Nic Cackett
21 November 2012

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

Join the debate


Sounds like a fantastic used

2 years 7 hours ago

Sounds like a fantastic used buy. Having been both a driver and passenger in a ten-year-old Picasso travelling from the UK to Spain and back, I couldn't complain about it!

I think that with this

2 years 7 hours ago

I think that with this engine, it seems like an interesting alternative to the norm, although buying a slighty used example would make more sense than buying new.

Imagine how much of an idiot you'd have to be to lease a C5 though, when the depreciation will make it much more expensive to lease than a far more expensive German rival.

Nice but..

2 years 7 hours ago

It's a lovely car in a world full of car makers who can't be bothered with comfort, but there are two really annoying things about it. It comes in any colour you like as long as it's grey. Citroen really need to add a few actual colours to their colour range. And you only get the proper Citroen suspension with the top of the range - a wierd decision, especially for the estate cars.



Sorry, I can't be bothered

2 years 6 hours ago

Sorry, I can't be bothered wading through all these over complicated similes, can we have a write up in straight-forward english please.

RE: Sorry, I can't be bothered

2 years 3 hours ago

I couldn't agree more. This has to be the worst review I have ever read in Autocar and I have been reading it since 1975. 


Must confess I have a soft

2 years 3 hours ago

Must confess I have a soft spot for big Citroens and to me the C5 has always looked more distinctive than a lot of its rivals. I admit though you'd have to be mad to buy new as the depreciation must be horrendous like I think it is on all large French cars. 

Driving a Picasso empties your wallet.


2 years 39 min ago

"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." - errrr... What?!

grand way to travel, but it

2 years 35 min ago

grand way to travel, but it was better when it had the 3.0 V6 instead of this 4 pot

The 2008 C5 was ALWAYS aesthetically anonymous

1 year 52 weeks ago

"Aesthetically, the model has faded into bland anonymity" ? !

It was ALWAYS aesthetically anonymous, that was this car's problem - it looked like an Audi copy (even the marketing campaign nodded to that!), but underneath it was a proper Citroen.


Its also unfair to compare this twin turbo diesel C5 with the single turbo 320d - it should be compared to the twin turbo 325d. Shouldnt apples be compared with apples.

Same elegant machine,badge fails as usual.

1 year 52 weeks ago

Didn't know first if I was reading a professional car magazine or an essai written by a drunk teen.

It looks fresh after almost 5 years in the market (something most of the sacred Germans struggle) , the diesel powertrains which PSA is quite good at,are now more efficient and powerful and strangely in these days of ultimate performance nonsense , even with the 19" wheels it offers a soft,forgiving ride.As usual the problem is provenance and badge not counting with the alleged "poor resale value" (who buys a car to make a profit?).


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Our Verdict

The spacious, comfortable Citroen C5 makes an interesting and off-beat Mondeo rival

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