The Citroën C5 Aircross SUV is the first product from the PSA Peugeot-Citroën Group in India. Well, if you now consider the newly merged entity of Stellantis, then Jeep and Fiat have been here of course. But either way, this is a big deal since this will be the car that announces the French brand's arrival in India. It plays the role of a flagship in several markets and will do the same here. To dispel all assumptions, the C5 Aircross sits not in the Creta segment, but actually competes with the Tucson. Oh, and 'Aircross' is a name attached to all Citroën SUV models. Why? Let's just say the French can be quirky!
WATCH: Citroen C5 Aircross Review
Off late, Citroën has routinely been among the shortlisted finalists for the Design category at the World Car Awards. The brand has also won the award in 2015! And that is because it does have very distinct styling that's very specific to the brand. Now the face itself is very distinct and is characterised by the grille element. The double chevron pattern that is the brand's logo is integrated into it. The other thing off late that's become a signature is slim DRLs (daytime running lights) on top, with a big headlight further down - almost recessed into the bumper. That may not look new to you (since it may remind you of the Hyundai Kona or Creta), but it was Citroën that did it first. There is a fair amount of chrome on the car and yet it is tasteful and does not look overdone. The finish is excellent on all body panels and the material quality feels premium.
The C5 Aircross looks compact but is actually bigger and taller than most rivals. If you see the table below, you will know what I mean. Along the side you see some very distinct Citroën design elements - the alloy wheel pattern, the 'air bumps' in the side cladding, and the same shape reflects in other elements like bumper inserts and tailpipes. The boot implies space and the cargo space is generous too. In fact, it is also the largest in the class at 580 litres with the second row pushed back. Slide that row forward and you get 720 litres, and fold the row down - it is a massive 1630 litres. The higher 'Shine' variant gets an electric tailgate which can be operated by waving your leg below the bumper. The 'Feel' variant also misses out on a panoramic sunroof and full LED headlamps.
|Dimensions||Citroen C5 AirCross||Hyundai Tucson||Jeep Compass||Volkswagen Tiguan AllSpace|
|Length||4500 mm||4480 mm||4405 mm||4701 mm|
|Width||2099 mm||1850 mm||1818 mm||1839 mm|
|Height||1710 mm||1660 mm||1640 mm||1674 mm|
|Wheelbase||2730 mm||2670 mm||2636 mm||2787 mm|
Tech and Interior
Yes, the second row of seats slide forward or back, and are also equally split three ways. You can fold each section individually. The seats are a huge focus area also for their cushioning and sense of comfort. The three-way split might make each individual seat feel a bit narrow to some though. But it is nice to have the feel of individual seats instead of a bench. And yes three-point seatbelts for all three rear occupants. Being the widest car in the segment gives you a terrific sense of space. I love the seats since they are so different! The use of smart grey and white fabric is refreshing - and I wish the India variants did not get the faux leather inserts in the seat. A full fabric seat would have been great! They look good thanks to a quilted squares-like pattern. The seats are well-bolstered with high-density foam-tipped with soft foam, making them quite comfortable. The seats - especially up front - give you a sense of width. There are also springs under the seats that give you an added sense of comfort that complements the great ride quality this car has. But I will come to that. Stacked AC vents, a very different and smart layout, great screens and graphics, and a premium feel to the cabin make the Citroën C5 Aircross' cabin pretty attractive.
Everything feels good, but there are some weird bits. The start/stop button is placed behind the gear stick - seemingly a direct carryover from a left-hand drive version to the right hand. The button itself needs some prodding and coaxing – at times needing multiple presses to either start or stop the car. Even the hood release is on the left, but we have seen that carryover also in some other European cars. It should have been shifted – and is just a tad annoying. The screens make up for this though. The instrument cluster has a 12.3-inch TFT display that is crisp and has multiple display options. The graphics and transitions are also rather sexy and futuristic. You don't get a conventional dial layout in any display option – which some may miss. But honestly, I loved the screen, and its trip and information functionality.
