What is it?
Wide angle, the Citroën C5 range has received an incredibly gentle cosmetic update; close up, this is the new range-topper, equipped with a 201bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine not previously found under Citroëns in the UK (although it has already premiered in the priciest Peugeot 508).
If you were hoping to see the C5’s middle-age spread pulled taut by some face-hardening botox, think again. Despite being hemmed in by younger rivals (and with a new Mondeo and Mazda 6 on the horizon), Citroën has only managed to lever LED daytime running lights into revised headlights and accommodate the brand’s new chevrons on the nose.
A Techno Pack (available with any trim level) adds the new eMyWay sat-nav system and 18-inch wheels to the Exclusive spec, but otherwise the interior, too, remains as it was. Consequently, improved engine choice is clearly meant as the chunks of meat in otherwise thin gruel.
At the opposite end of the HDI 200’s scale is the e-HDI 115 Airdream, which uses a 115bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine and stop-start tech, in conjunction with PSA’s electrically controlled six-speed gearbox, to deliver claimed economy of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 117g/km.
In contrast to the fleet buyer shelf-filler, the flagship returns 47.9mpg and emits 155g/km in return for a vastly improved 0-62mph time of 8.3sec and flat-out 143mph potential. The four-cylinder engine’s extra performance sees it command an £8k premium over the base-spec daydreamer.
What is it like?
Quicker, but no fresher. Back in 2008, the C5 found sufficient space in our estimation to be gently recommended as an alternative to the usual Germanic and Japanese suspects. It managed this feat not because it strained for idiosyncrasy in the schizophrenic style-grab of the later DS range, but because its lolling comfort and syrupy refinement were considered pleasantly offbeat (and specifically Citroën) in a segment unduly preoccupied with a stringent handling bias.
While that quality is still discernible four years later, the C5’s facility for rewarding buyers' faith in its anomalous character has shrunk considerably. Aesthetically, the model has faded into bland anonymity. The eMyWay is worthy enough, but its antiquated dash-mounted interface is a depressing mish-mash of tiny buttons and limited functionality. The surrounding aesthetic – a spartan lunge for VW-like quality – is matt-plastic forgettable now, and the steering wheel’s fixed hub is still peppered with far too many switches.
At least the seats remain chaise-longue comfortable and permit a huge range of adjustment for the perfect fit. With your posterior positioning pitch-perfect, it’s a shame for it to learn that the Techno Pack 18-inch wheels have lodged a bony jostle into the normally buoyant ride quality. The C5’s old-fashioned capacity for gliding still persists, but with the bigger rims fitted, the Hydractive 3+ self-levelling suspension requires an inherently smoother surface to really shine.
The shortfall is unfortunate, because the new engine, despite being rather vocal for the Citroën’s laboured hush, is at least a credible counterpart for its loping stride. Mated exclusively to a garden-variety six-speed automatic transmission, the 1841kg car could potentially find 62mph in 8.3sec, but such is the extent of the C5’s nodding wallow that asking it to sprint from a standstill is like suggesting a hippo perform a standing jump. Far better to relax into its natural amble and just lazily milk momentum from the generous 332lb ft of available torque at 2000rpm.
Should I buy one?
There are reasons to recommend the C5, but to seriously consider buying one, your viewpoint would have to be seriously blinkered. Confined to a motorway or cosseting A-road, its super-cruise makes some kind of sense. But without a deeper refresh to recommend it, the model feels like a declining oddity – the kind of car you’d appreciate as a rental prospect for a long road home, but never as a permanent fixture on the driveway.
Added to which, the backstage numbers on the Exclusive version simply don’t add up. Citroën really needed the four-cylinder engine to be a sales springboard if it were to succeed at this end of the segment, but both its claimed efficiency and performance figures are mildly competitive rather than aggressively class-leading.
Worst of all, the £28,495 price tag – a valuation that makes the HDI 200 around £400 more expensive than the five-star BMW 320d – only confirms the sneaking suspicion that the C5 (at least in its costliest guise) has slumped from unorthodox alternative to a downright eccentric one.
Citroën C5 Exclusive HDI 200
Price: £28,495; 0-62mph: 8.3sec; Top speed: 143mph; Economy: 47.9mpg; CO2: 155g/km; Kerb weight: 1841kg; Engine 4 cyls, 2179cc, turbodiesel; Power: 201bhp at 3500rpm; Torque: 332lb ft at 2000pm; Gearbox: 6-spd automatic; Fuel tank: 71 litres; Boot: 439 litres; Wheels: 18-inch alloys; Tyres: 245/45 R18