- Versatile cabin with three individual rear seats and large boot
- Very comfortable thanks to clever suspension and seats with extra padding
- Strong line-up of very refined engines
- Not as composed around corners as rivals like the Peugeot 3008
- Annoying infotainment on older models
- No seven-seat option
If you're looking to buy a new or used family SUV, chances are you're already feeling a little overwhelmed with the choice on offer. There are loads of extremely competent cars on sale, from the sporty SEAT Ateca to the workaday Nissan Qashqai, not to mention the versatile Skoda Karoq, slightly swish Peugeot 3008 and high-tech Kia Sportage. So where does this French fancy fit in? Read our full Citroen C5 Aircross review to find out.
When the Citroen C5 Aircross first arrived in 2019, it stood out by pitching itself as the comfortable and versatile choice of the SUV world – exactly what a family car should be about, rather than sportiness and outright driving dynamics. Buyers seem to like it, unsurprisingly, which might explain why Citroen hasn't messed about with the formula too much with its recent 2022 updates.
The 'magic carpet' ride provided by Citroen's clever Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension remains, while you still get a choice of efficient petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines. You can decide between a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox, too, although you can't buy a four-wheel-drive Citroen C5 Aircross – you may wish to look elsewhere should you want to venture off-road.
Under normal driving, the C5 Aircross wallows a bit more than competitors, while its vague steering means you’re not going to go chucking it into bends at speed. It’s easy to drive around town, however, with good visibility thanks to its high driving position and large door mirrors. It’s in its element on the motorway, where its supple suspension allows it to float along quite happily.
It’s versatility where the C5 Aircross really excels. The rear bench has three equal-sized seats – so no one's going to feel hard done by when it comes to space. As well as being able to slide backwards and forwards, each can be individually reclined, and there’s plenty of head and legroom. It’s a shame there isn’t a seven-seat version of the C5 Aircross seeing as there are plenty of competitors that tick that box (the Peugeot 5008, for example).
The cabin feels quirky and well-built, while there are fewer harsh plastics in the facelifted model. Buyers are offered a range of interior ambiences which changes things like the seat trims and even add a band of fabric across the dash to liven it up.
It’s the media system which lets the interior down, especially on early models. It’s slow and cumbersome to operate, proving particularly irritating as you need to negotiate its menus to perform tasks as simple as adjusting the climate control. The new 10-inch display fitted to the C5 Aircross from 2022 onwards is better positioned and features sharper graphics, but it's still not as user-friendly as it could be. Fortunately Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the range, allowing you to swerve things like the built-in navigation system for Waze or Google Maps.
The Citroen C5 Aircross won't suit every SUV buyer, but we think it leads the pack in terms of practicality and comfort. The latest updates are so small that you won't really be losing out (and could save a wad of cash) by searching for an earlier pre-facelift example, but a brand new Citroen C5 Aircross is one of the best family SUVs on sale today.
Is the Citroen C5 Aircross right for you?
If you’re after an SUV that’s almost as practical as a people carrier, with extremely comfortable seats and no delusions of sportiness, the Citroen C5 Aircross is a very good choice. There are fewer examples on the used market than, say, a Nissan Qashqai, but the C5 Aircross has been around long enough that you shouldn't have to search too hard to find the right example.
Despite feeling borderline premium SUV in many ways, the Citroen C5 Aircross isn't an expensive choice when new and it represents very good value for money on the used market. It won't cost a great deal to run, either, particularly if you buy the plug-in hybrid version and charge it regularly.
What’s the best Citroen C5 Aircross model/engine to choose from?
If you want a Citroen C5 Aircross that feels more expensive than it really is, look for a top-spec C-Series Edition (previously known as Flair Plus or Black Edition model). Be careful, though, as this comes with an opening panoramic sunroof which does a brilliant job of brightening up the cabin but it also hinders headroom – something to bear in mind if you (or anyone in your family) is more than six-foot tall.
In terms of engines, it depends on your requirements. We’d usually recommend a petrol or hybrid if you don’t cover many miles – the Puretech 130 is very good, particularly when combined with the automatic gearbox. High-mileage users should look at the BlueHDi 130 diesel or, if you need a particularly grunty SUV, the BlueHDi 180 (now dropped from the range). The plug-in hybrid is the most frugal of the bunch, provided you charge it regularly, while Citroen quotes a pure-electric range of 38 miles.
What other cars are similar to the Citroen C5 Aircross?
There’s no shortage of strong competition for the Citroen C5 Aircross. The Skoda Karoq is one of the best, with a versatile interior and representing good value for money. We also rate the Peugeot 3008, which shares a platform with the C5 Aircross.
The Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson are also great options offering style, value and a range of petrols, diesels and hybrids to choose from, while the Nissan Qashqai is eternally popular. You could also consider the Mazda CX-5, with its premium interior, or the popular Ford Kuga.