Despite smaller cars now boasting 10.25-inch screens for the central console, on the C5 Aircross it is an 8-inch touchscreen. But it gives you a great experience, good resolution, and effective viewing angles. It also has a slight matte finish which is classy and avoids fingerprints showing on it. You get usual features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and implementation is done very nicely. You also get additional capacitive buttons which are like shortcuts to enter certain functions. So there's one for the air conditioning, one for navigation, or music - and if your phone is connected, the shortcut will take you directly to - say Google maps or your Apple music. The downside is that there is no visual CarPlay or Android shortcut button on the screen to just get back to the interface if you are in the car's menu. The system is coupled with a six-speaker sound system which sounds pretty decent too – and you don't really miss the fancy brand Bose or Harmon Kardon type badging! No wireless charging and no connected car suite or telematics though. Only one USB point in front, and one at the rear.
So the fact that it is good on equipment but not jam-packed indicates the chance for aggressive pricing. I'd reckon anything that stays around the ₹ 20-25 lakh mark for both variants would be a job well done. And will also get the right kind of attention – something a new brand needs.
On safety the C5 is loaded, and everything is standard across the two variants. 6 airbags, Isofix child seat mounts, ABS ESP, hill hold and descent, traction control, parking sensors front and back, reverse camera, electric parking brake, blind-spot warning, and a lot more makes this well-stacked on safety. The car has a 4-star crash rating from Euro NCAP, and hopefully the Indian built one emulates a similar high standard. The big infotainment display is home to the parking camera, which does well in low-light too. It also gives you a couple of different modes with 180-degree views.
They are calling this car 'comfort class'. You might think it's just marketing spiel and very often it is, but I have to say – comfort really is a big focus area on the C5 Aircross, that does give it an edge over the competition. So yes the ride quality is absolutely fantastic. The C5 takes to broken, rough, uneven, and undulating roads with élan. It's not like you will not feel a thing, but it is how much of what you feel. Compare to rivals and this car is definitely superior. You feel really cushioned and glide over the road with ease. How this has been achieved is by adding to the suspension setup. In a conventional suspension, there's a mechanical stop, a spring, the shock absorber and same arrangement on the other side of it. On the C5's suspension there's an addition of a hydraulic stop, which helps limit the impact of what travls off the road surface to you in the cabin. It is really effective, and the car has a very plush ride feel. It certainly does come across as best in class.
So you might think all the softening up has really compromised the drive dynamics because that typically tends to happen! Good news though, because you still find decent handling. There is a slight dulling of the edges in certain things like sharp cornering, but you will not find the handling to be weak. And even the steering – though very light – is not soft and comes across as fairly precise. It is the engine and performance where you might say the car comes up lacking - though just a bit.
We get only one engine - the 2-litre diesel, and it does the job. But that is just it - it will not exhilarate or surprise you. So not as fun as I had hoped, but then hey a sporty SUV is not what the company is claiming anyway unlike many competitors. The transmission is a bit fidgety and you will find even the operation of the lever itself a bit off. You need to shift the transmission to drive mode more than once at times to get it to actually engage. But that's a matter of getting used! But by fidgety, I meant that the auto gearbox also hesitates a split second, especially when stepping down. Luckily you can take that control in your own hands with the paddle shifters. Even so, there is a slight delay before things kick in.
|Specifications||Citroen C5 Aircross|
|Engine||1997 cc 4-Cylinder Diesel|
|Max Power||174 bhp @ 3750 rpm|
|Peak Torque||400 Nm @ 2000 rpm|
|Fuel Efficiency||18.6 kmpl|
Most will find the car smooth and easy to operate - and yes will overlook any flaws due to that impressive ride quality. The C5 Aircross has Eco and Sport drive modes, and even though there is no all wheel drive Citroën offers something called 'Grip Control' that sends necessary traction to the front wheels. This is why it features sand, all-terrain, and snow drive mode too. In Europe, you have two petrol engine options as well as a plug-in hybrid. The latter could have been great for India - as a progressive statement-making model. But maybe it is something Citroen India could consider in near future. Claimed mileage on the C5 diesel though is 18.6 kmpl - easily the segment best.
Still, the C5 Aircross is worthy of not just being the flagship model for brand Citroën, but also the right product to open the India innings with. The company plans one new model a year in India for the foreseeable future, and if this is what we can expect in terms of design, character, equipment and driveability, then I say Bienvenue Citroën! The company will have 11 dealerships across 10 cities by mid-March – which is when the C5 is expected to go on sale too. It will also offer online sales and have a nomadic mobile showroom – and you can check out more on that in this video.