Citroen's C5 Aircross Plug-in Hybrid delivers a thoughtful, comfort-orientated take on the mid-sized SUV plug-in market. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the improved version.
The C5 Aircross, launched in 2018, has sold steadily in the mid-sized 5-seat part of the SUV sector but needed a few more headlines. The introduction of this plug-in hybrid variant in 2019 provided a few of those, this variant incorporating a cutting-edge electrified powertrain. Citroen tried to build this into the car without compromising its other comfort-orientated attributes and, as usual with the brand, there's a strong emphasis on value and innovative design. Since this PHEV derivative's original launch though, lots of other Plug-in C-segment SUV crossover models have arrived in the segment, hence the need for this updated version with its smarter looks and classier cabin. As before, this won't be the first car you'll have thought of if you happen to be looking for a mid-sized plug-in SUV, but it might well be worth including on your wish list.
As before, this electrified variant comes with a powerful and adaptable front-driven-only powertrain which sees a PureTech 180 Stop & Start petrol engine and an 80kW electric motor combining with a specially designed e-EAT8 automatic gearbox, to offer the equivalent of up to 225hp. At the wheel, you get three driving modes, with the one you'll be using most of the time being the 'Hybrid' setting that chooses the best mix of electric and petrol propulsion to suit the driving style whilst optimising efficiency. The alternative settings are either 'Sport' (where the car combines the power of the electric and petrol motors to offer livelier performance). And 'Electric' (where the car uses only the battery-powered electric motor, resulting in an ultra-quiet and smooth drive with zero exhaust emissions, offering a WLTP range of up to 34miles. Otherwise, things are very much as they would be in any other C5 Aircross. This car's key differentiating point is the way it glides over bumps. That ability comes courtesy of its Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension system. This two-stage set-up features a couple of hydraulic stops on each side of the car, one for compression, the other for rebound. For major uneven ground impacts, the hydraulic stops work with the springs and shock absorbers to avoid jerky movements and unpleasant bouncing. Thicker softer seat padding also embellishes the impression of comfort. And double-laminated front windows and engine bay soundproofing play their part in reducing cabin noise.
Design and Build
There's very little to visually give away the fact that this variant is a hybrid, apart from 'Hybrid' badging on the front wings and the tailgate. This revised model borrows some of the styling cues of the brand's executive C5 X as part of a refreshed exterior design, with a more vertical and modern front end that's brought sleeker aerodynamics. The front grille's been restyled and there's a revised version of the iconic Citroen logo, now seemingly detached from the daytime running lights, with chevrons that appear in black lacquer in a chrome setting, this now standing out more overtly against the central grille. Around the car, extra glossy or anodised detailing has been added - in colours such as Glossy Black and Dark Chrome, all of it intended to demonstrate the model's more up-market positioning. Inside, front seat occupants get the brand's unique 'Advanced Comfort' seat design, which features a core of high-density foam and an additional 15mm top layer of textured foam to ensure maximum comfort and support for the driver and passengers. There's a 12.3-inch digital driver's display and a revised 10-inch high-definition touchscreen that's been positioned higher up on the dashboard to reduce stress by ensuring the driver keeps their eyes on the road. Nice touches include an active air quality system that uses an air-purifying carbon filter. As before, this Gallic SUV's lengthy wheelbase translates into a cabin that feels significantly larger than that of most models in this class. In the rear, the car continues to feature three individual, same-width seats that slide, recline and fold flat. Not only does this mean that everyone on-board enjoys an exceptional level of comfort no matter where they sit, but it also creates the numerous possibilities for configuring the interior space. Few PHEV competitors can match the size of this C5 Aircross model's luggage space area, the extent of which depends on the position of the sliding second row bench. The 460-litre capacity is 120-litres down on what you get in an ordinary C5 Aircross though, thanks to battery placement beneath the cargo area base.
Market and Model
The C5 Aircross SUV Hybrid, priced from around £35,000, can be specified in two well-appointed trim levels, 'Shine' and 'C-Series Edition'. With 'Shine Trim', buyers enjoy the 'Drive Assist Pack' with Adaptive Cruise Control, Advanced Comfort Seats with Alcantara upholstery and Active Safety Brake with video and radar assistance, while the 'Urban Black' interior ambience brings an upmarket feel to the cabin. The 'C-Series Edition' sits at the top of the range. It has been tailored specifically for the UK market and gains a 'Perla Nera Black' bi-tone roof with an exclusive Anodised Bronze Colour Pack. There is also an opening panoramic glass sunroof, wireless charging and a motorised tailgate with hands-free access. Safety-wise, there are a total of 19 driver-assistance systems available across the range, including Highway Driver Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Active Lane Departure Warning. Buyers can heavily personalise their C5 Aircross, creating a model that suits them perfectly, primarily through Colour Packs which add flourishes to the front air intakes and the side Airbump panels. Four Colour Packs are available: Glossy Black, Dark Chrome, Anodised Bronze and Energetic Blue. There's also a wide choice of body paint colours intended to complement the more assertive look: Polar White, Pearl White, Perla Nera Black, Platinum Grey, Cumulus Grey and a fresh shade, Eclipse Blue.
Cost of Ownership
The combined petrol engine and electric motor produces CO2 of 32g/km and fuel efficiency of up to 222.3mpg on a combined cycle, (all figures WLTP certified, dependent on version). You'll need to fit a home charging 7kW wallbox to make the most of this car. Citroen partners with Pod Point to provide this and customers will be eligible for a £500 government OLEV grant towards installation. Once this is in place, you'll be able to recharge the car in under two hours. Using the 'MyCitroen' app, customers will be able to activate deferred charging (to take advantage of lower electricity tariffs) and Pre-conditioning (so the cabin can be cooled or warmed before entry to the vehicle). Every C5 Aircross comes with a three-year and 60,000-mile warranty. The first two years of that aren't subject to any mileage limits but the third year (which is taken care of by your local dealer) is limited to 60,000 miles. Insurance is group 26E for the 'Shine' and group 27E for the 'C-Series Edition'. And company drivers will be tempted by the fact that this PHEV sits in the 11% Benefit-in-Kind taxation bracket.
We're always happy to see a product that tries to bring something a little different to its market segment, which is why we rather like this C5 Aircross in its more standard forms. If you can find the significant price premium necessary to get this Plug-in Hybrid version, then there's also plenty to like here too, especially in this updated form. The electrified stats are very class-competitive amongst Crossovers of this type, but you could argue they'd be replicated by equivalent versions of the Peugeot 3008, the Vauxhall Grandland and the DS 7 Crossback which feature the same engineering. The 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushion' set-up of this Citroen though, gives this particular SUV something a little different - you really can feel an improvement in the way it eases over tarmac undulations. It's worth a test drive then - as a possible starting point to your electrified future.