Of course, if you're willing to spend a bit more for that premium look and feel there's plenty of choice, too. The DS 7 Crossback is related to the Citroen C5 Aircross but is classier inside and out, while the ubiquitous German offerings such as the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLB offer a sportier driving experience and better tech. There's also the stylish Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-Pace to consider, too.
The Citroen C5 Aircross feels more off-roader-like than something like a Nissan Qashqai when sat inside. That means you get a higher, more upright seating position. We quite like this – it helps with visibility and is very comfortable on long journeys, particularly as your legs are angled downwards (like in an armchair) rather than up in front of you.
Most C5 Aircross models come with Citroen’s advanced comfort seats. These take a brilliantly simple approach to providing more comfort… an extra 15mm of foam has been added. It works, though, the seats will leave you feeling fresh after a long journey. Adjustable lumbar support helps here, too.
The C5 Aircross has been offered with a variety of interior ‘ambiences’ over the years. Currently, there are four available: Wild Black, Urban Black, Metropolitan Black and Hype Black... there's a theme developing here, but each has its own unique style. We quite like the Hype Brown ambience with its brown part-leather seats and dashboard top, but that was quietly dropped a little while ago.
Quality and finish
In some ways, the Citroen C5 Aircross feels like a premium choice but, when you start digging around, you’ll find harsh plastics aplenty (particularly on the door cards and the lower half of the dashboard). These were improved with the 2022 facelift, which saw a noticeable uplift in perceived quality.
Still, if you’re looking for a premium SUV, you’d be better off with an Audi Q3 or a Volvo XC40. The C5 Aircross is more about practicality than pampering the driver (and passengers) with an extremely posh finish, but it has a robust cabin that feels like it’ll stand up to the crumbs, spills and tantrums of family life.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the Citroen C5 Aircross
New for 2022 is a 10.0-inch infotainment display fitted as standard across the Citroen C5 Aircross range. It's positioned higher up on the dashboard than before which makes it less distracting to use on the move, while the rest of the dash has been given a welcome declutter. You now get sat-nav as standard, too, although we prefer to use Google Maps via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Its graphics are sharper than before and it's simple enough to use, although we think rivals that don't rely entirely on touchscreen operation (such as the Mazda CX-5) are more user-friendly. It can be a bit laggy to respond, too, which gets a bit annoying.
Pre-facelift Citroen C5 Aircross models get an eight-inch display positioned in the centre on the dashboard, while the early entry-level cars missed out on navigation. That's no great loss, though, as you could still connect your phone via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The graphics on the older system really looked past their sell-by date, while it’s a really cumbersome system to use. Menus are difficult to navigate, while touch-sensitive shortcut buttons below the screen require glancing at while you’re driving.
One of our biggest gripes is having to use this system to adjust the car’s heater. Just wait until you need to see navigation directions at the same time as your passenger decides they’re cold.
One plus point is the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that’s standard across the range. Although it’s not quite in the same league as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, it's easily customised and looks much smarter than old-school analogue dials.
Space and practicality: Citroen C5 Aircross boot space
Unusually, middle-seat passengers in the back of the Citroen C5 Aircross won’t feel short changed. The rear bench is split into three equal seats and there’s a flat floor, meaning those sitting in the middle won’t have to straddle the transmission tunnel.
The clever rear bench can split into three and slide backwards and forwards, depending on whether you need to prioritise rear legroom or space in the boot. It’s a shame, though, that Citroen doesn’t offer a seven-seat version of the C5 Aircross. If you need more seats, we’d recommend looking at the slightly bigger Skoda Kodiaq or Peugeot 5008.
Up front, there's loads of space in the Citroen – especially in terms of width. A large centre console means the driver won’t be bashing elbows with their passenger and vice versa. You sit high up but there’s still bags of headroom, provided you don’t spec the panoramic sunroof (which is standard on Flair Plus/Black Edition models).
With the bench slid forward, there’s room for an impressive 720 litres of luggage in the boot of the C5 Aircross. This drops to 580 litres with the seat in its rearmost position - still considerably more than a Nissan Qashqai and on a par with newer models such as the latest Kia Sportage.
Not only is it big, but the boot’s also a very handy shape. It’s usefully square with a false floor, reducing the boot lip for lifting bulky items over. The high-spec Flair Plus/Black Edition models has an electric tailgate which can be opened hands-free by shaking your foot under the rear bumper - very useful when your hands are full with shopping bags, for example.
In terms of dimensions, the Citroen C5 Aircross is 4,500mm long, 1969mm wide and up to 1689mm tall if roof bars are fitted. That makes it comparable with rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 and Peugeot 3008, slightly shorter than a Ford Kuga and in between the BMW X1 and BMW X3 in terms of size.
Even on rural roads, it’s impressive how the Citroen C5 Aircross will soak up any lumps and bumps without passing them into the cabin. If you violently clout a pothole you’ll know about it (particularly on bigger 19-inch wheels), but it handles sudden changes in road surfaces very well indeed.
