5 December 2023

The new Citroen C5 X is unlike any car we've seen in a long time

| James Coleman
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Citroen C5 X

The Citroen C5 X showing off on the Queen Elizabeth Terrace. Photo: James Coleman.

It has been noted by psychologists that the male brain works similar to a warehouse packed full of boxes, with each devoted to a different topic. One for money. One for relationships. One for the gym. And best of all – one for absolutely nothing at all.

But this system collapses when confronted by something like the Citroen C5 X.

The French car maker describes it as a “unique combination of the elegance of a sedan, the dynamism of a wagon, and the elevated driving position of an SUV”. This is a nightmare for our heads, but also very clever marketing, because after a moment of whirring noises, the Citroen C5 X is filed away in a box all on its own.

That said, my male colleagues all came to the same conclusion on seeing the C5 X – strange, but also very good-looking.

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It’s true that some of the features included on cars from Citroen, Peugeot and Renault over the years have caused their fair share of cursing. Other times, they remain mystifying, like the upright rear window on the 2002 Renault Megane, which made it look like it had been reversed into a flat-bed truck. But in this case, there is method to the madness.

Citroen reckons the C5 X is the answer for an increasing number of buyers looking outside the traditional SUV.

There is still your traditional mid-size SUV in the C5, and Citroen hasn’t exactly burdened buyers with options – there is only one C5 X model available in Australia called the ‘Shine’, starting from $57,670. The only vaguely exciting colour is ‘Magnetic Blue’ – the rest are shades of grey.

But it is impressively well equipped.

I borrowed one from John McGrath Citroen in Phillip (in ‘Platinum Grey’, unfortunately) and there’s everything you’d expect on a luxury car, down to the heated steering wheel. I also appreciated how little bonging there was from the lane-keeping assistance and the fact there were still physical buttons for things there should be physical buttons for, like air conditioning. It’s easy to navigate the infotainment system, too.

I don’t know how the French will take this, but there are very few quirks. Well, except for the internal door handles, which feel like they’re taken off a doll’s house and aren’t really meant for human hands.

Citroen C5 X

Yes, Citroen has reinvented the wheel as a square. Photo: James Coleman.

Another thing that stands out is just how comfortable the C5 X is. At this point in time, I thought the days of wafting were only to be found in my 1999 Mitsubishi Verada. Every car maker nowadays seems to prefer the allure of having “sporty” on the product posters, but the reality is, there are times when you just want to nestle down into a plush seat and watch the world coast by your windows.

Citroen puts this down to ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ in the suspension, which creates a “magic carpet” feel. They’re right. Waftiness can feel cheap or like you’re inside a 1999 Mitsubishi Verada and everything is plain worn out, but here it’s genuinely well engineered.

To the point you can stow a basket of eggs on the seat and get air over speed humps and none of them will be broken. Yes, we tried that.

To be clear, no one does car seats like the French either. I’m not yet 25, but all my joints could still feel the relief afforded by those in the C5 X – soft and squishy in all the right places and firm and supportive in the same.

You’d also think the styling would severely hamper headroom or boot space, but there’s plenty of both. Everything feels very solid too.

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Another thing the French love is a tiny engine, so the Citroen C5 X makes do with a 1.6-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder. It’s certainly adequate and once you’re up to speed, wastes no time in packing on more. But initial acceleration feels like the automatic gearbox would rather be napping and is annoyed at you for daring to click your fingers at it.

I’m sure this will be resolved by the instant torque of the plug-in hybrid version to come soon, but for now, Aladdin did not appreciate the jerky start to his carpet. The slightly grabby brakes don’t quite match the rest of the silky experience either.

This is annoying for another reason, too. It’s so tantalisingly close, but the C5 X doesn’t quite fit in your brain’s ‘lying on the beach with a beer’ box. Damn – it really does need its own.

Citroen C5 X

Looking suitably French outside the Parisian-style cafe Margot Bar on Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: James Coleman.

2023 Citroen C5 X

  • $57,670 (plus on-road costs)
  • 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder, 133 kW / 250 Nm
  • 8-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • 6.0 litres per 100 km estimated fuel usage
  • 0-100 km/h in 8.1 seconds
  • 1439 kg
  • Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty

This car was provided for testing by John McGrath Citroen. Region has no commercial arrangement with the John McGrath Auto Group.

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Ross of Canberra6:50 pm 03 Dec 23

What use are the traffic-calming measures that annoy the rest of us yet you blast over as if they don’t exist?

I am the happy owner of a 1 year old C5X. A great car which I really enjoy driving. The hesitation at low speed has either been fixed bo OTA updates, or I have learned how to avoid it. So comfortable, quiet, agile and eager.

Peter Willoughby6:34 pm 26 Nov 23

This is the Citroën version of the Peugeot 408.
Remember both companies have the same owners.

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