The C5 Aircross cuts an unmistakable figure on the road, with its high bonnet line and sweeping grille, plus a headlight treatment that somehow captures the aesthetic of the Starship Enterprise.
There is nothing exceptional about its architecture. It uses the same EMP2 platform as – and therefore possesses very similar dimensions to – its PSA Group cousins, the DS 7 Crossback, Vauxhall Grandland X and Peugeot 3008.
A choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox are available to be mated to the transversely mounted three- and four-cylinder petrol and two diesels engines, although all models use a MacPherson-strut suspension setup at the front axle, with a torsion beam attached via trailing arms at the back. The big development for the car’s rolling chassis is Citroën’s new Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension, which aspires to do for the C5 Aircross something not unlike what Paul Magès’s hydropneumatic technology did for the original DS of 1955.
Truly superlative ride quality is absent from any rival C-segment SUV, says Citroën, to which end it has developed struts for the C5 Aircross, each with a pair of hydraulic bumpstops (one for compression and another for rebound) that replace traditional rubber ones. Rather than absorbing energy from the road and then partially returning it, they are able to dissipate it entirely.
The result, so the claim goes, is the freedom to tune the suspension more softly, as well as the manifestation of much less discernible rebound in the car’s ride and something of a ‘magic carpet’ feel.
With no four-wheel-drive model yet offered, Citroën’s familiar Grip Control electronic traction management is optionally available to lend the C5 Aircross at least a little rough-road readiness to go with a ground clearance of 230mm.
Designed to work with 19in wheels shod with mud and snow tyres, the Grip Control option takes the form of an additional layer of anti-skid software beyond the car’s standard ESP and works through modes including those for driving on sand and snow. In addition, the new Aircross features hill descent control and the latest raft of the PSA Group’s drive assistance technologies, including active emergency braking, active lane keeping and adaptive cruise control.
Later in its life, the C5 Aircross will become the first Citroën to feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain – comprising a petrol engine and two electric motors – with a zero-emissions range of just under 40 miles. Our test car is rather more traditional, and equipped with Citroën’s 1997cc BlueHDi engine – the most powerful turbocharged diesel offered. It develops 174bhp and 295lb ft and returns 47.1mpg combined on the WLTP test.