As car enthusiasts in India, we are spoilt for choices from some of the best German cars, and of course, we drool over some Italian beauties. But, thanks to a homegrown manufacturer, we also have a couple of British marquees vying for our attention and a piece of India's premium and luxury car market. In addition, we have representation from Sweden and the Czech Republic, which is completing the European puzzle. So, conspicuous by its absence in the luxury and premium car market were the French!
Enthusiasts have a love-hate relationship with French car manufacturers. But, one cannot argue about their contributions to the automobile revolution and innovation.
Bringing all that in a well-rounded package, we have Citroen foraying into India with their first product - the Citroen C5 Aircross.
Now, we have had a brush with other French manufacturers (Peugeot and Renault) in the past, but none as luxurious as this offering.
For most Indians, the Citroen brand may not bring instant recall, but they have been around for more than a century! And they have quite a few innovations, and world first's to their credit too!
But how does that translate for us, on our roads and in our highly competitive car market?
The C5 Aircross comes in two variants only, and visually you might have a tough time distinguishing the two.
Positioned as an SUV, this is the first vehicle by Citroen for the Indian market. Although it seems more like a crossover than an SUV, we will leave that to discuss in the next section.
The C5 comes in with only one engine option - a diesel engine! The complete absence of a petrol engine in a premium and luxury car in the Indian market is a questionable choice.
In terms of the Citroen C5 Aircross starts straight at 30 lakh Rs and onwards, bringing it in direct competition with the Jeep Compass, Toyota Fortuner, and Hyundai Tucson type of SUVs at one end and a plethora of sedans and crossovers around.
We have the Shine variant of the Citroen C5 Aircross in a Pearl White shade with us for review. Unfortunately, only four colours are available, three of which are available as dual-tone options in the top variant. Since the dual-tone option includes a blacked-out roof and ABC pillars, it is available in the other three colour variants apart from black.
Let us check how the C5 Aircross stacks up, and don't miss out on the specs sheet at the end right before our verdict
To put it bluntly, there's nothing quite like the Citroen C5 Aircross in terms of design in the Indian market. To try and describe the design language would be difficult, but let's just say it is French philosophy and flair all the way. At 4500 mm, the car does not look too long, nor does it seem unwieldy, but the 1710 mm height makes it seem squatter like a crossover SUV than a proper SUV. However, the ground clearance of 230 mm makes up for that, and the big chunky 18 inch wheels help the stance.
I am yet to spot a Citroen C5 Aircross in the Perla Nera Black shade; I imagine it would suit the car well - but the safest and classiest variant is the one in this Pearl White shade. If you wish to stand out, the Tijuca Blue combined with the quirky brand should make a statement - but the Cumulus Grey does not do justice to the car's curves and cuts.
The split LED lamps at the front adorn the two chevron Citroen logo, and the front is a very balanced look of modern yet clean design. The headlamps and corresponding array of LED lights are referred to as Citroen LED vision in their terminology. The major design element present throughout the car is the abundant trapezoidal elements. From the front scuff plate, the faux design at the side, and even the fake trapezoidal exhaust vents at the back. It's everywhere! In the tail lamps as well. Speaking of the rear design, the LED tail lamps are distinctive and cannot be mistaken for any other car, while the rest of the tailgate and rear windscreen is clean and devoid of any variant badging.
Request sensors are present on both front door handles as the car comes with keyless entry and a start-stop feature. The roof has a panoramic sunroof, wide and one of the slowest ones we have ever encountered on a car (irrespective of size). The sunroof is flanked by roof rails, but I am not sure how functional those rails are.
The overall shape seems to sit quite squat, more so because of the overall width of 2099 mm, and the curvy ends draw some recall of the Mini Countryman. But, the sleek LED headlamps and trapezoidal LED taillights ensure the design remains distinctive. The overall use of chrome is minimal and classy. While the overall clean lines may not elicit a second glance, the logo and overall shape and stance will invite some curious stares, guaranteed.
As clean as the exterior design of the Citroen C5 Aircross is, the interiors are where it is quirky! Let's begin with the seats. Never before have I seen so many colours on a seat bench. The rear seat matches the front seats, in fact - there is no bench "but five distinct individual seats" each the same. Each seat is a mixed match of more than three different materials and colours! Grey, black, light grey, dark grey, and hints of orange! If 50 shades of grey made you squeamish and uncomfortable, the various shades of grey in the interiors of the Citroen C5 Aircross would accomplish the exact opposite. All the seats, including the rear seats, are plush and comfortable. They are made up of 6 'tiles' at the back and on the squab. They are flat with no curve or support to speak of and yet don't feel too stiff. The seats, each one of them, can slide fore and aft - individually. That's a first for a five-seater car in the Indian market. But, what is a miss, is even with this high ex-showroom and on-road price, Citroen has not provided ventilated seats on any of the five seats. If that was not a big miss, then imagine this, all seats - even the driver's seat - have manual controls with plasticky stalks and rotary dials for lumbar support. Doesn't feel premium at all.
