Citroen's C5 Aircross SUV Hybrid delivers a thoughtful, comfort-orientated take on the mid-sized SUV plug-in market. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
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 might provide a few of those, incorporating as it does a cutting-edge electrified powertrain. Citroen has 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.
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.
This electrified variant comes with a powerful and adaptable 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. If you want to be more overt about this car's electrified remit, you can specify an 'Anodised' Blue colour pack as an option. If you're not especially familiar with the C5 Aircross, you need to know that it shares the same EMP2 platform as the PSA Group's other mid-sized SUVs, the Peugeot 3008 and the DS 7 Crossback (both of which can also be had with the same plug-in engineering). This Citroen is 4.5m long and 1.84m wide with a 2.73m wheelbase, so is a touch bigger than cheaper cars in this class like Nissan's Qasqai and SEAT's Ateca. The brand's signature 'Air Bumps' make an appearance just above the lower side sills, but they're toned down here, just as they are in the brand's C4 Cactus hatch.
Inside, that lengthy wheelbase translates into a cabin that feels significantly larger than that of most models in this class. Few competitors can match this C5 Aircross model's luggage capacity either, the extent of which depends on the position of the sliding second row bench. Nice touches include an active air quality system that uses an air-purifying carbon filter. Up-front, Citroen fans will note a retro touch in the form of the rolling speedometer, similar to that used on the old 1980's-era Citroen BX, incorporated as part of the instrumentation's 12.3-inch digital display.
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, 'Flair' and 'Flair Plus'. All models feature standard equipment including Citroen Connect Nav with a 3 year subscription to TomTom Live Traffic, active blind spot monitoring, active lane keeping assist, the active safety brake system, front and rear parking sensors and a 180-degree colour reversing camera. In addition, 'Flair Plus' models boast a half-leather interior, an electric driver's seat, a motorised hands-free tailgate, active cruise control and 19-inch 'Art' bi-tone alloy wheels.
Other standard features include keyless entry and start and a frameless auto-dimming electrochrome rear-view mirror with a blue LED electric driving mode indicator. Plus there's a 7kW on-board charger for the 2KWh lithium-ion battery and a Mode 3 charging cable with a Type 2 connector. Buyers can specify 'big car' features like a 360-degree camera system and a 'Park assist' set-up, plus you can of course add in things like keyless entry and a reversing camera. Camera-driven safety kit also includes 'Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop&Go', 'Collision Risk Alert', 'Coffee Break Alert', 'Driver Attention Alert', 'Traffic Sign Recognition', 'Highway Driver Assist' and 'Intelligent Beam Headlights'.
Cost of Ownership
The combined petrol engine and electric motor produces CO2 of just 32-33g/km and fuel efficiency of up to 168mpg 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).
As for when you're out and about, well Citroen has partnered with POLAR, the largest and best-performing public charge network in the UK, to offer UK customers buying a new C5 Aircross SUV Hybrid a six-month free subscription (normally worth £7.85 per month) to the POLAR service, which offers a good availability of charging points - with many not incurring any extra per-kWh charges. 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 32E for the 'Flair' and group 33E for the 'Flair Plus'. And company drivers will be tempted by the fact that this PHEV sits in the 10% 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.
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 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.