2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Review

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On the whole, the C5 Aircross remains a practical, comfort-focused offering, now with an improved cabin ambience.

The Citroen C5 Aircross has been a hugely significant model for the French manufacturer; more than a quarter of a million have been sold in Europe since it made its debut in 2018, but beyond the sales figures, it’s been crucial for a brand focused on comfort and family motoring to have an SUV of this size in its line-up. Now it’s our first chance to try the updated version of the car in France, which has not yet been confirmed for Australia despite the brand currently selling the pre-facelifted model here.

On the outside at least, Citroen hasn’t mucked around too much with the formula. As is the norm with mid-life facelifts, the focus has been on tweaking plastics – headlights, bumper and grille – instead of significant changes to any of the car’s metal panels. Even so, there’s a sharp new look at the front, where the new grille and daytime running light treatment brings the C5 Aircross into greater alignment with the newly launched C5 X.

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It’s inside where existing owners may notice the biggest difference; the dashboard has been changed, and the C5 Aircross gets a new 10-inch infotainment screen – again, borrowed from the C5 X – that’s mounted higher up to make it easier to see when on the move. This switch has in turn allowed Citroen to neaten up the centre console, slotting in a pair of vents and introducing a smaller gear selector that makes it all seem a little less cluttered.

There are two conventional powertrain options. The petrol edition uses Stellantis’s familiar 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged PureTech motor, producing 95kW. There’s a diesel, too – a 1.6-litre BlueHDI with the same output as the petrol. Both engines are available with Citroen’s EAT8 automatic transmission.

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The flagship is a plug-in hybrid model that combines a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an 80kW electric motor for a combined 165kW and 360Nm of torque. The battery capacity is 13.2kWh, but significantly the maximum electric-only range is 61km – respectable rather than stellar compared to the latest PHEV models.

The overall range includes equipment such as 18-inch alloys in entry-level spec, a 10-inch infotainment system, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera, seats with Alcantara upholstery and adaptive cruise control, and then top-spec additions such as a two-tone colour scheme, panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charging and a powered tailgate. Of course, Citroen Australia is yet to confirm the model arriving locally, and thus what specifications and pricing we could expect.

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Underneath it all, the C5 Aircross’s mechanical bits haven’t changed at all – so it remains a competent offering, albeit one without any great hope of entertainment. The 1.2-litre PureTech motor has just about enough shove for most situations, although it would probably require patience with five people and their luggage on board. It’s gruff when revved but pretty refined at a cruise – and that’s frankly the car’s best situation anyway, since the automatic gearbox doesn’t appreciate being hustled. You’ll find its lumpy kickdowns and occasional half-wittedness rather tiring if you try to rush the C5 Aircross along a twisty road.

The chassis plays its part in this too. The steering is consistently weighted but desperately inert with it, while the suspension is fine at smoothing out gentle undulations and low-speed bumps around town, and wafting through flowing sequences of corners – but it’s a less willing participant when asked to change direction quickly. It’s safe and predictable, but ultimately unrewarding.

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All versions of the car get Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions – in effect, trick suspension bump stops – but high-frequency and sharp imperfections can still take the system beyond its limits. Once that happens, you’re left with standard EMP2-platform fare, with noticeable thunks coming through to the cabin, particularly at the rear (the non-hybrid models get a torsion beam at the back, incidentally; the plug-in features a multi-link set-up). In general, though, it’s more compliant around town than many rivals.

What you’re buying into, dynamically, is a car unashamedly focused more on comfort than any of its key competitors – and so also one that doesn’t try to offer anything approaching the still-modest level of fun that you can have in a Skoda Karoq, a Hyundai Tucson or the latest Kia Sportage.

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The makeover inside delivers improved hardware – notably the higher-resolution screen – but keeps some of the old car’s foibles, including the software that runs on the display. It’s more closely linked to the system in the C4 than the better tech in the latest C5 X, so it keeps frustrating elements – like temperature displays, which require you to prod a button and access another screen to make adjustments. Again, the Korean competition remains noticeably slicker in this area.

The cabin can come in one of four treatments, each of which brings a different mix of plastics, leather-effect materials and leather upholstery. There’s extra squishiness in the seats – though lateral support remains vague at best – and the new finish inside is more polished and less cluttered, but no better than the class norm. The individual sliding seats in the rear, meanwhile, allow you to focus on rear-passenger space or boot capacity (it ranges from 580 to 720 litres in non-hybrid versions), but strangely, there’s not even a single pre-moulded plastic hook on which to hang a shopping bag.

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We’ll leave you to make a call on whether the mid-life tweaks to the C5 Aircross have improved the car’s looks. The dynamics remain better suited to urban motoring and a relaxed approach, though, with several key rivals offering a bit more involvement and slicker in-car tech.

Model: Citroen C5 Aircross
Price: TBC
Engine: 1.2-litre, 3cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 95kW/230Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 10.3sec
Top speed: 188km/h
On sale: TBC

 

John McIlroy

Final Verdict:

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