The rest of the car, the door pads and the dashboard, are adorned with yet another multiple sets of shades of grey (black and silver included) and an overdose of trapezoidal elements all along.
Some parts, such as the wiper and headlamps stalks, feel nice to touch and operate, but most other areas are hard plastic that does not feel premium to touch but does feel built to last and well put together. There are no rough edges, and I like that the 3rd person (centre seat) in the middle row gets a proper three-pointer seatbelt.
Boot space is generous for this SUV, with 580 litres of boot space with all seats up, which can expand to a massive 1670 litres of boot space with the middle row folded down. However, do note that because each seat in the rear bench has its own frame, multiple combinations are possible as each seat can be folded down individually.
There is, of course, automatic climate control, and the AC does its job satisfactorily even under the sweltering Mumbai sun. However, the lack of other cooling features or an express cool feature would be helpful.
If the lack of tech features at this ex-showroom price is underwhelming, then that feeling will exacerbate when you look at the 8-inch touchscreen that adorns the centre of the dashboard. There is nothing wrong with the quality of the touchscreen, and it does support Android Auto, Apple Car Play, and Mirror Screen options from the word go. But, the icons, the resolution, and the overall functionality available seem to be limited. The lack of any major colour options on the screen or the ambient lighting around the car makes things dull. Being restricted to shades of black and red for the UI takes away from the 'colour' part of the 8-inch touchscreen.
Overall audio output has no high points to mention, but the six-speaker system just does its job. Nothing good, nothing bad.
Something similar is what I felt about the 12.9-inch digital display instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. Since the UI elements are cohesive in black, red, and white, this display does not do justice to the plethora of opportunities available when a manufacturer decides to plop in a big digital driver-side display. Very limited themes oddly positioned rev counter, and the overall basic functionality of this display makes it useful yet lacklustre for a car at this price point.
With no petrol engine on offer in the Indian market, we have a four-cylinder 2.0 (1997 cc) litre diesel engine as the only fuel type to pull around this 1.4-ton crossover vehicle. The engine is creamy smooth and churns out 175 bhp (@ 3750 RPM) of power with 400 NM (@ 2000 RPM) of torque. However, the torque is available from the low range and runs out of breath past the 4500 RPM marque.
But, the eight-speed automatic transmission gearbox is quick to upshift, and one does not really find the scope to push beyond that RPM. Only in a few circumstances would you engage the gear lever to a different mode for more aggressive downshifts, but you still might not enjoy pushing the car. Why? Check out the next section.
Truly the most redeeming feature of the Citroen C5 Aircross is the ride quality. The Aircross price is higher because of the progressive hydraulic suspension, a Citroen pioneering technology that offers a magic carpet-like ride (as claimed by Citroen). In combination with the stiff seats, the suspension does its job like a pro, and every bit of Aircross price seems worth it just for the ride quality. But, that is more for the passengers, and there is not much to entice the driver.
Driving dynamics are average, which means they are not bad or boat like given the width of the car and the ground clearance, but there is no real BMW like driving pleasure on offer either.
With all four disc brakes for the 235/55/18 inch wheels, braking power is adequate, which is expected since Citroen was one of the first companies to offer cars with disc brakes!
The NVH levels are well insulated, and the engine note gets gruff above 3500 RPM, which filters through but does not create a situation of discomfort.
The Citroen C5 Aircross is a great car for highway travel. It has an aerodynamic design that helps it achieve top speed quickly, making it a great choice for long road trips. Fuel economy is also excellent, with ARAI rated fuel efficiency figures of 18.6 kmpl.
Features such as automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, automatic gearbox, and cruise control help the overall driving experience and ease of driving.
With these features, the extremely comfortable ride quality, large boot space, and the refined torquey engine and eight-speed gearbox, the Citroen C5 Aircross makes for a comfortable family cruiser.
If you are in the market for a new car, you won't want to miss the Citroen C5 Aircross! This car is perfect for those who need both function and flair in their vehicle. It comes with various features and amenities, including leather seats, an entertainment system, and a practical trunk space. Not only does the design language exude a sophisticated air of luxury, but the exterior and interior are equally impressive. The dashboard is sleek and modern, and the engine and gearbox are both powerful and refined. The interior design is sleek and modern, while the exterior features sharp lines and angles. So if you're looking for a car that will make a statement and be perfect for all your needs, the Citroen C5 Aircross is worth a look! But, when you factor in the price point at which the Citroen C5 Aircross retails, then the entire equation changes. The value quotient starts dropping with many cheaper cars available with far more modern features such as ADAS, more space, and better brand recall. Just go a little higher, and you have a variety of marquee brands to choose from and some proper true SUVs too! Adding to that conundrum are the unknown factors of Citroen - reliability, maintenance, parts availability, and service costs. So the weakest component in this package is the C5 Aircross price, making it difficult to recommend over other options already available in the Indian market.