Tuesday 18 December 2018

Citroen tries to take the rough with the smooth in new C5 Aircross SUV

First Drive in Morocco: Citroen C5 Aircross

Citroen C5 Aircross
Citroen C5 Aircross
The dashboard of the Citroen C5 Aircross

Brian Byrne

Before the new C5 Aircross from Citroen goes on sale in Ireland on March 1 next year, I tested its prime claim of "advanced comfort" over some ropey terrain in Morocco's Atlas mountains.

After two days of such driving, I don't think there is going to be another car in its class that can absorb medieval mud ruts and modern highway with such aplomb.

The C5 Aircross will target the big contenders in the C-SUV segment (Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and the Citroen's cousin, Peugeot's 3008).

The style is distinctive in Citroen's latest fairly funky design set. They're aiming to be noticed with looks that are not aggressive.

The big wheels and high ground clearance emphasise its SUV nature, but with more cuddly than rugged mien. It will clearly be at home in the urban streetscape and suburban driveways.

It isn't any softie, though, as I found on the Moroccan highways.

Inside, the dashboard with customisable digital instruments, and the good view to what's around, all make for a habitable environment.

As for the three people in the second row of seats, well, they each get a full space.

Potential owners won't be stuck for their favourite ambiences - there are no fewer than five available, using high-energy combinations of lighting, materials and colour. The mix can be customised.

There will be the familiar three grades of Touch, Feel and Flair, with the possibility of a fourth.

Engines at launch will include a 130hp petrol 6spd manual and a 180hp petrol 8spd auto.

The diesels will be 130bhp in manual and auto forms (a 180hp diesel is special order).

It's expected the 130hp diesel will be the main mover, though some recent Dublin area appointments may attract buyers to the petrol options.

Prices won't be revealed until later in January, but in the C-SUV segment there's a sweet spot at €32,550 where most sales take place.

Since 2014, Citroen has turned its reputational emphasis towards being the "comfort class", and the C5 Aircross will be the flagship of this.

We've already seen the underpinning technologies for that comfort in the second generation C4 Cactus. They're key to the C5 Aircross too.

These include the progressive hydraulic cushion system derived from the brand's World Rally Car vehicles, which truly does work to iron out any kind of surface irregularity all the way to speed bumps and rain-crumbled mountain tracks.

A special design arguably gives Citroen the crown of the best seats in the house. And they've done much to make the cabin as quiet as possible.

In the Moroccan drives, all those characteristics were in place, even when the wheels were battering along gravelly ruts and potholes that some Irish local authorities would be proud to claim as their own.

The other outstanding thing was how much the company trusted its car on routes that were pretty challenging in several parts.

The PSA Group's electronic grip control will be an option, though experience with it on other cars suggests most buyers won't bother.

More on the car when it gets here and is locally challenged by the bog road to Edenderry.

Indo Motoring

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