Citroën has officially launched the C5 Aircross in Europe, bringing a firm focus on in-car comfort to the compact five-seat SUV segment.
One year after a China-specific model made its debut at the Shanghai motor show, Citroën has now repackaged the C5 Aircross to appeal to European customers. It is set to rival the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca in what is still Europe’s fastest-growing car sector, making the car crucial to Citroën’s future.
It is the second model to receive Citroën’s new rally-derived Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension system, following the C4 Cactus, which aims to deliver “peerless comfort” while retaining the relaxed characteristics of the company’s long-standing hydropneumatic system.
The two-stage system has two hydraulic stops on either side, with one for compression and the other for rebound. According to Citroën, this results in “a magic carpet ride” even when driving over uneven ground. For major impacts, the hydraulic stops work with the spring and shock absorber to avoid jerky movement and unwanted bouncing.
Advanced Comfort upholstery, unique to the European-spec C5 Aircross, aims to further improve interior comfort with thicker, softer seat padding and greater adjustment. All three second-row seats are the same width, so the middle passenger has just as much room as the others.
Double-laminated front windows and engine bay soundproofing aim to reduce exterior noise, while an active air quality system uses an air-purifying carbon filter.
Citroën head of product Xavier Peugeot said this will make the C5 Aircross "the most comfortable SUV on the market", bringing “an all-new level of overall comfort” to the segment.
The C5 Aircross, which is 4.5 metres long and 1.84m wide, is built on the same EMP2 platform as PSA group’s other SUVs, the Peugeot 3008 and DS 7 Crossback, but with a 2.73m wheelbase that makes it larger than both the Qashqai and Ateca.
This gives the C5 Aircross the largest storage capacity of any SUV in the segment, according to Citroën, with 580-720 litres with the second-row seats in place. All three rear seats slide, incline and fold flat to provide a total 1630 litres of storage.
The production version of the C5 Aircross has been toned down from the concept, with Citroën’s signature airbumps being much less prominent here than they are on the C4 Cactus.
It has a front grille inspired by the China-only C6 saloon and cuts down on the amount of plastic on show to appeal to a Chinese audience, but it keeps an element of the side protection that made the C4 Cactus stand out.
Citroën head of design Alexandre Malval described the C5 Aircross as “an asserted design” that will “enable it to seduce customers in every market around the world”.
It also continues the trend for expansive personalisation options first seen on the C3 Aircross and C4 Cactus, with seven body colours, a choice of 17in, 18in or 19in alloy wheels and three colour packs to add contrasting highlights to the front bumper, Airbump side panels and roof bars.
Inside, there are five interior trim choices, which are all specific to the European model, along with an 8.0in touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.3in digital instrument cluster, the latest-generation Citroën Connect Nav sat-nav and wireless smartphone charging.
Driver aids include a 360deg parking camera, ConnectedCAM dash camera built into the rear-view mirror and a Highway Driver Assist mode that combines adaptive cruise control and active lane departure warning for semi-autonomous stop-and-go driving.
At launch, buyers will have a choice of a Puretech 130 engine with a six-speed manual gearbox and a Puretech 180 unit with an eight-speed automatic 'box. BlueHDi 130 (manual or auto) and BlueHDI 180 (automatic) diesel models will also be available.
UK prices have yet to be confirmed, but the Aircross is expected to closely mirror that of its subling 3008, which retails from £21,995.
A plug-in hybrid variant, a first for any Citroën, is due in late 2019. It will be the only 4x4 model in the range; the current petrol and diesel variants are two-wheel drive only, but they include Citroën’s Grip Control system to manage traction across Standard, Sand, Off-road, Snow and ESP Off modes.
All C5 Aircross variants will be built in Citroën’s Rennes-La Janais facility, with cars arriving at dealerships in late 2018.
Behind the wheel of a C5 Aircross Prototype
We briefly drove the Aircross in prototype guise on a short, closed-course handling circuit comprised of smooth tarmac, cobbled roads and a fair few speed humps.
As with the C4 Cactus, it was impossible not to notice the extra padding in the Advanced Comfort seats as soon as we sat down: posterior-sinkingly soft at first, but with with sturdy side bolsters and plenty of under-thigh support.
On the move, the progressive hydraulic cushions helped the car glide over normal roads, with less vibration over rougher surfaces than traditional dampers. Unlike older Citroens, which were also renowned for their comfortable, floaty rides, the C5 isn’t upset by high-frequency bumps.
The system isn’t infallible, with speed bumps in particular still able to unsettle the ride, but for the most part it gives the C5 character unique amongst its peers.