23 May 2013
French carmakers have suffered in comparison with their German counterparts in recent years Ė especially as many of their products have been somewhat lacklustre. But the fightback has started, with Citroen and Peugeot upping their games in the last couple of years, starting to build desirable, driveable cars that buyers might take to in larger numbers. The Citroen C5 is a good example of this new generation of French cars. A significant improvement stylistically and in terms of perceived quality over the previous iteration, you might not (as its ads stated) think it was German, but itís a genuine alternative in the mid-sized family car market.
The C5 Tourer has a range of three diesel engines (the 1.6-litre petrol unit on the C5 saloon isnít offered for this estate version). The four-cylinder 1.6 HDi, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, producing 108bhp at 4,000rpm and 177lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm, is decent but doesnít exactly excite with its pace (0-62mph in 14 seconds). A new 158bhp 2.0-litre unit generating 251lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm replaces the previous 2.2-litre as the mid-range engine and, despite its lower capacity, shaves over a second of the 0-62mph time (now 9.3 secs). It comes with the choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, with the manual the better option in our opinion. The range-topping 3.0-litre unit is a beautifully smooth and refined, but powerful engine. Also used in the Jaguars XF and XJ, it pumps out 237bhp and 332lb-ft of torque, propelling the C5 Tourer to 62mph from a standing start in just 8.3 seconds. It only comes in the Exclusive trim and with a six-speed auto íbox.
Our test car was fitted with Citroenís Hydractive suspension that has electronically controlled springing and dampers, so the ride is very compliant, allowing the car to almost float along the road. The payoff for this waftiness is that thereís a fair bit of body roll, especially if you take a bend or corner rather too enthusiastically. That said, the state our roads are in these days suggests that this hydro-pneumatic set-up, along with standard-sized wheels (our car had 17-inchers), is a good bet. The alternative is a steel-springed option that rides a little harder, but reins in the body roll. In terms of handling, itís perfectly accomplished, gripping the road well: the steering is accurate enough, but lacks any real feel. All pretty much what weíd expect, but if Citroen wants to seriously take on the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, itís going to have to up its game a couple of notches in this department.
French car companies always tend to fall down in this area, with Citroen being no exception. Customer satisfaction surveys, such as the annual one compiled by JD Power, show just how far Citroen has to go to match the German manufacturers. In the most recent league table of carmakers, Citroen does better than its compatriots, placing 19th (out of 29). The current C5 hasnít been around long enough to show up in and the last C5 doesnít appear in the top 100 models: most of the Citroen model range is also in the lower half of the table. That said, the more recent C4 Grand Picasso is placed higher and newer cars are appreciably better in terms of quality. Thankfully, the C5 Tourer is a clear indication of the direction Citroen is taking: the quality of the materials used in the carís interior is appreciably better and everything feels solid and well screwed together.
The C5 has an excellent safety rating, with crash-test body Euro NCAP awarding the car five stars, with scores of 81% for adult occupant protection, 77% for child occupant protection, 32% for pedestrian impact and 83% for safety assist. Thereís plenty of safety kit on board, including seven airbags (driver and passenger, side, curtain and driverís kneebag) fitted as standard, plus ABS anti-lock brakes, ESP stability and traction control and a hill-start function. An interesting safety feature is Citroenís fixed-hub steering wheel, the centre of which remains in the same place as the wheel itself is turned (the safety aspect is that it allows the airbag to be optimally deployed). However, weíre not convinced, as it means that youíre never quite sure which way your wheels are pointing at any one time, which is particularly unhelpful when parking. For security purposes, thereís a perimeter alarm, immobiliser, deadlocks and central locking.
Citroen claims that the C5 Tourer has the longest wheelbase in the class, but this isnít that evident in the rear, where legroom is a bit on the tight side, so taller adults might find longer journeys uncomfortable. Elsewhere though, thereís enough head- and shoulder room, and the front is roomy enough. The driving position is perfectly comfortable, with plenty of seat adjustment and a steering wheel that has reach and rake movement. The dashboard is attractive to look at and, at first glance, seems well equipped. However, when you start to use it, itís immediately apparent that there are just too many switches and buttons, to the point that they actually prove to be a distraction when driving. Theyíre not as intuitive as, say, the MMI infotainment system used in Audis or even BMWís iDrive, so itís another negative comparison with the German cars Citroen seeks to compete with.
Prices for the C5 Tourer start at £20,295 for the base 1.6-litre model, which isnít bad, but you donít get much kit for that money. The 2.0-litre-engined models (£23,295-24,195) are better value, but the top-of-the-range 3.0-litre version, at £29,395, is pretty pricey Ė and you still have to fork out for the likes of sat nav and metallic paint. Running costs are very much a tale of two halves. The official fuel consumption for the 1.6 and the 2.0-litre version with the manual gearbox are decent enough at 56.5mpg and 49.6mpg, but opt for the auto an it plummets to 40.9mpg, or 38.2mpg for the 3.0-litre, and things start getting expensive. CO2 emissions are similarly divided: the 1.6-litre engine emits 130g/km, placing cars powered by it in Band D for vehicle excise duty (£90 a year), while the manually geared 2.0 emits 149g/km (£125 a year). However, go for an auto Ďbox with the mid-range powerplant and emissions leap to 179g/km, costing £200 a year, while 195g/km is pumped out by the 3.0-litre engine, which means VED will be £235. Residuals for Citroens tend not to hold up too well, either, retaining just 33% of its value after three years and 60,000 miles, which makes it a good second-hand buy, but not so great for those owners who bought one from new.
Submitted: 12/05/2010 08:51:04
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