The downside of that is it’s not the most agile choice on a twisting rural road. It leans considerably in bends (which won’t help with travel sickness if you’ve got kids in the back), and bounces around a fair bit, so you’ll find yourself being a lot more restrained than you would in a sporty SEAT Ateca.
The steering is pretty numb in this situation, too. It’s very light and you don’t really know how much grip you have left, although the fairly wide tyres mean it doesn’t really struggle on that front.
Around town, the C5 Aircross is very good. You get that high-up SUV driving position and visibility is generally acceptable. It does feel like quite a big car when you’re trying to negotiate narrow streets, but the hefty door mirrors and near-horizontal bonnet make it easy to position.
Rear visibility isn’t great, but Flair and Flair Plus (or Shine and Shine Plus) models come with a reversing camera while even the entry-level Feel/Sense cars gets rear parking sensors. The C5 Aircross’s light steering is useful when you’re negotiating tight multi-storey car parks, too.
What engines and gearboxes are available in the Citroen C5 Aircross?
Most buyers will find the Puretech 130 petrol engine suits the Citroen C5 Aircross very well. This is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine, which might sound tiny for a car of this size, but it’s actually more than up to the job of shifting this relatively light SUV. Its 10.5-second 0-62mph time sounds a bit lazy on paper, but it’ll happily accelerate to the limit within the distance of a motorway slip road.
This engine is offered with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. Unless you’re particularly keen on changing gears yourself, we’d recommend the auto ’box. It suits the relaxed nature of the car, while the manual gearbox isn't the nicest to use and has a rather springy clutch operation.
Citroen did briefly offer a Puretech 180 model using a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is a very refined setup that we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend if you’d prefer a bit more performance, although it’s obviously not going to be quite so frugal.
Diesel buyers get a choice of a 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 (with a manual or automatic gearbox - again, we’d recommend the auto), and a 2.0-litre BlueHDi 180 (which comes with an automatic transmission as standard).
Most buyers will opt for the more efficient 130 model, although you should consider the 180 if you plan to do any serious towing. The more powerful diesel is rated to tow a braked trailer up to 1650kg, while its 400Nm of torque should make light work of lugging a caravan.
A plug-in hybrid version was added to the range in 2020, combining an 80kW electric motor with the Puretech 180 petrol engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox. This produces a combined 225PS, making it the fastest C5 Aircross on sale, and can cover 34 miles on a charge. It also promises sky high fuel economy figures, but you'll only get these if you're able to plug it in regularly to use electric power most of the time.
Refinement and noise levels
As you’d expect for an SUV that puts the emphasis on comfort, the Citroen C5 Aircross is a very refined choice. In fact, we’d go as far as saying it’s almost as refined as premium rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
The Puretech 130 is quite vocal in other Citroens, but it’s been quietened down in the C5 Aircross. You’ll notice a distinctive thrum if you’re heavy with the accelerator pedal but, generally, it’s no noisier than similar engines offered in rivals.
For the ultimate in petrol refinement, look for a C5 Aircross with the PureTech 180 engine that was offered until early 2020. This is so quiet you could be forgiven for thinking the motor isn’t running at motorway speeds.
The diesels are equally impressive, especially the BlueHDi 180. Aside from the usual diesel grumble on startup, this is a very muted engine that really suits the refined C5 Aircross.
When it’s charged, the plug-in hybrid model can glide around town in silence for up to 34 miles - obviously making it a very refined choice. Once it’s out of electricity, the Puretech 180 petrol engine kicks in with only a slight drop in refinement. This is particularly noticeable if you floor the throttle in sport mode, but this isn't the car to be doing that in anyway.
Safety equipment: How safe is the Citroen C5 Aircross?
The Citroen C5 Aircross is available with no fewer than 19 safety and driver aid systems, ranging from trailer stability control (which applies the brakes if it detects a swaying trailer) to an active lane departure system (which will nudge the steering if you start straying from your lane).
If these appeal, it’s worth looking for models with the optional Safety Plus Pack fitted. This is standard on top-spec models and was offered as a £200 option on lesser trim levels. It added things like the active city brake, coffee break alert, lane keeping assist and active blind spot monitoring - all of which are genuinely useful, acting almost like a second pair of eyes.
When the Citroen C5 Aircross was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2019, it actually tested two C5 Aircross models: with the Safety Plus Pack and without it. With it, the car was awarded a maximum five-out-of-five safety rating. Without it, that dropped to four stars.
While Euro NCAP clearly favours cars with technology intended to prevent a crash, the C5 Aircross is still a very safe car in a crash with or without these features. The standard car achieved an 87 per cent rating for adult occupants, which is very good, and a similarly good 86 per cent rating for children.
ISOFIX and iSize points are fitted to the front passenger seat, as well as the outer rear seats - meaning you can easily fit up to three child seats in the C5 Aircross.
That’s with the manual gearbox, although the auto is similarly efficient - returning 48.0 to 56.3mpg. The more powerful BlueHDI 180 is a little less efficient, returning between 42.3