Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Frenchness guaranteed

The crossover segment is an ever-growing and evolving market within the South African automotive landscape. So naturally, as a brand eager to prove itself, Citroën is looking to find their slice within this heavily saturated market with their Citroën C5 Aircross. ANTON WILLEMSE JNR takes a look at what it has to offer.

Citroën resembles the French national rugby team in many ways. At times they can be nearly unstoppable, and the one constant seems to be the ability to surprise or frustrate their fans as their game is anything but predictable. Similarly, Citroën has, at times, been a true pioneer and innovator within the automotive industry – however, the brand has also been known to be entirely all over the place and seemingly without a game plan when it comes to design and performance. But, like the French rugby team, it sometimes strikes that perfect blend of weird wonderfulness. And I think that analogy fits the Citroën C5 Aircross to a tee!

Styling and Interior

Citroën’s goal for the C5 Aircross facelift was to move the brand into more of an upmarket segment. Upon first inspection, this is quite evident. The C5 Aircross is a very attractive-looking car. Citroën has always designed very French-looking cars, oozing with much more flair than some of their French sister companies and the current C5 Aircross is no exception. While I was testing it, my mate commented that it reminded him of a smiling pitbull – it’s supposed to be aggressive but ends up being adorably cute. The rounded corners, smooth surfaces and oval accents on the side and rear profile eliminates the aggression of the angular grille and headlights at the front end. Nonetheless, I did enjoy looking at it. It’s a neat and presentable package whilst keeping it fun with Citroën’s signature two-tone colouring.

The interior design is very similar to that of the exterior. It does have some French quirks, with a few of the controls and ergonomics feeling just slightly off. That said, it’s an attractive interior that uses high-grade materials to give the cabin a high-end feel. The interior also features heaps of tech, such as the 12.3” digital instrument cluster replacing the traditional analogue clusters. Usually, I would

miss the traditional analogue displays – however, within the aesthetics of the C5’s interior, the digital cluster works well. In addition to the instrument cluster, the C5 Aircross features a rather underwhelming 10-inch central infotainment display with a row of touch buttons underneath. The touch buttons could be improved because even the slightest slip of the hand can lead to you engaging the wrong function. Luckily you can work around these touch buttons with the controls on the steering wheel. The infotainment system features Apple Carplay and Andriod Auto, which I rarely used because I enjoyed using the standard software, which has TomTom maps and was overall very user friendly.

Regarding practicality, the Citroën C5 offers what you’d expect from a larger crossover. In the boot you have up to 580 litres which expands to 720 litres by moving the seat backrests upright. With the seats folded flat, it gives you 1 630 litres of boot space. Up in front, you have a big centre console and glovebox, providing 33 litres of storage space.

Driving Impressions

Under the bonnet lies a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. The humble four-banger has a power output of 121kW with a torque figure of 240Nm. Much like a fast-footed French scrumhalf, the little 1.6-litre has a fair amount of nip and it was a pleasure to overtake. The engine is paired to a 6-speed auto box, which is a massive step up from the CVTs you find in some of its key competitors. The gearbox in question feels certain when cycling the gears, and it reacts excellently according to your input. As for fuel consumption, Citroën claims a figure of 7.9 litres/100km, but my average hovered just above 9 litres/100km in mixed driving conditions.

As for the drive and overall comfort, the Citroën C5 Aircross wafts about everywhere comfortably. I love the fact that it doesn’t feel overly sporty. Most cars within this segment will sacrifice so much of what makes it a good car to make it something it’s not. The Citroën C5 Aircross doesn’t have that identity crisis.

It’s a delight to drive. The suspension provides a comfortable ride, giving you the confidence to throw it into corners. That being said, the light steering can feel a little vague at times. But then again, to revert back to its lack of sportiness – this car knows exactly what it is and what it isn’t. It is, quite simply, an honest, loyal French ally. It can be a great daily commuter and will work like a charm for weekend getaways. While priced on the higher end of the segment scale at R633 900 for the Across Feel model, it should be on your radar if in the market for a crossover.

Verdict

To stick with the original analogy, the French rugby team is going into the 2023 Rugby World Cup as favourites for the competition, proving that their wonderfully weird French methods are up there with the best.

Unfortunately, that’s where we have to deviate from the original analogy because the quirky C5 Aircross is – unlike its dominant rugby counterpart – somewhat of an underdog with a big challenge ahead of it.

The segment is rife with options and the ‘traditional’ brands tend to get the practicality nod. However, the Citroën C5 Aircross does remain a quirky, out-of-the-box option – and if you’ve always had a soft spot for that French charm, you’ll absolutely love the Citroën C5 Aircross.

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