Fleet News

Citroen C5

Citroen

Review

THERE are many things you could call the driving dynamics of the Citroen C5, but a seat-of-the-pants experience it is not. Until now.

The C5 is the forgotten car of the upper medium sector in the UK, and it is not difficult to see why. While all other carmakers are going for handling and thrills, the C5 has managed to be both bland and unremarkable to drive.

That’s not to say it a bad car, but in going for soft and wafty as a look and a means of getting from A to B, Citroen misjudged the way the market was going, so the mid-life revamp is aimed at shedding some inhibition and giving pizazz back. So much so, that you can feel that pizzazz through your bottom.

There are plenty of changes to the C5 and I’ll go into those later, but by far the most exciting (certainly from a physical point of view) is the lane departure warning system.

It’s part of an option pack on the Exclusive, along with leather seats, which should cost about £1,600, although it will cascade down the range and through to other cars in the years to come.

Sensors underneath the car monitor the road and by science beyond the comprehension of most people, judge when road markings are being crossed. Cue a vibration to your buttocks through the seat, which certainly makes you jump the first time it fizzes.

But what is particularly amusing is that cross a line to the left and only the left buttock gets gently cattle- prodded.

To the right and the opposite occurs. It had something of the Carry-On films about it. A Hattie Jaques administered buzz and Kenneth Williams sneered ‘Ooo, matron!’ sprang to mind. But there is a serious side to this. You soon start signalling every time and it can be very useful should a driver suddenly drop asleep at the wheel and drift.

This will certainly wake them up. It can also be switched off, as it can be annoying on tighter single lane roads.

The new C5 also comes with the option of other state-of-the-art safety equipment such as Xenon dual function directional headlamps, a speed limiter which can be over-ridden by pushing the accelerator hard to the floor, front and rear parking sensors which don’t just beep but have a round-the-car indicator on the dash, and laminated side glass, which is usually the preserve of luxury vehicles.

Of course, to get people to experience all this new technology you need to get them in the car – and that’s something Citroen has not had great success at previously.

The firm still doesn’t expect to sell a great many more of the new car: 8,000 is what the last one was doing over the past 12 months and this new car, at most, could manage 10,000 if pushed. But Alain Favey, Citroen UK managing director, says he doesn’t want to push high volume deals like rental just for the sake of extra business, although the firm will be concentrating harder on the bigger cars in the range after focusing on the superminis over the past couple of years.

What this car will do is fall into line with Citroen’s sharper new model range that will grow to include an entry- level C1 and executive C6 over the next couple of years.

There was plenty of talk from French executives on the launch about how many of the changes to the C5 were ‘dynamic’, but dynamic is probably the one thing you could never accuse any C5 of being. It might look more French at the front with its boomerang headlamps and gallic grille, and now more Germanic at the rear as the edges have been sharpened up, and have better engines and an improved interior. But it’s still the floaty cruiser it has always been.

Of the engines, the 1.6 110 and 2.0 136 HDi should be the only ones to interest fleets and these two, along with the older 2.2 HDi that only comes with an auto box, will make up about 70% of sales.

Where the exact split falls is difficult to say at the moment. The old line-up had a 2.0 110bhp diesel which proved popular, and Citroen isn’t sure yet whether drivers are going to go for the 2.0-litre or the 110bhp part of the equation.

As with Peugeot when it uses the 110 engine, the 1.6-litre part is being glossed over somewhat, like a hidden family secret – and it’s understand-able.

Plenty of drivers could no doubt decide that a 1.6 was too small for their needs and dismiss it out of hand. They would be wrong and it’s part of the education process that many fleets will have to go through: small is beautiful.

The interior has also been improved and is certainly more attractive than the old one, now using the same convoluted central instrumentation panel as the Peugeot 407. The dials have also been given a sharper new look. Overall, it’s an improvement, but many of the plastics are not up to the standard of cars like the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra.

Prices should remain at about the same levels as before, with LX, VTR and Exclusive trims for saloon and estate, while Citroen is hoping the new look will give predicted residual values, which it believes are on the conservative side anyway, an uplift from their current position around the 25% mark for three years/60,000 miles.

Behind the wheel

The first thing you notice with the C5 is how Citroen’s approach to making car seats is contradictory to everybody else’s.

While the others all now opt for stern-cushioned, hard-backed seats, you sink into the soft velour embrace of the C5.

It’s an approach that is indicative of the car as a whole. The Hydractive III suspension has been tweaked and had software upgraded, which means there is still plenty of roll through corners, accentuated by the squishy seats and the slow reactions of the steering wheel, but on the straight it is a cruiser that cannot be beaten in the sector.

It’s an old Citroen cliché, but it works best, and it’s one the firm continues to work to: this car glides across any surface, smoothing out ruts, potholes and depressions.

As for the engines, there’s the older 136bhp 2.2 HDi diesel unit which comes with a particulate filter but is only automatic. It is very quiet and the shifts are extremely smooth but emissions will harm its popularity.

There are three petrol engines – 1.8, 2.0 and 3.0 V6 – but none are anywhere near as accomplished as the two main diesels.

The 138bhp 2.0-litre is Euro IV compliant and is the same engine to be found in the Peugeot 407, new Ford Focus and Focus C-Max, Volvo S40 and V50, making it probably the most popular engine in fleet. But few have managed to make it as quiet as in the C5. There’s no vibration at all and no noisy chug, just a constant smooth hum. It pulls well through the six-speed gearbox and cruises at very low revs.

But for most fleets the 1.6 110 HDi will be more than adequate.

It’s not especially fast but then C5 drivers aren’t looking to hang it all out at the exit of bends. They are looking for a car that will cruise quietly, while returning good fuel economy and benefit-in-kind tax.

Between the two cars, the 110 is also nominally the better drive.

It is 60kg lighter and the changes to the suspension of the 138 to counteract its heavier weight have perversely made the steering a lot lighter and have dialled out any feel. The 136 is firmer across small ruts, although its ride quality is still better than most in the sector.

Driving verdict

The C5 is much less bland than before and is a competent and comfortable long distance cruiser.

But would you choose one over a Peugeot 407, Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra, Volkswagen Passat, Mazda6, Toyota Avensis or Honda Accord?

Engine (cc): 1,749 1,997 2,946 1,560 HDi 1,997 HDi 2,179 HDi
Max power (bhp/rpm): 117/5,500 143/6,000 210/6,000 110/4,000 138/4,000 136/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 118/4,000 148/4,000 210/3,750 177/1,750 236/2,000 232/2,000
Max speed (mph): 122 130 (129)* 143 118 127 127
0-62mph (sec): 11.3 9.1 (10.2)* 8.6 11.3 9.8 11.3
Comb fuel consumption (mpg): 35.7 35.3 (32.8)* 28.2 52.3 47.1 39.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 190 (190)* 206 238 142 158 186
Transmission: 5sp am (1.8, 2.0), 6 sp man (110 HDi, 138 HDi), auto (3.0, 136 HDi)
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 66/14.5
On sale: October 1
Prices (OTR): TBA

* = automatic

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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