At a time when car manufacturers are looking to boost sales and the desirability of their products by offering sporty trim levels, the approach Citroën has taken with its new C5 Aircross SUV is a refreshing one.
Often these ‘sport’ models come with bigger wheels and stiffer suspension, meaning that while the driving experience feels more dynamic, ride quality can suffer.
Citroën, however, is taking a different approach: it is banking on comfort to set its C5 Aircross apart in the hotly contested C-SUV segment.
This is the second model launched under the Citroën 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. The European media launch took place in Morocco and on the pothole-riddled, rock-strewn roads around Marrakech and in the Atlas Mountains, the results were pretty remarkable.
Following another C5 Aircross, 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.
NEDC-correlated CO2 emissions range from 106g/km for the 130PS BlueHDi automatic diesel model (combined fuel economy: 68.9mpg) to 132g/km for the 180PS PureTech automatic petrol (49.6mpg).
When it goes on sale in the UK in February, it will also be available with two other engines: a 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 (50km) pure-electric range, CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km under the WLTP test procedure 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.
In total, Citroën expects to sell 9,000 C5 Aircross models in the UK in 2019, with 48% of those going to fleet customers.
The manufacturer also expects the 130PS BlueHDi Flair manual to be the most popular model among fleets. Its P11D price of £26,605 makes it competitive, while it has CO2 emissions of 108g/km and fuel economy of 68.9mpg.
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.
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.
We drove the car in both 180 BlueHDi and 180 Puretech Flair Plus trim levels.
Performance from both engines was smooth and refined rather than explosive, suiting the cosseting character of the C5 Aircross perfectly.
Model tested: C5 Aircross PureTech 180 Flair