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Citroën says its new C5 Aircross isn't your average crossover. So just how does it differentiate itself from its rivals?
12.3in touchscreen, 8in infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 18in alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting
130hp 1.2, 180hp 1.6
130hp 1.5, 180hp 2.0
Feel, Flair, Flair Plus
Six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic
Say hello to Citroën's new flagship model, the C5 Aircross, which combines the features of the C4 Aircross and C4 Cactus into a larger, more premium crossover package.
The manufacturer has made its first foray into large crossovers with this car, meaning it has many competitors already setting the benchmark, such as the Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 3008.
Despite being new to the European market, the Aircross has already been on sale in China for over a year, clocking up 50,000 sales in the process.
To achieve this level of success, Citroën knew it had to do something different to stand out - and its history of producing cars that focus on the quality and comfort of the ride over anything else was a good start. Its party trick for the C5 Aircross is therefore its Citroën Advanced Comfort progressive hydraulic cushion suspension, which it hopes will allow the car to glide over even the biggest potholes like an ice-skater. In layman's terms, they've added extra hydraulics to the suspension.
So does it make any difference to the comfort of the drive? They are actually a not-so-sophisticated substitute for adaptive dampers due to increased vertical travel. What this means is that the car isn't actually very good at dealing with sharp lumps and bumps compared with some of its main rivals. The amount of travel in the suspension does make it feel like it's floating, though, playing havoc with my car sickness, and also allowing for significant fore and aft body pitch under acceleration and braking, along with pronounced side-to-side roll.
A comfort factor bonus that you really get from Citroën, however, is the car seats. They are basically like sitting in your grandad's armchair, since they are filled with soft foam, which makes for a very comfortable ride during those long drives. The upholstery on the seats looks very smart and stylish; there are some interior bugbears, though, such as plastic panels on the doors that feel cheap. The mix of materials inside is a bit odd, really, with some nice touches, but also some areas where they should have spent a bit more money.
In the rear there is the benefit of three individual seats, giving passengers plenty of room when sat side by side, and all seats slide and fold forward too, but only the two outer seats have Isofix. Sliding these seats forward increases the already large 580-litre boot to an impressive 720 litres. Folding them forward will increase it again to a capacity of 1,630 litres.
The model we're driving here is in the mid-range Flair trim, with just Flair Plus above it and Feel below it in the line-up. Every model gets a 12.3in digital instrument display and an 8in infotainment touchscreen, with what you'd expect from smartphone connectivity. The screen covers all of the major functions like music, heating, radio and navigation; there aren't many buttons elsewhere in the cabin for this reason. It is a touchscreen, with everything easily accessed without too much distraction from driving (although controlling the heating through a menu on a screen is a bit weird).
Impressively, every C5 Aircross has autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring, and the Flair and Flair Plus models feature Citroën's ConnectedCAM system, which acts as a dash-cam to record footage leading up to a crash.
We got our hands on petrol and diesel engines, which gave us a good opportunity to compare them and see which one best suits the car. The cheapest petrol option is a 1.2-litre that emits around 121g/km of CO2, while the 1.5-litre diesel alternative emits even less CO2 at 107g/km, but costs around £3,000 more. The diesel seemed a good match to the eight-speed automatic gearbox, and was powerful and responsive, despite a large roar, while the petrol engine was a bit weak, demanding a far heavier foot to get any feedback.
Citroën is obviously hoping to challenge the market norm with some imaginative styling. However, the C5 Aircross is not cheap, especially compared to the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, and it is not without its flaws, either. There is lots of roll in corners due to all that movement in the suspension. It does offer grip control and hill descent assist, both of which helped us navigate the tricky terrains we faced on our drive - and with a high-up position on the road it is, like its rivals, an easy car to drive.
Citroën hopes its new 'halo' car will prove its comfort and driving sophistication in the European market. However, for all the C5's practicality and interesting looks, it doesn't quite follow through on the promises made before its launch - namely class-leading comfort and interior quality.
Comfortable seats and overall ride, good materials inside, roomy interior.