Despite its sharp styling and well-appointed cabin, the original was hamstrung by its questionable value against the establishment.
This facelifted model retains its premium positioning, but has made inroads in most areas to be a more competitive left-field offering compared to an array of rivals – including its own Peugeot parent.
Highlights of the new 2023 Citroen C5 Aircross – now offered in just a single variant – include a more powerful turbocharged petrol engine, a new transmission with more gears, the latest driver assistance tech the company has to offer, a larger infotainment display with newer software, as well as developments to Citroen’s Advanced Comfort features.
For fans of French cars the Citroen seems as complete as ever, but this new one is still priced against the most expensive versions of segment favourites.
Has Citroen done enough to be a worthy alternative to the mid-size SUV establishment?
The one-variant range now opens from $54,990 before on-road costs and options – working out to just over $60,300 drive-away based on a Melbourne postcode.
That’s a fairly minor $2690 premium over the 2022 version when you consider the upgrades – including fresh looks, an upgraded drivetrain, more features, and much improved technology.
Citroen’s price puts the C5 Aircross against high-spec versions of the Mazda CX-5 Akera (from $51,500), and sits it between the base Allure and mid-spec GT versions of the Peugeot 3008. A potential left-field alternative lies in the similarly-sized Skoda Karoq which, in fully-optioned 110kW Style guise comes in at around $58,000 drive-away.
It’s worth noting the Australian C5 Aircross is aligned with a fully-optioned example out of somewhere like the UK. Specifying a UK-spec C5 Aircross petrol (96kW as our 133kW powertrain isn’t offered there) to the same level as the local version works out to just under £34,000 or around A$64,200.
It’s also nearly $3000 more affordable than the related, if admittedly slightly larger C5 X crossover ($57,670).
2023 Citroen C5 Aircross pricing:
- Citroen C5 Aircross Sport: $54,990
Price excludes on-road costs
The C5 Aircross may not have the plush trimmings of its Peugeot 3008 cousin, but it’s still a pretty nice place to sit.
One of the first things you’ll notice when hopping into the driver’s seat is just how cushy and supportive the front pews are – it’s almost like sitting on a couch at home.
Citroen’s Advanced Comfort seats have been refined further for this new iteration of C5 Aircross, with an extra 15mm of high-density foam in the construction and changes to ensure the seats don’t sag over time.
The seats are also finished in a lovely ‘Paloma’ perforated Nappa leather which is soft and smooth to the touch, but doesn’t feel so delicate that it’ll quickly be ruined with constant use.
Citroen has also added contrasting blue accents for the upper backrests and headrests which nicely compliment our tester’s Eclipse Blue hero paint finish, and there’s cool stitching and quilting details – including chevrons stitched into the backrest.
The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and features a handy massage function, while the front seats are both heated.
For the facelift, the dashboard has been redesigned with a higher-set 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system in place of the more integrated 8.0-inch unit of the old car, and revised switchgear.
The new screen offers higher resolution and snappier load times than the pre-facelift model’s fairly dated interface, though it’s not the brand’s latest generation of infotainment with connected services like you’ll find in the C5 X and Peugeot 308, which is quite disappointing for a vehicle launching later than both.
Still, it covers most bases in offering wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (not wireless, via USB-A), DAB radio as well as embedded satellite navigation with 3D mapping. Keep in mind the updated C5 Aircross was revealed in early 2022, and has taken a while to roll out to right-hand drive markets from Australia.
It appears the UK market gets a similar system to ours but with added connectivity, but it would have been good to see Citroen consistently roll out its new system across all new launches from the C5 X.
The layout and interface will be familiar to current Citroen or previous Peugeot owners, but clarity and speed are clear developments over the old one. While the climate controls remain touch-based, there are physical shortcuts switches for air recirculation and accessing the HVAC menu, which help.
The driver is faced with a large 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster – larger than the C5 X’s, oddly – and while it offers a level of customisation that allows for various views including maps, it’s typical Citroen in that it has a left-field design with a squircle motif and unconventional elements.
Selecting ‘dials’ won’t get you actual dials like a Peugeot, instead bringing up three squircle pods that display speed, trip computer and which gear you’re in. You can also select ‘Driving’ for a driver assistance layout which has some nice graphics, and the ‘Navigation’ view brings maps to the front even when you’re not navigating.
The tachometer is an old-school bar at the top and is always in view, which is a sort of throwback. The chunky steering wheel with its smooth leather rim and big buttons is nice to hold too, and has a distinctive look and feel that’s unlike anything else.
Storage is decent up front though has its drawbacks, with big cubbies in the centre console around the toggle-style e-shifter that can stow phones and wallets and keys – there’s a wireless charger ahead of the shifter too – and there’s a huge cubby under the centre armrest with rubberised base for larger bottles and the like.
However, the skinny door bins won’t fit larger bottles, and the plastic lining means things rattle around a bit. At least the toothed cupholders are large enough and hold things in place.
