Comfortable, economical, and a huge leap forward in quality

What is it?

The most economical version of Citroen’s new “Germanic” business saloon, aimed at scoring a much better foothold in Mondeo territory.

Lower-spec versions are also now equipped with steel suspension in place of the previous car’s standard Hydractive gas-oil springing, although range-toppers keep the hydraulic set-up.

Citroen is wary of making big volume claims for its new baby in a declining sector, but it reckons the C5’s combination of styling, equipment, pricing and perceived quality is enough to win it plenty of friends.

What’s it like?

In mid-spec VTR+ guise it’s handsome, well-equipped and with interior quality that completely outclasses the previous generation C5. Indeed, from the driver’s seat the new car feels like it could give the bigger and considerably more expensive C6 a run for its money in terms of ergonomics and design.

Despite its status at the bottom of the powerplant hierarchy, the 1.6-litre HDI gets an advanced all-alloy engine and sets high standards for refinement and smoothness.

The 108bhp power output is no great shakes by modern standards, but healthy mid-range torque (177lb ft at just 1750rpm) makes it easy to make relaxed, rapid progress.

The steel suspension is slightly softer than that of the Peugeot 407, with which the Citroen shares a close relationship. It’s little different from Hydractive 3 at lower speeds.

Only when cruising on undulating motorway surfaces do you really notice the oil-gas system’s superior body control.

Economy is ridiculously good. Citroen claims a combined figure of 50mpg-plus, and we found it fairly easy to achieve this in normal driving. It’s a good option, if you’re not the type to get hung up on engine capacities.

Should I buy one?

The issue with bigger Citroens of the past few years has been depreciation, but the company says its tight control of supply and a leap in desirability makes the new C5 a different proposition.

CAP predictions put its resale ahead of most class rivals, but this has yet to be tested by the open market. On comfort, economy, looks and price grounds, it’s an excellent contender.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Lee23404 13 January 2009

Re: Citroën C5 1.6 HDi

Autocar wrote:

The most economical version of Citroen’s new “Germanic” business saloon, aimed at scoring a much better foothold in Mondeo territory.

Just got a C5 Tourer with this engine and while it is good overall (and much better than the new shape Mondeo it replaces) I doubt that it is the most economical model in "the rear world". I ordered the 1.6 HDi because I was being a bit of a tight arse that day. I wish I'd gone for the 2.0. The 1.6 isn't that slow (its not that fast either) and will do long distances down through france etc. as we did over Christmas no problem and in comfort.

The problem is that if you do most of your mileage on motorways as I do the lack of a 6th gear hurts economy. I was getting a good 5 mpg more from the Mondeo with the 2.0 TDCI version of the HDi engine. So if you do most of your mileage on motorways don't be a tight arse and get the 2.0.