BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN I got my first in the metal view of the Citroen C5 X at a 2021 preview, I immediately thought of the Citroen XM large executive car I drove a number of times through the 1990s, eventually discontinued in 2000.
Sleek, truly comfortable thanks to its hydro-pneumatic suspension, and close to luxury inside.
As a big hatchback, it offered more flexibility than the saloons that were then the norm in the segment. It was a 1990 European Car of the Year.
But it wasn’t the success in sales terms its maker hoped, hitting an era when large cars from most mass-market brands were in decline against their premium brand equivalents.
Drive on two decades and we have that car’s spiritual successor, with clear physical reflections of the XM.
Sleek, truly comfortable, a flexible format as a large hatchback-estate that is aimed at crossing the market between large saloons and the trending SUV format.
An interior that can compete in quality terms with any premium brand competitor.
The dimensions inside and out are remarkably similar. Last November it won the Large Crossover SUV category in the Irish Car of the Year 2023 Awards.
When it came to the final vote for the overall award, I cast mine in favour of the Citroen against the eventual winner, Volkswagen’s ID Buzz. The C5 X was also named last week as Women’s World Car of the Year 2023 Best Large Car.
The C5 X is distinctive in style. That front end with the traditional Citroen chevron element these days a design element rather than a logo makes a strong brand statement. The hooded effect in the headlights sets the car’s face away from the usual.
That long ‘floating’ rear section to the roof stretches the apparent length. And while the car does have elements of design and ride height tilting towards the SUV, it appears as much more an elegant estate.
That is the intent of its designers — as with the companion latest Peugeot 408 — to widen the potential customer base. If it weans some away from the bulk of the trendy SUV, that can’t be a bad thing, I think.
The interior also takes the elegance route, with a clean but interesting dashboard design, a high and wide centre infotainment screen that makes much more sense than the portrait ones favoured by some other makers, and main instruments that provide all necessary driving information without gung-ho graphics.
The labels on the steering wheel switches are clear, and the climate controls ahead of the centre console are rotary knobs — the message IS getting through! The console itself is finished in a piano-shiny black, housing the now very familiar automatic transmission controls used by other brands in the Stellantis Group.
Citroen have made comfort their unique selling point, putting a lot of emphasis especially into seats design.
The ones in the C5 X look very well, but more important they deliver on the comfort promise, as was very much evidenced on a day trip through the south east of the country undertaken specifically to test that promise. The two of us on that trip came home still quite remarkably fresh, the only disappointment being an unexpectedly poor lunch in Dungarvan.
The flexibility of space that comes with a good estate is part of this car, and with an already capacious cargo area it can be substantially more useful with one or both rear seat-backs down. In the normal setup, rear seat passengers enjoy really good knee room.
There are three grades available for the C5 X, all of which come with a standard high specification in safety and comfort tech.
My review car was the second grade up, Flair, and my only question was the omission of seat heating while giving a heated steering wheel?
Ok, it’s far from heated seats I was raised, but with artificial leather seats material I think this should be standard. And because I’ve been using them quite a lot these days, I find that a comfortably heated seat allows a significantly lower cabin temperature that helps keep a driver from getting drowsy.
The C5 X is available with petrol engines of 120hp/180hp, and a plug-in hybrid with a rated 63km EV range and 225hp. All are automatics.
My review car was a straightforward 130hp petrol, and made a change from driving a lot of electrified cars to simply be thinking only about petrol range and performance.
For the size of the car, that base engine was quite adequate. Consumption was a decent 7.1L/100km, not so far off the rated 6.5L/100km claimed by the maker.
When I left it back I asked myself whether I would still have given the C5 X my vote for Irish Car of the Year, a vote given after a relatively short driving experience? My answer was an instant ‘yes.’