Getting there is all part of the fun, and the independence of having your own car is a compelling factor for anyone who has ever suffered problems with public transport. So what’s the best way to cut as much of the stress as possible? Based on the experience of my Easter break in France, the answer is simple: go by the latest Citroen C5.
Bearing in mind Citroen’s reputation for producing large cars which are controversial either in styling or mechanical make up, the recommendation might come as a surprise.
But after 2,300 miles, I can vouch that the French firm remains unsurpassed in providing armchair comfort on the move in the upper-medium sector.
Thanks to the silky-smooth ride from a hydro-pneumatic suspension system, this model really does make the going easy, whatever the distance.
With armrests which can be adjusted for height, the comfort level gets even better in the top-spec Exclusive version tested – particularly so if the car comes with the £1,300 optional soft leather trim.
Comfort is important both at work and play, and being able to relax at the wheel is a big consideration for drivers who have to spend most of their time pounding up and down motorways.
Though popular in its domestic market, the C5 has never been a big seller in this country, but even a short drive will prove that few cars perform in such laid-back fashion.
In its latest guise, the C5 looks all the better for some skilful nip-and-tuck treatment. Distinctive lines have replaced its predecessor’s blandness at the front and rear, and chassis modifications have eliminated much of the roll which made the original feel ungainly through the bends.
These are significant changes but from the driver’s seat the most significant improvement comes from putting the new Peugeot Citroen Ford 2.0-litre turbo- diesel engine under the bonnet.
Producing 138bhp, this engine already provides several cars with ample power, but because it remains so subdued and refined at any speed, it is undoubtedly seen at its best in this installation, where it pulls a massive 30mph per 1,000rpm in sixth gear to turn in a very impressive mile-eating performance.
And it doesn’t come at the expense of fuel economy, either: 50mpg can be achieved in gentle driving conditions and it needs a really heavy right foot to get under 40mpg.
The Exclusive comes with parking sensors front and rear. It also folds away the door mirrors each time the car is locked. Directional headlights are another surprisingly useful feature, particularly when driving in unfamiliar territory. They are also standard equipment, along with tyre pressure monitoring, laminated side windows, a six-CD autochanger and electric front seats – luxury indeed.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £20,122
CO2 emissions (g/km): 158
BIK % of P11D in 2005/6: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 10E
Combined mpg: 47.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,850/24%
Depreciation 25.45 pence per mile x 60,000: £15,270
Maintenance 2.66 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,596
Fuel 8.73 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,238
Wholelife cost 36.84 pence per mile x 60,000: £22,104
Typical contract hire rate: £394
We don’t like:
Three rivals to consider:
KEEN competition in this sector means £20,000 buys a fair amount of mobile luxury these days, and all the cars tested here offer a high standard of comfort and lengthy specification lists, which include standard leather trim on the Toyota and Vauxhall. Obviously, fleet discounts will come into play in this key company car battleground, as will Citroen’s £2,500 cashback offer for small fleet customers.
IT’S fairly close in terms of service, maintenance and repair costs over three years and 60,000 miles, with just 0.9ppm separating first and third place. The Toyota wins and will cost a fleet £1,446 over the traditional fleet operating cycle. Right on the Avensis’ tail is the Vectra, which will cost £1,470. In third place is the Ford on £1,500 and bringing up the rear is the Citroen, which will cost £1,596.
GIVEN that Peugeot Citroen and Ford have spent the past four years working together to develop the latest-generation turbodiesel engines, it comes as no surprise to find the C5 and Mondeo share identical fuel costs of £5,238 over 60,000 miles. But both are eclipsed by the Vauxhall with its latest generation CDTi 120 diesel, resulting in a fuel cost of £4,974, and the Avensis, which will cost £5,064.
GOOD work by Citroen’s design team to freshen the image of the C5 is a big factor here. The new version has bags more kerbside appeal than the original and is likely to be better received on the used car market. At 25.45ppm, it is a respectable performer over the three-years/60,000-miles period and does well to beat the Vectra – but it is overtaken by the Mondeo. However, all three are put into the shade by the Toyota Avensis which, for the upper-medium sector, has a strong residual value forecast from CAP of 33%.
A CLEAR victory for the Toyota in this sector, with the Avensis three-and-a-half pence per mile cheaper to run than its nearest rival, the Mondeo. This just shows the benefit of a strong RV forecast. The Citroen comes in third, a penny per mile behind the Ford. The Vauxhall is a penny per mile further back, its challenge stifled by its performance in depreciation terms. But it’s worth remembering that the Vauxhall has the most generous list of standard equipment in this group, and speccing-up the rivals to its level would skew the figures and close the gap in running costs.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
ALL four cars featured here are Euro IV compliant, meaning they avoid the 3% benefit-in-kind diesel surcharge. For a 22% taxpayer, the Ford is the car to choose for the lowest tax bill, costing £61 a month. The remaining three cars will all cost the same taxpayer £66 a month – despite being in a BIK band higher, the Toyota and Citroen claw back ground on the Vauxhall through their lower P11D price.
THERE’S no doubt that the revised Citroen C5 deserves to win more friends than its predecessor, and its club lounge comforts make it one of the best long-distance cars in its class. But the head rules the heart here, so in terms of operating cost the French model has to give way to a stronger contender in the shape of the Toyota Avensis, which scores a comfortable running costs victory.
WINNER: Toyota Avensis T-Spirit 2.0 D-4D