Citroen’s C5 Aircross is now all quirky and cool

The facelifted vehicle, which proudly flaunts its oversized brand identity on its nose, can be a rare sighting on our roads. Read on to find out why...

September 30, 2022 11:58 am | Updated October 07, 2022 06:44 pm IST

Citroen’s flagship in India, the C5 Aircross, is a unique take on the 5-seater premium crossover segment, and competes with the Jeep Compass, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan. For 2022, the C5 facelift gets a refreshed styling and an all-new touchscreen among other features. Priced at ₹36.67 lakh, it is ₹4.77 lakh more expensive than its introductory price in April 2021, and is said to be the most expensive car in its class.

This updated version comes in one fully-loaded Shine variant that is powered by a diesel automatic, which transmits power to the front wheels.

Like the pre-facelift version, the refreshed model wears an unmistakable style with cleverly executed, distinct and characterful design elements. This facelifted C5 proudly flaunts its oversized brand identity on its nose; the double-chevron logo is larger than before and now sports a new look, with each of the chevrons finished in black with chrome outlining. Its grille gets two chrome-studded parallel lines that blend into the twin LED DRLs, which are now positioned within the headlamp cluster. Gone is the split-headlamp set-up, which makes way for a single unit. 

But this new design is far from conventional, as on closer inspection you notice a unique, layered casing that is both quirky and cool. The air-dam below is redesigned, too, and is underlined by a shiny chin finished in silver. Replacing red highlights around the repositioned faux air-vents and around the trapezoidal element on the side body cladding are grey highlights with all but the white body paint option; with the latter, these highlights are blue.

The concave, flat bonnet has been retained, which, along with the distinct body cladding, roof rails and its upright stance, lends it some much-needed SUV cred. New 18-inch alloys finished in a two-tone shade complement its styling, while the distinct C-shaped window outline in silver adds just the right amount of bling to its side profile. Changes at the rear are limited to the tail-lamps, which retain their basic silhouette but, feature a layered casing and gets attractive new LED elements inside.

Citroen’s unconventional design theme continues on the inside, and it is the central area of the dashboard that gets the biggest change. The new 10-inch horizontally-oriented free-standing touchscreen looks rather upmarket with a crisp and clear display, and is significantly better than the outgoing dated screen. Responses are a bit slow, however, and Citroen hasn’t used this opportunity to include wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay nor does it get a nicer sounding, branded audio system. Thankfully, Citroen has retained the shortcut keys to access various infotainment menus, a physical volume button, as well as physical toggle switches below to control certain key functions. 

Citroen has also corrected the switch and button orientation on the centre console to make it more suited for right-hand drivers and it looks clutter-free, thanks to the gear lever that is now replaced by a toggle-like drive selector. Curiously, you cannot switch the drive selector from ‘P’ to ‘R’ directly, and it goes to ‘N’ by default. The large rotary traction mode selector and drive mode buttons have now been clubbed into a single switch placed below the gear selector, so you can toggle between Sport, Eco and Normal drive modes, as well as Snow, Mud and Sand traction modes, using the same controller.

The C5 retains its large 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and it is easy on the eyes but not half as exciting in its operation or functionality. The front seats have been reupholstered and are comfortable, with the driver’s seat offering electric adjustment. Some might find lumbar support a touch excessive. Comfort features like front seat ventilation, seat memory and a 360-degree camera are expected in a car of this price, but are still missing from the equipment list.

There is plenty of space at the rear and the panoramic sunroof does well to flood the cabin with light. The C5 continues with the three-seat layout, which can be slid forward or back separately, or reclined individually. And while this set-up is fine to seat three adults in reasonable comfort, when there are just two adults seated, they will miss a central armrest, the contoured seats will not allow them to stretch out and the seat belt buckles could feel a bit intrusive. Hence, this rear seat experience is not as good as a conventional bench seat, which could make it a deal-breaker for some. What is nice is the huge 580-litre boot — it packs in a full-sized spare tyre with an alloy wheel, which is rare these days, and the tailgate is electronically operable too.

With no petrol engine option or all-wheel drive, Citroen has narrowed down the C5’s appeal. On the flip side, this 177hp, 2.0-litre diesel engine and 8-speed automatic are one of the nicest and smoothest around. The engine is responsive and the build-up of speed is rapid, with the torque-converter automatic seamlessly transmitting power to the front wheels. So intuitive is the 8-speeder that you will seldom find the need to tug the Ferrari-like column-mounted paddle shifters, to take manual control. Flat-out performance is impressive, too, and it’ll accelerate from 0-100kph in just 9.61sec; it also clocks an equally impressive rolling acceleration time.

The automatic engine-stop-start feature does catch you by surprise, cutting off the engine (and as a result tightening the power steering) even before the car comes to a complete halt. This aside, it fires up the engine instantaneously when you ease off the brake pedal, and the process is buttery smooth, so you will not mind leaving it on to save fuel while idling. 

While on that topic, in our tests, it managed a fuel efficiency of 10.3kpl in the city and 12.6kpl on the highway.

Citroen offers three driving modes — Sport, Normal and Eco — but the difference between them is barely perceptible. It also gets traction modes like before — Snow, Mud and Sand, which alter its ESP and traction control settings.

The C5 Aircross’ refinement is outstanding and has also taken the cabin insulation a notch higher with its double-glazed windscreen and front windows, which cocoon the occupants from ambient and engine sounds.

But the C5 Aircross’ highlight remains its ‘progressive hydraulic cushions’, which are essentially hydraulic chambers that replace traditional bump stops. At the front, there are two hydraulic chambers on either side of the shock absorber, one for compression and the other for rebound, whereas there is just one for compression at the rear. What this incredibly clever set-up results in is a ride that is free from road shocks even over the sharpest of potholes. Its ride comfort and bump absorption ability are unequivocally the best around. The steering is effort-free and the suspension is soft, still, you can drive it swiftly around corners with a certain degree of confidence. However, it is best enjoyed when driven at six- or seven-tenths, and it doesn’t offer a sporty drive like the Jeep Compass or Volkswagen Tiguan.

The deal breakers are the individual rear seats layout as they are not as comfortable as a conventional bench for seating two adults. Further limiting its appeal is the fact that not only do its rivals offer multiple engine-transmission options and all-wheel-drive capabilities, but are also better equipped and significantly cheaper. For these reasons, the Citroen C5 Aircross is likely to remain a rare sighting on our roads, which is unfortunate, as it is a genuinely good crossover, one that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.

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