What is it?
Until last year it was a 40-year Citroën tradition that the marque’s biggest and most expensive model should be a large, likeable, slow-selling and fast-depreciating business saloon. In 2019, however, the company corrected that mistake by launching a handsome and distinctive SUV flagship, the C5 Aircross, though even that failed at first to join the electrification bandwagon that was already rolling fast.
Now Citroën has remedied this shortcoming with a new two-model range of C5 Aircross plug-in hybrids that catapults it to the front rank of SUV efficiency. The entry-level Flair model costs a very reasonable £35,370, considering it comes with equipment like climate control, air-con and traffic-monitoring navigation, but the bargain is the Flair Plus, which costs barely £1500 more while adding more ornate 19in alloy wheels (instead of 18s), half-leather trim, an electric-adjust driver’s seat, radar cruise control and a hands-free motorised tailgate.
The new PHEV powertrain takes the PSA Group’s Puretech 180 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engine, good for 178bhp, and mates it to an 80kW electric motor in the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox to make a powertrain with a maximum power of 222bhp and maximum torque of 369lb ft. Most of that torque is available from standstill – which is a powerful reason why this front-drive-only model's generous retinue of driver aids (lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, colour reversing camera) needs to be topped by a very effective traction control.