Citroen’s C5 X offers executive car individualism

Citroen’s C5 X  (Citroen)
Citroen’s C5 X (Citroen)

Citroen used to be the purveyor of avantgarde big saloons like the beaky nosed DS and flying saucer-shaped CX, but latterly it has concentrated on mainstream hatchbacks and the inevitable sports utilities.

It clearly thinks that not everyone who buys a big saloon is a corporate thruster in search of something chiselled and Germanic, and is hoping to fill this niche with the C5 X, a large five-door with an altogether more Gallic aesthetic, whose dynamics and fitments are intended for comfort rather than blasting round corners.

Its name badge, clearly an amalgam of CX and C5, both model names for bygone large Citroens with cossetting characteristics, is another hint where this car is coming from, although as if to prove that the C5 X is tuned into modern driving tastes, its maker claims the car looks like a saloon, has the space of an estate and the driving position of a sports utility.

We drove a plug-in hybrid version in poshed up ‘Shine Plus’ guise, which essentially means it’s weighed down by an endless list of features and kit.

Soft centre

The car’s styling, with its slit shaped front running lights, is a bit fussy in places, but the C5 X is quite a handsome looking thing, and nobody will mistake it for an Audi.

Citroen’s C5 X (Citroen)
Citroen’s C5 X (Citroen)

The spacious interior features large, leather-trimmed seats that are squishy and comfortable. There’s plenty of leg and shoulder room in the back, although rear headroom for taller passengers is OK rather than brilliant. There are decent sized storage bins, and a substantial 485 litre boot (1,500 litres with the back seats folded down). Non-hybrid C5 Xs, which are powered by either 1.2 or 1.6 petrol engines have even bigger luggage decks as the hybrid’s extra batteries are located under the boot floor.

Drivers will find a useful amount of seat adjustment to aid sitting comfortably. Controls are the usual mix of touch screen and buttons. These are pretty straightforward and intuitive to use.

Refined and precise

Citroen has long since dispensed with its once-famous self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension, and uses conventional steel springs, but has adaptive, electronically controlled dampers, with ‘comfort,’ ‘normal’ and ‘sport’ settings. These genuinely provide a mix of serene riding qualities and surprisingly sharp handling.

Citroen’s C5 X (Citroen)
Citroen’s C5 X (Citroen)

Bowl into a corner and the car doesn’t lean excessively and flop about, and its steering, which is finger and thumb light, is accurate and commendably un-dead. Not things that could be said of many of the C5 X’s taller sports utility rivals.

The car uses an eight speed, automatic transmission, which some road testers have complained is a bit jerky in hybrid C5 Xs, but I found little to complain about.

Petrol and electric

The 1.6 petrol engine is occasionally a little raucous when worked hard, but mostly goes about its business without fuss. When working with the electric motor the car provides shove-in-the-back acceleration.

Citroen’s C5 X (Citroen)
Citroen’s C5 X (Citroen)

It can operate in electric-only mode, when the car becomes near-silent as it trickles along, and has a claimed battery-only range of 34 miles.

This is a civilised, well realised niche car with plenty of room for people and their stuff that is comfortable and engaging to drive. Whether these qualities will prevent it from being ignored by those who think a modern family car should look like a 4x4 remains to be seen.

The Facts

Citroen C5 X Plug-In hybrid 225 e-EAT 8 Shine Plus

Price: from £39,960

Top speed: 145mph

Combined mpg: 186 miles

CO2 emissions: 30g/km