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Citroën C5 Aircross test

The Citroën brand has returned to South Africa following a few years’ break. The new Peugeot CitroënSouth Africa company is now wholly-owned by the gl

By Thami Masemola on 20 Aug 2020
The Citroën brand has returned to South Africa following a few years’ break. The new Peugeot Citroën South Africa company is now wholly-owned by the global PSA Groupe and seems to be taking the right steps towards rejuvenating the French brand. One of these steps was the introduction of this new C5 Aircross, a mid-sized SUV that went into one of the most contested territories in the market.

At 4.5 metres long, 1.7m tall, 1.9m wide and with a wheelbase of 2.7m, the C5 Aircross is right in the sweet spot of its segment. Looks are always a subjective subject matter, but we liked this cars design, particularly the front and rear ends. Citroën calls it a “cartoonish” look, as the split front grille seems to wrap around the front end. LED daytime running lights are placed above the headlights, with air intakes falling below those in the pecking order. The side profile features what the company calls Airbump panels, similar to those of the old C4 Cactus, which should never be confused with anything that bounces, and 18-inch alloy wheels. At the rear is a set of four LED lights on each side, stacked like the number four on dice.

The interior is a pleasant place to be in for all five passengers, including the rear middle, which is a full seat. We really appreciated this aspect, because many SUVs have now taken after sports coupes and shrunk this seat. All rear seats can be folded flat to increase boot space from 520 to 720 litres. The panoramic sunroof adds the feeling of airiness. The driver’s area is also comfortable, with everything coming within easy reach. Infotainment is accessed via a centrally-mounted 20.32cm touch screen, while the 31.2cm digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel provides all the necessary information like current speed, engine revs, etc. Other features in our test unit included Apple Carplay and Android Auto screen mirroring, 6 sound speakers, two-zone climate control, and wireless smart phone charging among others. Citroën provided the Shine model we drove with gear shift paddles behind the steering wheel, but it’s unnecessary because the car is not sporty and they are fixed on the steering column, rather than the wheel itself.

Only one engine is offered with this car, namely the 1.6-litre THP turbo petrol producing 121kW at 6 000rpm, and maximum torque of 240Nm at 1 400rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that sends power and torque to the front wheels. During our time with the car we realised an average fuel consumption figure of 8.8 litres per 100km. In Gauteng testing we were able to achieve a 0 – 100km/h sprint time of 11 seconds, while Citroën pegs top speed at 189km/h. So it’s not a performance car, and is not built to be. It is a family SUV made for relaxed, everyday driving and high occupant comfort. Citroën says it’s the most comfortable SUV in its class, thanks to features like the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions system adds two hydraulic stops on either side, one for rebound the other for compression. It certainly works, giving the car a high level of comfort, but without the nauseating feeling of the old C5 sedan. There are also high levels of safety provided by the likes of Park Sensors, Coffee Break Alert, Keyless Entry and Starting, Electric Parking brake, Reversing camera with rear 180°camera, and Active Lane Departure Warning System.

Citroën is definitely back and the C5 Aircross proves how serious they are. As far as this product is concerned, it is high on the list in its segment in terms of positioning, features, performance and quality. The only challenge facing the local company will be how to overcome negative historical market sentiments associated with the brand.

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