Citroen has avoided going down the "sporty" route with its new C5 Aircross, a refreshing change from the norm in the SUV segment.
It has avoided the temptation to fit massive wheels and stiff suspension, favouring ride quality over dynamic ability.
The C5 Aircross is the second model launched under the Citroen Advanced Comfort programme – the first was the C4 Cactus earlier this year – which puts the focus on areas such as ride quality, practicality and refinement.
Perhaps the most important individual part of this programme is the new suspension technology in which the bumpstops of a normal system are replaced by hydraulic cushions to give greater damping.
The result is impressive. When we tested the car on the pothole-riddled, rock-strewn roads around Marrakech and in the Atlas Mountains, the results were pretty remarkable.
Following another C5 Aircross at the European launch event, it was noticeable just how hard the suspension was working to keep the car’s body impressively still. This transferred into a comfortable ride on difficult terrain, while not feeling wallowy on smoother roads.
However, ride quality is far from the C5 Aircross’s only attribute which will appeal to fleet customers: it also has impressive efficiency figures for the sector.
CO2 emissions range from 106g/km for the 130PS BlueHDi automatic diesel model (combined fuel economy: 56.3mpg) to 131g/km for the 180PS PureTech automatic petrol (39.6mpg).
Two other engines are available: a more powerful 180PS BlueHDi and a 130PS Puretech.
The 130PS engines are available with either six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes, while the 180PS units are available as automatics only. All models are front-wheel drive.
A plug-in hybrid version, offering up to 31 miles pure-electric range, CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and a combined petrol and electric power output of 225PS, will be available in 2020.
Customers can choose from three trim levels – Feel, Flair and Flair Plus. All models are generously equipped, with the entry-level Feel featuring, as standard, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, dual zone climate control, digital radio and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers.
Flair adds front parking sensors, reversing camera, advanced comfort seats, Citroën Connect Nav, voice recognition, 18-inch alloy wheels, electric, heated door mirrors and rear privacy glass.
The range-topping Flair Plus models add auto dipping main beam headlights, motorised rear tailgate, keyless entry and start, active cruise control and opening panoramic glass roof.
Citroen says the 130PS BlueHDi Flair manual will be the most popular model among fleets. Its P11D price of £26,605 makes it competitive, while it has CO2 emissions of 110g/km and fuel economy of 55.1mpg.
This means the C5 Aircross scores highly for its comfort, costs and efficiency, but it is also one of the most practical choices in the sector.
None of the engines provide explosive performance though. The 180PS models make overtaking less strenuous, but we were impressed by the lower powered units too. The PureTech needs to be worked a bit harder, but it's a sweet powertrain. In the BlueHDI 130 you'll need to be a bit more patient as it feels a bit less spritely, but progress is still brisk enough for most.
It is available only as a five-seater – there are no plans to introduce a seven-seat version – but the cabin impresses for its roominess, versatility, design and quality.
The interior feels plush, with a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and eight-inch infotainment screen as standard on all trim levels.
All passengers have plenty of room, while the rear features three individual full width seats which can be slid 150mm forwards or backwards independently. The backs can also be reclined.
The boot is among the biggest in the class, while a false floor provides a flat loading area when the rear seats are folded, enabling items up to 1.9m long to be carried.
While the C5 Aircross doesn't conform to the SUV norm, it's slightly wacky styling, bright paint finishes and high levels of comfort are a welcome addition to the segment.
Specifications shown for C5 Aircross 1.5 BlueHDI Flair manual