look?
Citroen is a manufacturer not frightened to do things differently, and nowhere best shows this than the exterior design of the C5 Aircross.With its chunky styling, large alloy wheels and fancy lighting at the front and rear, it certainly stands out on the road.
It is, however, quite a discreet-looking hybrid. Aside from subtle blue badging, which our test car didn’t even have, and a charging flap that just looks like a standard filler cap, there’s nothing to show this is any different to a regular petrol or diesel Aircross.
What’s it like inside?
Inside, the best thing about the Aircross is its brilliant ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats, which are wide and feature plenty of foam, and are a dream to sit in – helping to add to the ease of driving that this model is all about.The rest of the C5’s cabin impresses, though. It gets an aircraft-like gear selector, along with gloss black buttons for the eight-inch touchscreen, which remains easy to use. The quality isn’t quite up to rivals like the Peugeot 3008, but it feels more upmarket than the rest of the Citroen range.
Like most hybrids, though, this model isn’t as roomy as the standard Aircross. Boot space shrinks from 580 litres to 460 litres, though it’s still a useful size. The Hybrid also retains individually-sliding rear seats, while space in the back, in general, is plentiful for adults, if not class-leading.
What’s the spec like?
With prices for the plug-in C5 Aircross starting from £34,360, it slots comfortably between the Vauxhall Grandland X and Peugeot 3008 in terms of price.
It’s comfortably more expensive than a regular petrol or diesel model, but that’s much the case with any PHEV, and here you get much lower running costs (if you plug it in) and stronger performance.
The standard ‘Shine’ model boasts plenty of equipment, too, including 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start and a superb configurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster to name just a handful of features. An extra £1,500 gets you the top-spec Shine Plus version – bringing larger 19-inch alloy wheels, additional driver assistance technology and electric boot, and feels worthy of the extra spend.
Citroen’s first hybrid takes a refreshingly different approach to most. The French firm’s decision to focus on comfort over sportiness might not appease all but is a welcome one that works brilliantly with the ease and laid-back character of the C5 Aircross.
Add in the potential for low running costs – though make sure you can charge that battery regularly as the engine’s thirsty in isolation – a cool interior and long list of standard equipment and this is one of the better hybrid family SUVs you can buy today.
Model: Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid
Base price: £34,360
Model as tested: C5 Aircross Shine Plus Plug-in Hybrid EAT 8
Price as tested: £39,620
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol with electric motor and battery
Max speed: 140mph
0-60mph: 8.5 seconds
Emissions: 32-41g/km CO2
Electric range: 33-40 miles