Is the Citroen C5 X a saloon, an SUV or an estate car?
It sounds like a simple question but Citroen has confused matters by building something that combines elements of all three into something quite different.
The latest flagship model for the French brand is an intriguing mix which, according to Citroen, offers the style of a saloon, the practicality of an estate and the easy access and higher seating position of a crossover.
Design and interior
Visually, the result is a little peculiar but in a wonderfully Citroen sort of way. The long, sleek body is reminiscent of a shooting brake but one that sits unnaturally tall on its 19-inch alloys. Photographs can make it look out of proportion but in the metal the unusual approach is refreshingly different and the C5 X has a presence that its unloved C5 predecessor never offered.
Although it’s Citroen’s big flagship, the C5 X isn’t allowed to compete with the true premium marques - that’s sister brand DS’s territory. Instead it is up against a mixture of mainstream D-segment cars like the Skoda Superb, Mazda 6 and Volkswagen Arteon.
Space-wise it can more than hold its own in such company. Drivers of all shapes and sizes have acres of room to get comfortable thanks to the long, wide cabin and myriad adjustment options. Rear legroom is also mighty impressive even for taller adults, although it’s not quite on par with the Skoda Superb. However, at 485 litres, the C5 X PHEV’s boot is an exact match for the Superb iV hatchback and offers a huge user-friendly loadspace that, with the rear seats folded, extends to 1,580 litres. It’s not as spacious as true estate rivals - the Superb estate offers 510 litres, the Mazda 6 has 522 - but is surprisingly close given its less conventional design.
Engine and driving
There are two purely petrol versions of the C5 X - a 1.2-litre and a 1.6-litre, plus the plug-in hybrid we’re testing. That uses the 1.6-litre petrol engine and adds an 81kW electric motor and 12.4kWh battery. Combined power is 222bhp, with 184lb ft of torque. A 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds is perfectly respectable, if not scintillating, but the hybrid system’s strength lies in how it doles out the power. Drive like a lunatic and you can prompt some indecision from the eight-speed auto, but driven sensibly and the transition between EV, hybrid and petrol power is virtually undetectable, with the engine note muted almost to silence.
Official figures put the C5 X’s fuel consumption at between 186 and 236mpg, which isn’t achievable for many (any) people in the real world but the battery offers close to 30 miles of EV-only range for shorter runs and if used wisely, economy is still impressive for such a big car. On a 500-mile round trip with charging stops at the start and midway, we saw 55mpg.
It helps that the C5 X doesn’t cry out to be driven hard. The Advanced Comfort Suspension has been updated for this car and offers a better than ever balance between comfort and control. PHEVs even get adaptive dampers that respond to different drive modes but it’s not a dynamic revelation and the emphasis is still clearly on the comfort side of the equation.
It’s best to forget trying to shave seconds off your commute by carving up the roads and instead just revel in the peerless comfort on offer. There really is nothing else at even twice the price which offers the same level of ride quality over virtually any road surface.
That matches the overall cabin refinement which, thanks to acoustic glass and plenty of sound deadening, is as hushed as many larger premium cars. Add in the big, supportive seats with their multi-density foam construction and you’ve got an absolutely brilliant long-distance cruiser.
The cabin also shines thanks to high-grade materials and smart design touches. The centre console is the standard Stellantis one with gloss black and knurled metal-look plastic controls but elsewhere dash and door surfaces are soft-touch, there’s a neat chevron stitch on the perforated leather upholstery and an attractive patterned wooden inlay.
Price and specification
The C5 X range starts at £27,790 but our Shine Plus PHEV came in at just over £41,000 with options. As befits a range-topping version of the flagship model, it’s packed with equipment - from heated and cooled massage seats and auto-dipping LED lights to a 12-inch touchscreen with connected services and adaptive cruise control as part of a loaded suite of driver assistance systems. As an alternative to a largish SUV, it feels like pretty good value, especially when you consider the running costs benefits of its lower, lighter, more aerodynamic construction.
The C5 X is another car in the finest tradition of big Citroens. It brings an effortless driving experience, great refinement and exceptional comfort all wrapped up in individual looks with a certain je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from rivals.
Citroen C5 X Shine Plus PHEV
Price: £39,960 (£41,760 as tested); Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol with 81kW electric motor; Power: 222bhp; Torque: 184lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic; Top speed: 145mph; 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds; Economy: 186.2-236.2mpg; CO2 emissions: 30g/km; EV range: 34.2-38.5 miles