Citroen has been through some tough times, but the legendary marque is well-and-truly on the comeback trail. Led by quirky offerings like the C4 Cactus, the brand has re-established its identity, and quality new products are rolling off the production line. The new C5 Aircross takes the funky looks of the recently-released C3, and scales them up for life as a full-sized crossover.
Anyone who's seen a recent Citroen won't be surprised by the looks of the C5 Aircross. It's defined by the same squircle-shaped detailing you'll find on the C3 and C4 Cactus, but a bigger grille and chunky detailing make it look much tougher than its smaller, friendlier siblings. Given lots of four-wheel drive buyers are drawn in by the illusion of go-anywhere capability, looking tough is probably a good thing.
The funky shapes of the exterior carry over to the interior, where the C5 Aircross debuts some new tech for Citroen. There are no conventional dials behind the steering wheel, thanks to a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the center console is dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen. Unfortunately, there are no fixed climate control buttons, but the rest of the layout looks clean and, if it's anything like the C4 Cactus, should be easy to use.
Beyond design, the Citroen brand has always been associated with ride comfort. Ever since the legendary DS and its olio-pneumatic suspension, the company has focused on delivering a magic carpet ride rather than chasing flat, direct handling. In the C5 Aircross, that legacy is continued with a new Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension. The idea was debuted on the Advanced Concept Lab last year, and makes its production debut here.
Hydraulic Cushions might sound like the sort of thing you'd see on a cheesy informercial, but they're actually a clever way of delivering that Citroen magic carpet ride without the complexity of a fully hydraulic system. Conventional suspension systems generally consist of a shock absorber, a spring and mechanical bump stops. When the car reaches the end of its suspension travel, it crashes abruptly into the bump stop, which causes a rough (and noisy) ride from behind the wheel.
Rather than using mechanical bump stops, the Citroen system uses a hydraulic cushion to regulate compression and rebound. When the suspension gets close to the end of its travel, the cushions gradually absorb the movement instead of stopping it abruptly. Think of it as falling into a swimming pool instead of falling onto hard concrete. From behind the wheel it means a smoother, quieter ride.
The other area the engineering team has chosen to tweak for greater ride comfort is the seats. The pews in the C5 Aircross are designed to feel like cushy armchairs, elevated high above the road for a commanding driving position. With five massage programs, they should be perfect for dissipating the stress of a long day at work. Alternatively, they should also be perfectly comfortable if the driver heads across a rutted field – just like the seats in the 2CV.
As you'd expect of a modern family four-wheel drive, the latest Citroen comes loaded with the latest in active safety tech. Along with adaptive cruise control, the car has auto-emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warnings and auto-dimming headlights. Anyone who gets nervous in tight spaces will also be pleased to know a 360-degree camera is standard.
Power will come from a range of compact gasoline engines at launch, but the headline powertrain will undoubtedly be the upcoming plug-in hybrid. With a 200-hp (147 kW) engine hooked up to two electric motors, the system promises a 37 mi (60 km) electric range or, if conditions demand, clever on-demand four-wheel drive grip.
The C5 Aircross is on show at Auto Shanghai. Pricing hasn't been announced, but the car will be on sale in China before 2017 is out. It'll be in Europe by the second half of 2018.