First Drive

Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 2020 UK review

Handsome, for a start. Most people agree that Citroën’s latest design style – chevrons attractively integrated into the bonnet, “technical” lights, Airbumps along the doors – give its latest range a distinction and a cohesion it never achieved before. It’s also better looking, you could argue, than its siblings from DS and Vauxhall, and on a par with the (quite different-looking) Peugeot.

Same goes for the interior. Our Flair Plus test car (which for once carried only £1000 worth of options: a Black Pack and metallic paint) had a simply designed but classy fascia with large, high-mounted central screen and an instrument set ahead of the driver. 

The seats are wide and comfortable, though they don’t have much side support in corners and are actually described in the makers blurb as “flat”, which doesn’t sound much of a compliment to the seat designer’s art. Still, they’re comfortable with generous cushions and good lumbar support. The rear seats and surrounding space are okay for adults, though the rear compartment feels a little gloomy.

The plug-in Aircross’s battery, carried under the rear seat, is claimed to be good for up to 34 miles and to take about two hours to charge. After four or five tests in real-world use, we found the car could usually achieve 30 miles, and never less than 28, before the motor was needed. 

Using our 7kW home charger, a full charge took about two hours and 20 minutes to complete. And though the combined WLTP fuel consumption figure (especially untrustworthy because everyone’s driving/charging regime is different) is quoted as 157-222mpg, with an accompanying CO2 output of just 32g/km, our own 480 miles of varied use netted a grand total of 108mpg – still impressive – with around 44% of electric-only running.

Driving is mostly a pleasure. The car glides about in its electric mode, with a precise and highly predictable step-off that shades most purely petrol cars. Acceleration is strong up to about 60mph, and the car will cruise at about that speed, electric only, though anything more than sustained suburban speeds depletes the battery quickly. You’d battle to see more than 15-18 electric-only miles on the motorway.

There are three driving modes: electric only (works best in town), hybrid (for which the system itself decides how to match engine and motor, depending on demand) and Sport (where both power units combine for top performance). If you start in town, it’s likely that even in hybrid mode you’ll exhaust the battery power before the engine starts. If you hit an A-road, the engine will chime in to assist, saving the battery for later. 

It all works well: integration of the power units and transmission is seamless and extremely smooth and quiet whatever setting you’re using. It’s quite quick off the mark for a car of this style: a 0-62mph sprint takes 8.7sec, with the real surge in the first 30-40mph, which is why in slippery conditions this two-wheel-drive car needs its traction control. The steering and handling are easy and precise, save for an intrusive lane-departure system whose ‘off’ switch is hidden behind the steering wheel. Switching it off is a necessity for easy progress, but also a distraction.

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