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Citroen C5 HDi


A road test of the Citroen C5 2.0 HDi Exclusive produced a few surprises...

I’ve had two years to arrive at a ‘first impression’ of the Citroen C5, the current second generation model was launched in ’08, but it’s only now, as this newly revised diesel engine has been introduced, I’ve managed to slip behind the wheel of one. And with that achievement ticked off the bucket list, I can confirm this is a pretty surprising car.

Medium-large French sedans have made a habit of being pretty uneventful the last few years. Take Peugeot’s 407 for instance, it’s never done anything wrong exactly - efficient, practical, roomy - but is it just me or doesn’t the styling seem a bit dated now? And while capable, it’s hardly stirring stuff from a driver’s point of view.

Can’t deny the Citroen has it all over the 407 in the looks department, during my test, no-one could tell what it was, but they knew they liked it. Not surprising, with cool touches like prominent crease below the belt line and well-proportioned profile, it looks better than a C-class or 3 series. Just try telling that to C-class and 3 series owners.

But the driving dynamics are what surprise me most about the C5.

This latest generation 2.0 HDi engine is well insulated too and smoothly mated to a pleasing six-speed auto. Performance is adequate, not hair raising, you’re doing well if you can squeeze a 10 second 0 to 100km/h time out, but otherwise you’ll just have to be happy that the 120kW/340Nm engine provides enough muscle to wake the C5 up when you need to overtake, oh and that it’s also super efficient in that typical French diesel way, using just 6.8 l/100km.

There is pneumatic suspension, which isn’t conducive to sharp directional changes, but you have to forgive Citroen for throwing it in, it’s heritage. Flag the Sport setting and leave it in auto mode and the C5 won’t embarrass itself, the chassis is tauter than what I’ve come to expect from the brand and also provides more grip and steering accuracy than big Peugeot product. Seems weird to say this about a large French car, but it’s almost sporty.

Inside is all class as well. It’s as roomy as anything in the category and the decor offers a lovely blend of soft touch surfaces and contemporary metallic trimmings. A vibrant info display and clear instrumentation keeps you posted on the essentials, while the lower half of the dash works very well in terms of locating most controls. Not that you have to even bother reaching, audio, cruise and speed limiter, recirc, trip computer and Bluetooth telephone etc can all be accessed via the steering wheel controls. There’s also rain sensing wipers, front and rear park assist, USB connection and heated seats. They even include a massage function, but it’s hardly a stress-relieving shiatsu, I found the ongoing inflation/deflation of the lumber support more distracting than comforting. I’d never use it, but it does make for a good conversation piece.

Standard on all C5s is the generous 439-litre boot and one of the best occupant safety packages money could buy (ESP, adaptive headlights, seven airbags). Exclusive spec takes safety a step further with additional rear side airbags and picks up a premium leather pack as well as extras like chrome garnishes on the bumper, wing mirrors, window and door sills. Some technically-inspired 18” wheels top of the look for a more elegant alternative to the usual suspects.

At $62,990 the C5 HDi Exclusive offers plenty. Sure, a 3 series would dispel of it pretty easily quick smart on a winding road, but as an all-rounder this exhibits all the things important to executive buyers. There’s no reason it shouldn’t steal buyers from the default marques, but the biggest challenge being it’s the slightly ‘out there’ alternative. A real surprise would be if the habits of traditional premium car buyers change any time soon.

See the Citroen C5 for sale.

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