Relaxing to drive, but needs more load space to be truly competitive

What is it?

As you’ll no doubt have worked out from the pictures, this is the Citroën C5 Tourer. Cavernous estate models have always been a big part of the quirky Citroën appeal (think CX, BX and XM), especially with hydro-pneumatic suspension systems eliminating the need for suspension intrusion into the rear cabin.

Recently, after several years in a wilderness of mundane design and mediocrity (think Xantia and old C5), Citroën has returned to its old, more interesting and innovative ways with cars like the C4 and new C5 saloon.

What’s it like?

In the C5 Tourer, this innovative design approach manifests itself in some very clever design touches for the load bay. Along with the advantages of self-levelling suspension, the higher-spec versions of the Tourer also get a button in the boot that raises or lowers the rear suspension to aid loading.

Another particularly smart trick is the optional powered boot lid. There are other estates that do this, but where the C5 really scores is that you can ‘teach’ the hatch to stop at a specified point. Useful if you need to load or unload something in a restricted space.

Citroën covers the more conventional practicalities of a large estate, too.

There’s a decent low load lip, the seats fold completely flat and the boot floor has runners fitted as standard to aid the moving around of large objects.

The C5 falls down rather spectacularly at the last hurdle, however. A minimum load capacity of 505 litres and a maximum of 1462 litres make the C5 one of the least capacious cars in the class. By contrast, a Vauxhall Vectra will swallow a whopping 1850 litres. Even a Skoda Octavia estate gets more space, with 1620 litres.

On the road, the estate is pretty much the same as the saloon, which means an incredibly relaxing experience.

The 171bhp 2.2-litre diesel is hushed, and the ride comfort over any roads is superb. But the light, remote-feeling steering and ample body roll discourages too much spirited driving.

Should I buy one?

If you like the gimmicks, and enjoy the chilled out nature of the C5, then go for it. But if you need a truly capacious load carrier or something remotely fun to hustle along, then there are much better cars out there.

Matt Rigby

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EWMBH 12 January 2009

Re: Citroën C5 Tourer 2.2 HDi VTR+

Fascinated with all the talk of comfort in relation to this car. Thought I would respond as someone who has been driving a C5 2.0 VTR+ for 6 months. In no particular order :-

  1. The seat base is at an odd angle which makes the back of your thighs ache after half an hour.
  2. The steering wheel with the fixed boss is heavily dished and there is no comfortable position to rest your hands at the quarter to 3 position, consequently you hold it a bit too tight higher up which puts tension in your neck. Alternatively you let your hands fall down to your lap and hold it from the bottom which in my view is very bad.
  3. The steel suspension is set up so softly to give the impression of comfort that it feels like there is no damping at all. On dual carriageways or even a straight motorway it floats up and down constantly and if you hit a sharp bump the suspension is completely caught out either pitching up into the air or doing a corkscrew motion. Passengers generally feel sick after a few minutes on the motorway, particularly if they are in the back.
  4. The steering is incredably light which combined with the soft suspension makes motorway crosswinds an absolute nightmare.
  5. The cup holder is hidden in a storage box which is inaccessable when you are driving, and not particularly clever when you are parked.

Granted, the performance and economy are on a par with most of the comparable cars, and the build quality is far better than any previous Citroen. I also totally agree that we shouldn't be racing everywhere and a comfortable car can be enjoyed on every journey BUT frankly if a Mondeo or a VW Passat drove like this the press would howl in disgust, or an owner would take it into the dealership to have it fixed. Quite simply this is the worst and most stressful car I have ever had for long journeys. Please don't be taken in by the myth that soft suspension means comfort, there are plenty of other cars which manage to compbine a comfortable ride and still let you feel like you actually in control of the car.

banjaxed 16 October 2008

Re: Citroën C5 Tourer 2.2 HDi VTR+

Interested in all these comfort based responses. I thought it was just me getting old. With the state of many of our roads and the traffic levels comfort is king. The enthusiast journalists judge a car under extremes of usage that a normal driver would never approach, worse still many manufacturers pander to this by designing ever firmer suspensions. BMW are particularly at fault here - great driving experience but not if you drive around London where you will arrive shaken and jolted. So Citroen's hydrodynamic suspension is very tempting and Volkswagen's comfort/normal/sport settings on the new Golf and Scirocco are another step in the right direction.

ThwartedEfforts 3 June 2008

Re: Citroën C5 Tourer 2.2 HDi VTR+

A comfortable car is comfortable every time you drive it. A fast car is fast when weather conditions, road traffic conditions, road surface conditions, speed cameras, passengers and petrol prices permit, which is almost never. People are looking to buy smaller, slower, quieter, more economical cars these days, and Autocar needs to realise this.

The C5 looks at least £2,000 cheaper than any equivalent Mondeo (I'm guessing that the ubiquitous Ford was the sharper-driving alternative to which the author was alluding in his article), and is predicted to hold its value better too. While Citroen dealers get a roasting in satisfaction surveys, what they sell is proven more reliable than Ford or any German rival, and cheaper to repair should things go wrong. Check any claims-based survey.

Aside from the Mundano being larger and subjectively "much better" in terms of hustle-ability, it lacks Hydractive - the air suspension system which puts every Citroen estate at the top of its class for load lugging. Hydractive adjusts itself to negate the effects of what you have in the back, passengers included, and delivers a supple ride quality not far removed from luxury cars costing three times as much. Luxury cars, I might note, that are not for hustling.

Perhaps when Autocar write up a full review, they'll look at it from a buyer's point of view?