‘There’s palpable relief that Citroen has kept its sense of fun’: Erin Baker takes a spin in the new C5 Aircross

Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader, gives us an exclusive look into Citroen's freshest offering, the C5 Aircross

Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader

French car brand Citroen has an admirable history of making quirky cars with left-field design married to little luxuries like sumptuous hydraulic suspension. The company’s latest family SUV, the C5 Aircross, aims to keep a sense of weirdness, while putting comfort at the heart of the driving experience.

Style

From the outside, there’s palpable relief that Citroen has kept its sense of fun. Our test car had bright red roof rails and splashes of red round the side bumpers, as well as crazy front lights that split option as strongly as Marmite.

The C5 Aircross sits high off the ground; it’s chunky with plenty of room for the wheels to move across rugged ground.

Inside, aside from some red stitching, the C5 Aircross is disappointingly… well, normal. There’s none of the whacky storage solutions you get on the Citroen C4 Picasso, which is an MPV and also a very decent family car, like storage above your head, or hidden in the dash. There’s an absolutely massive central cubby hole under the central arm rest, but that’s about it.

Tech

Boy, does Citroen play its trump card here. For a car costing about £30k, you get a really impressive set-up. The digital read-out behind the steering wheel is very funky, with the speed going horizontally across the top of the screen like a tickertape. Flick a switch on the steering wheel to change what you see on the screen: you can have the satnav map filling your view, or nothing but a massive speedo when you select “minimal”. There’s Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, plus USB ports.

We had the “Flair Plus” version, which gives you a special bit of tech called ConnectedCAM Citroen – an inbuilt camera fitted behind the rear-view mirror. It will take photos or record a video for up to 20 seconds, so you can capture your superb driving (or film dangerous driving in front of you). You download the footage via an app into your phone.

Flair Plus also gets you voice recognition for the DAB radio, satnav and phone, as well as wireless smartphone charging.

Comfort

While the tech on the car is superb, Citroen is pushing “comfort” as the selling point. The C5 Aircross has “hydraulic cushions” which basically means liquid chambers in the suspension that soak up the bumps before they reach you. For families on long journeys, believe me, this is a huge tick.

The car is also quiet on the motorway, which should never be underestimated when your six-year-old is desperate to explain at length why “Cloud” is the answer to “something beginning with S” in a game of I-Spy. It saves a lot of tension, believe me.

We took the car to Legoland for an overnight stay (I know, never again) and there was plenty of space in the boot for overnight bags for two adults and two children, plus good leg and head room for four. The panoramic sunroof is a welcome addition, and the electric button to open and close the boot comes in handy with armfuls of Lego.

Power

Don’t expect much – we tested the 1.5 diesel engine with 130 horsepower which is enough to boot you past a slower car, but not enough to whang it uphill at motorway speeds. What you do get, though, in return for moving more slowly, is better fuel consumption – we got 48mpg and we haven’t seen that for a very long time.

There are proper off-roading buttons in the car but only the front wheels have power sent to them, so you’re limited to grassy fields rather than desert sand dunes…. buy a camel if that’s your bag.

Price

A very fair £30,825 will get you into a C5 Aircross with the 8-speed automatic gearbox and the full Flair Plus spec. We also had metallic paint (£545, don’t bother) and Grip Control in case you want to go charging through sand and snow (£395, don’t bother). You also get a three-year/60,000-mile warranty.

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