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3 May 2022

Citroen C5 X (2022-): first drive review

Could the combination of coupe styling and estate car practicality make the C5 X the perfect family car? We reveal our first impressions
Citroen C5 X

Citroen, like a lot of mainstream car manufacturers, has been lacking a traditional large family car in its range over the past few years, as buyers continue to embrace SUVs.

The brand's latest model, the C5 X, aims to break the mould for what we expect of a large car, combining coupe styling with estate car practicality, plus the ever-fashionable raised driving position. Is it the ideal choice for families, or is it a contrived compromise?

Although the C5 X hasn't yet been through the Which? test labs, we've driven the car extensively and can now provide our initial thoughts.

Our full review of the Citroen C5 X - complete with the car's overall score plus scores for safety, reliability and more - will be available once all our lab and road tests are complete.


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Citroen C5 X overview and specification

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the traditional large family hatchback or estate was consigned to the history books, given the way manufacturers have ditched them in favour or SUVs of all shapes and sizes.

Citroen - which has a long and rich history in the large car market - thinks there's life in it yet and its latest model, the C5 X, aims to have broad appeal by offering something for everyone.

So this large hatchback has coupe styling, the luggage capacity of an estate car and the fashionable raised ride height that's so in vogue with family car buyers.

Despite the useful added ground clearance, four-wheel drive isn't currently available, with all models driving the front wheels only through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

There's a choice of two petrol engines: a 130hp 1.2-litre three-cylinder, badged PureTech 130, and a 180hp 1.6-litre four-cylinder called PureTech 180.

There's no diesel option, but the C5 X is also offered with the same plug-in hybrid system as offered in other models in the Stellantis model group, including thePeugeot 508 SW Plug-in Hybrid. It adds a battery pack and electric motor to the 1.6-litre petrol engine for a combined output of 225hp and the ability to travel on electricity alone for up to 31 miles (claimed).

The C5 X is the latest model to exhibit the brand's 'Advanced Comfort' features, which includes active suspension with hydraulic-bump stops (first seen on theC4 Cactus) and seats with substantial amounts of high-density foam, designed for high comfort, even after long stints at the wheel. They're also optionally available with heating, ventilation and a massage function.
Citroen C5 X cabin

Three trim levels are offered: Sense Plus, Shine and Shine Plus. Entry-level models get all-round parking sensors and reversing camera, seven-inch digital instrument cluster, 10-inch central touchscreen, sat nav, Bluetooth streaming, smartphone mirroring and an eight-speaker audio system.

Depending on trim level, a number of different interior 'ambiences' are available, with unique colour and trim combinations to alter the feel of the cabin.


We put all cars through hundreds of lab and road tests. See our pick of the Best cars for 2022


What's the Citroen C5 X great at?

Exemplary passenger comfort has long been a Citroen strong point, and the C5 X exhibits this to impressive effect.

Potholes and speedbumps you'd expect to send a thump through the cabin are shrugged off as though they're hardly there.

At this price point, nothing else comes close in this regard - you'd need to go for an expensive luxury limousine to beat the C5 X's ride comfort.

What's the Citroen C5 X like to drive?

Unlike many manufacturers, which claim to offer a sporty driving experience, Citroen eschews this approach, focussing entirely on comfort and ease of use.

This is evident right from the off - the steering, in particular, is feather light, making the C5 X effortless to manoeuvre at low speeds. It does gain weight for greater precision at higher speeds, but never requires any effort at all. It can feel numb in the hands, but is at least accurate, making it easy to place the car on the road.

The 'advanced comfort' suspension also feels very supple and cushions occupants from poor surfaces well. The trade-off is some noticeable body roll in corners, as well as some pitch and dive when accelerating or braking. This is more noticeable in the heavier PHEV model compared with petrol only versions.
Citroen C5 X tail

Stiffen the adaptive dampers via the touchscreen display and there's a noticeable improvement in body control, without much compromise in the C5 X's pillowy ride.

The plug-in hybrid system shuffles between electricity and petrol power smoothly, and only when rapid acceleration is called for does it become slightly jerky, with a flurry of noise from the 1.6-litre engine. In more normal use, it makes for relaxed progress and isn't short on accelerative performance.

The 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine we also drove is a somewhat different proposition. Despite having to power such a large car, it acquits itself well, and only begins to struggle when accelerating at higher speeds, such as on the motorway or when overtaking slower traffic. There is some engine noise that makes its way into the cabin in such situations, but on the whole, the interior is very well isolated from engine noise and tyre roar.