One of the C5 Aircross’s unique elements in the second row is its three individual seats, clearly nicked from the larger Peugeot 5008 SUV-MPV. They’re trimmed in the same Nappa leather as the front, and are elevated in a stadium-style arrangement to give kids and shorter adults a better view out front and through the side windows.
They each slide fore and aft independently, as well as recline to a decent degree. The issue? There isn’t a huge amount of leg- and knee room build into the C5 Aircross’s cabin to fully take advantage of this cool feature.
At around 6’1 I was pretty snug behind my own driving position with the rear seats in their rearmost position. On the passenger side you can slide the front seat a little further forward to free up more space, but if you’re a leggy legend like me you might find any shuffling about might see you knock the front seatback with your knee.
At least headroom is alright, even with the standard panoramic sunroof. The floor is also pretty flat, which means the middle occupant doesn’t have to knock outboard passengers to compete for foot and toe room, and amenities like rear air vents, a USB charge point at the rear of the centre console, netted map pockets behind both front seats, and more skinny door bins.
If you’ve got young kids, they’ll be more than happy in the rear, and there are ISOFIX anchors on the window seats as well as top-tether points behind all three rear seats.
While rear seat space isn’t quite up there with the best in class, the C5 Aircross offers quite a big boot. Citroen quotes 580 litres with the rear seats in place, expanding to 1630L with the second row folded.
That’s the same five-seat figure quoted by a Toyota RAV4, while a Kia Sportage quotes 543L-1829L. That’s despite the C5 Aircross measuring just 4500mm long – 100mm shorter than a RAV4, and 160mm shorter than the Sportage. It’s even 75mm shorter than a Mazda CX-5, which only offers 438-1340L of luggage capacity.
Under the boot floor, there’s a space-saver spare wheel.
Power in the new Citroen C5 Aircross comes from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which drives the front wheels via a new eight-speed automatic transmission from Aisin.
Outputs are rated at 133kW (5500rpm) and 250Nm (1650rpm), compared to the pre-update model’s 121kW and six-speed automatic. Zero to 100km/h takes a claimed 8.2 seconds, with top speed rated at 219km/h.
The engine is Euro 6-certified, claims combined fuel usage of 5.7L per 100km. CO2 emissions are rated at 130g/km.
While not available in the Australian market, the C5 Aircross also offers a 165kW 1.6-litre plug-in hybrid overseas, similar to the PHEV drivetrain offered in local Peugeot products, and coming soon to the C5 X.
The latest C5 Aircross Plug-in Hybrid quotes 66km of range from an upgraded 14.2kWh lithium battery pack, and CO2 emissions of just 29g/km. The PHEV is under consideration for the Australian market, but at this is stage unconfirmed.
Looking at the UK market, the 96kW 1.2-litre turbo petrol from the Peugeot 308 is offered too, alongside a 96kW 1.5-litre turbo-diesel.
From the get-go, Citroen makes no secret about its focus on outright comfort over engagement.
Unless you’re absolutely set on buying an SUV that gives you memories of driving a sporty hatchback, the C5 Aircross really delivers on its Advanced Comfort promise. The light steering, softly-sprung suspension, and relaxed powertrain calibration makes for a relaxing and effortless commuter and tourer.
The suspension benefits from the brand’s hydraulic bump stops on each side of the shock absorber – one for compression and the other for rebound – to absorb and dissipate forces transmitted by larger bumps to slow suspension movements after big hits.
It claims to offer a ‘magic carpet effect’ – but while the C5 Aircross is impressively comfortable even on 19-inch alloy wheels, it’s no Rolls-Royce. The big wheels are prone to picking up high-frequency imperfections and harsher hits, but while these are felt in the cabin, they aren’t necessarily transmitted through the seat.
Drive it harder and it leans a bit and doesn’t give you a great degree of feedback, so it doesn’t really put the ‘Sport’ in Sports Utility Vehicle – the super cushy ride setup comes at the expense of handling, as the top-heavy body and eco tyres don’t encourage you to drive this hard or have a bit of fun up a winding B-road. Nice and steady is the way here.
It’s really easy to control around town, but it’s also planted and secure on the freeway.
Outward visibility is also great, thanks to the tall glasshouse and limited blind-spots – aided by blind-spot monitoring should you lose an approaching car in your side mirrors or forget to do a head-check.
I’ve previously criticised just about every Citroen I’ve driven in my tenure as an automotive journalist thus far for the often awkward tune of the Aisin automatic. The C5 Aircross is easily the best one I’ve tried yet.
Having recently had a stint in the C5 X, it’s disappointing Citroen still hadn’t ironed out some of the awkward shifts and lurching in traffic. The C5 Aircross hasn’t completely eradicated these traits, but it’s noticeably better – though its tendency to roll backwards as you come off the brakes when stop/start is engaged can be a little alarming if it happens suddenly on a steeper incline.
Acceleration is linear and smooth, with the eight-speeder offering snappy and intuitive shifts up the ratios, and settling into a nice cruise once you’re at speed.
The little 1.6-litre turbo is a willing little thing, and revs happily which will appease those that miss the free-revving nature of naturally-aspirated units of old. What I will say, is that the buzzy engine note isn’t particularly appealing to the ears, and there’s a weird buzzy-ticking noise that comes into the cabin whenever you touch the accelerator.
