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

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Comments
16

Nick Cackett wrote: Citroën

1 year 49 weeks ago

Nick Cackett wrote:

 Citroën C5 range has received an incredibly gentle cosmetic update...

So, what's so "incredible" about the gentle cosmetic update?

I like the C5. I think it's still one of the best looking mid-sized saloons in the market and I also like the fact that it emphasises comfort over sporty handling.

However, I do agree with the reviewer that it's asking price is a bit unrealistic. The car would make much more sense as a second hand purchase, maybe a year or two old.

But if you buy a used one...

1 year 49 weeks ago

The price is silly and if you buy a one or two year old one you'll have one or two years less on the warranty - always important with Citreon.

Also to get a used one doesn't that mean that someone had to buy it new, and other than Monsieur Holland, I cannot imagine anyone that financially daft.

Used purchase

1 year 49 weeks ago

You can always extend the warranty on a used purchase, if you are concerned with Citroen's reliability record. That said I haven't heard of too many horror stories about the C5.

Great car...

1 year 49 weeks ago

... horribly writen article. Less is more, ya know. You're not writing for the 50 shades crowd here.

Autocar wrote: Back in 2008,

1 year 49 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:

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.

wot a load of impenetrable Troy Queefian bollocks. A well thumbed thesaurus is no substitute for actually being able to write.

C'mon Autocar, you need to maintain higher standards than this.

The article needs proper journalism. Good looking car!

1 year 47 weeks ago

The article needs proper journalism. I think we all agree on that. 

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Our Verdict

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

Driven this week