Inside, the large central touchscreen is responsive and has a more intuitive menu layout than we've seen in alternative systems. Sensibly, Citroen has left physical buttons and switches for the climate control system, reducing the potential for driver distraction on the move.

Visibility from the driver's seat is generally good, thick window pillars, both front and rear do obscure the view out from some angles. All-round parking sensors and a rear-view camera are fitted as standard across the range.

How reliable is it?

Having only just been launched, the C5 X is currently too new for us to be able to accurately assess its new-model reliability. However, you can view Citroen's reliability as a brand in our guide to the most reliable car brands.

How comfortable and spacious is it?

The C5 X's mildly raised ride height bring the seats up to a very convenient position for getting in and out easily. The door sills are on the wide side, but aren't large enough to be obtrusive.

There's plenty of space up front for even the tallest of drivers to get comfortable, and enough in the back to comfortably seat passengers over 6ft tall. The front seats can be set low, making the C5 X feel more like a conventional large saloon rather than a towering SUV from behind the wheel.

The front seats are very comfortable, with ample padding to provide decent support and comfort over long journeys. They also provide sufficient lateral support, so you won't find yourself falling out of them in tight corners.

The rear cabin is also comfy and spacious. Very tall passengers may find that headroom is somewhat pinched (our test model came with a panoramic sunroof that eats into headroom slightly), but overall there's plenty of lounging space for two and sufficient room for three to travel on the rear bench.

The cabin has a pleasing, upmarket feel. Yes, there are some cheaper-feeling materials if you look for them, but the contact points as well as everything in the driver's eyeline feels substantial. It's all well-constructed, too, with a solid feel and not a squeak or rattle to be heard.

Citroen claims there's 485 litres of boot space in the PHEV model, rising to a maximum of 1,580 litres with the rear seats folded down (545/1,640 litres in petrol models), which creates a small step in the boot floor. It's certainly a very big and deep load space, though, with a large hatch opening, minimal load lip and useful storage cubbies to the side.

How economical is it to run?

We'll be able to give a more accurate assessment of just how economical the C5 X is when we get it into our lab. By Citroen's own figures, however (which are calculated under the official WLTP standard), it's the PHEV that is, on paper, the most economical and will manage an impressive average of between 186.2-236.2mpg.

However, as with other PHEV models, this consumption figures are influenced by the car's ability to drive for limited periods on electricity alone. Unless you can regularly keep the battery topped up and drive emissions-free as much as possible, you're likely to struggle to achieve that in the real world.

Of the conventional petrol engines, the smaller 1.2-litre PureTech 130 is more efficient than the 1.6-litre PureTech 180, although not by a huge margin, with the latter managing 38.3-43.9mpg average fuel consumption and the former managing 41.4-48.6mpg.

How safe is the Citroen C5 X?

At the time of writing, the C5 X is yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP. However, it comes with a decent tally of standard driver assistance and active safety kit, which is fitted as standard.

All models get camera controlled AEB (autonomous emergency braking), a forward collision warning, lane-keep assist driver attention alert and cruise control with a speed limiter function.

Additional safety equipment is offered on mid and high-range trim levels only, unless you specify a PHEV version, in which case it's included in the base specification. This includes enhanced AEB (using radar to detect pedestrians and cyclists, even at night), adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go (meaning it can automatically bring you to a halt and set off again in heavy traffic), active lane positioning assist and rear cross traffic alert, which warns the driver of approaching cars when reversing.

Adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go is also available as an option on base trim petrol models.

All C5 Xs are also fitted with front, side and curtain airbags. Isofix mountings are fitted to the two outer rear seats, making it easier to install a child car seat.
Citroen CX 5 rear seats

Is there anything I should look out for?

While it's fine for everyday use, particularly around town, the smallest petrol option, the Puretech 130 needs to be worked hard and can feel strained on steeper inclines or when accelerating at motorway speeds.


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Which? first drive verdict

Citroen C5 X blue

Citroen's latest take on the large family car delivers a serene driving experience, plenty of space and is available with a generous amount of active safety technology as standard. It covers all the bases well, but it's the sublime ride comfort and hushed cabin that makes it stand out.

Price from: £26,970

Pros:
Superb ride comfort
Serene and spacious interior
Comprehensive active safety tech

Cons:

Petrol engine can feel strained
Restricted rear visibility
Sometimes jerky automatic gearbox

Which? first drive verdict: Refreshing take on the family car formula

Remember, this first drive review is based on our initial impressions of the Citroen C5 X. We'll post our full verdict once the car has been through our rigorous lab and road tests.