If you’re in the market for a large hatchback or saloon, the new Citroen C5 X is an intriguing choice
4.0 out of 5
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It’s hard to know how many people are really still in the market for a large saloon or hatchback these days, but for anyone who is, the Citroen C5 X is definitely worth considering. It’s comfortable, spacious and practical, and while the design and format won’t appeal to everyone, we don’t think Citroen is being unduly optimistic when it says it expects to attract a few customers out of family SUVs.
Citroen’s new big car, the C5 X, is being launched with a relatively simple line-up of just three powertrains. We’ve already been impressed by the plug-in hybrid edition, while acknowledging that its high price probably limits its appeal to user-choosers after an efficient tax-busting company car. Now it’s time to determine whether the entry-level petrol edition has enough of the range-topper’s qualities to attract private buyers.
There are, in fact, two pure-petrol versions of the C5 X sitting beside the PHEV. The mid-spec model has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder motor with 178bhp and 250Nm of torque. But the entry point in this large hatchback-crossover is a mere 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit, producing 128bhp and 230Nm. There’s a single choice of transmission, too: Stellantis’s ubiquitous eight-speed automatic, with front-wheel drive.
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Those outputs seem relatively modest for a vehicle large enough to have cars like the Skoda Superb on its list of rivals. And sure enough, the performance figures don’t look particularly stellar on paper; 0-62mph takes 8.1 seconds, and the top speed is 130mph.
Car group tests
On the road, the smaller engine and lack of a big battery make the C5 X 130PS feel noticeably more light on its feet than the hybrid edition. Pure-petrol editions of the car do without the trick active suspension of the plug-in, making do with just Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions (in effect, fluid-filled bump stops). But if anything there’s a slightly more predictable, consistent level of composure here.
Indeed, there’s a sweetness to the way the C5 X turns into corners, though the steering remains sadly short on feel, and body control is perfectly respectable. It strikes us as a solid, well-judged compromise between low-speed comfort, motorway waftability and sensible B-road progress, albeit one that offers next to no involvement.
In a way, though, this chassis character is a decent pairing for the engine, because for all the pure-petrol model’s lightness compared with the hybrid, the three-cylinder engine is still acutely aware that it’s hauling around a big family hatchback. Thrash it to the point where the eight-speed automatic gearbox starts delivering kickdowns and you’ll certainly hear some three-pot rumble. But as long as you’re not in a desperate rush, it’s fine – and the transmission is a smooth shifter throughout.
Rolling refinement isn’t a match for the hybrid’s, but without the acoustic glass that you get on top-spec versions, you’re more likely to hear a bit of wind rush from around the A-pillar than you are any drone from under the bonnet. Citroen has done a good job of making even this entry point a solid, relaxed cruiser – precisely what a big French car should be, you might argue.
Our test car came in the French-market equivalent of Shine, the middle point in a three-tier trim hierarchy. Like the entry-level Sense Plus, it gets 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera – but it steps up the infotainment display from 10 inches to 12 inches, and also includes a heated steering wheel, a different design of alloy wheel and a head-up display.
The cabin certainly feels plusher than those of many recent Citroens, with high-grade fabrics and finishes in direct sight, and any cheaper materials tucked away down low. Gloss piano-black plastics are a less welcome inclusion, though, since our experience suggests that their showroom appeal isn’t matched by scratch resistance.
Citroen’s infotainment system represents another marked improvement for the brand, with a crisp display that doesn’t hang about when responding to inputs. The built-in, TomTom-sourced navigation software is pitiful when compared with what you get by hooking up your Android and Apple phone, however. Fortunately, these connections come as standard on all versions of the C5 X.
The C5 X’s credentials improve further when you look at its costs – and, significantly, the finance deals that are likely to draw in private customers. Citroen has been working hard here, avoiding the rental market in a bid to beef up predicted residual values and, as a result, reduce the monthly rates.
It appears to have worked. Stick down a deposit of just under £4,500 on a four-year, 40,000-mile PCP deal and even the mid-spec 1.2-litre model driven here will cost you £329 per month. With the same deposit and terms, Skoda’s admittedly more powerful 150PS SE L Superb DSG will set you back £70 per month more – costing more than £3,300 extra over the four-year term.
|Model:||Citroen C5 X Shine PureTech 130 EAT8|
|Engine:||1.2-litre 3cyl turbo petrol|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
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