Flick it into Sport mode and it definitely gets a move on and is noticeably more responsive, but like mentioned earlier you’re better off driving this in a more relaxed and sedate manner – but it’s good to know it’s got some muscle if you ever need it.
It’s otherwise not too vocal under load, so while the unattractive sound is present it’s not deafening.
Speaking of noise intrusion, the C5 Aircross does a good enough job at keeping the cabin insulated from the outside world, though it’s not as whisper quiet as segment benchmarks.
There’s a little bit of tyre roar on rougher stretches of blacktop, but wind noise is impressively suppressed even at higher speeds.
I also like the more calming tones and sounds from the vehicle’s systems, e.g. the indicator sound that is reminiscent of a xylophone, and the audible warnings for driver assistance systems are similarly pleasant – a far cry from some of the incessant chimes elsewhere.
The C5 Aircross’s assistance suite has been bolstered with this facelift, with Highway Driver Assist now standard thanks to the addition of the eight-speed auto – the semi-autonomous feature has previously not been compatible with the outgoing six-speeder.
It has the habit of stopping undertakes like a Volkswagen, and can be quite conservative with following distance so it occasionally brakes sharply if you engage adaptive cruise control while following a vehicle closer than the car likes.
The Citroen’s standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems work as you’d expect, though the reversing camera with top-down view is disappointingly sub-par. The grainy resolution and stitched feed in an attempt to create a static 360-degree view as you reverse will never be a stand-in for proper surround cameras.
C5 Aircross Sport highlights:
- Highway Driver Assist
- Adaptive cruise control incl. stop/go
- Active lane centring
- Panoramic sunroof
- LED headlights
- Finished in gloss black
- Dual daytime running light signature with LED indicator
- Functional air curtain
- LED tail lights
- Black Pack
- 19-inch black alloy wheels
- Glossy black door/side mirror shell
- Matte black roof rails
- Black roof
- Black colour pack (Airbumps and fog light surrounds)
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 10-inch infotainment touchscreen
- Satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto (wired)
- Wireless smartphone charger
- Acoustic laminated front windows
- New Hype Black interior
- Blue highlights
- Black Nappa leather trim, incl. perforated Nappa leather seats
- Blue stitching for dash, door, central armrest, centre console trim
- Advanced Comfort Seats
- Advanced Comfort Suspension
- Progressive Hydraulic Cushions
- Heated front seats
- Driver’s massage function
- Driver’s seat electric adjustment
- e-Toggle style gear selector
- Grip Control
- Polar White
- Pearl White
- Artense Grey
- Platinum Grey
- Nera Black
- Eclipse Blue
The pre-facelift Citroen C5 Aircross wears a four-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2019 testing.
It scored 87 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 58 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 73 per cent for safety assist.
The key barrier for the C5 Aircross in its initial safety assessment was that Australian models had the basic AEB package that performed weakly with regards to protecting vulnerable road users.
It’s unclear whether the updated model will be retested in an effort to have its rating adjusted with its upgraded safety suite.
Standard safety features include:
- 6 airbags
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Driver attention alert
- Emergency brake assist
- Highway Driver Assist
- Adaptive cruise control incl. stop/go
- Active lane centring
- Lane departure warning
- Road edge detection
- Speed limiter
- Speed limit recommendation
- Traffic sign recognition
- Tyre pressure monitoring
The C5 Aircross is covered by the brand’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia.
There’s also five years of roadside assistance thrown in, as well as a five-year Service Price Promise program.
Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 20,000km – whichever comes first – and there are pre-paid servicing plans for three- and five-year periods. The three-year service pack costs $1100, while the five-year package lists for $2000.
In terms of real-world fuel consumption, the C5 Aircross returned an indicated 6.9L/100km after a week of mixed driving conditions, including daily high-traffic commuting with both freeway and urban roads thrown in.
For a non-hybrid petrol SUV, that’s pretty impressive, if a little off Citroen’s 5.7L/100km claim. It’s actually about as good as I’ve gotten from a lot of diesel-powered rivals, and not far off Nissan’s X-Trail e-Power series hybrid.
The C5 Aircross now has more panache to match its chevron moustache.
It’s a quirky alternative to the mid-size SUV establishment that is very relaxing to drive and has one of the biggest boots in segment – at the expense of rear seat space. The improved drivetrain and tech are also notable improvements over the previous model.
However, its high pricing and some blank boxes on the spec sheet compared to key competitors and indeed its C5 X stablemate will no doubt be barriers to wider appeal, as will a back seat that is best described as ‘snug’.
The lack of an all-wheel drive (AWD) option will also be a deal-breaker for many at this price point, and some shopping at this end of the market will likely be after a bit more grunt.
But for those wanting something a little different, who appreciate a comfort-focused ride and are willing to spend a little more for the exclusivity, the C5 Aircross will be pretty much perfect for that very specific slice of the market that so loyally follow the storied 100-year old French brand.
Like most Citroens, its funky yet flawed.
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