First Drive: Citroen C5 2.2 HDi 200 Exclusive
Sector: Upper Medium Price: £28,795 (Feb 2013) Fuel: 47.9mpg CO2: 155g/km
With the D-segment squeezed from all sides by niche segments, efficient and capacious lower-medium models and increasingly affordable premium brand cars, it’s become a tough sector to operate in. Citroen’s C5 has a few added pressures on its plate.
German carmakers, loosely including Ford and GM’s European operations which are based in Germany, have been the dominant force in the D-segment for some time. It meant regardless of how good the C5 was when it launched, it didn’t have much of a reputation to build on, residuals were low, and it’s since been pushed a little further out of the limelight by the stylish, high-tech DS5.
The thing is, overlooking the C5 altogether is a shame, because it’s actually a rather good car. Its sober, Franco-Germanic styling has matured almost as well as a German saloon, and while it’s a conservative choice, that can be a selling point in this sector. This has a very different appeal to the DS5.
Inside, there’s a pleasing feeling of understated high quality and technology to greet the driver. Front and rear passengers are greeted by large, supple, supportive seats trimmed in half leather almost befitting an executive-class departure lounge, and the floating steering wheel centre offers a subtle sprinkling of French eccentricity into the mix.
The C5 had a few minor upgrades last year, including adding this 200bhp Ford-PSA 2.2-litre diesel engine. It’s ostensibly the same unit found in the Jaguar XF, and comes paired with a smooth automatic gearbox in the Citroen, offering smooth but muscular power delivery and effortless, quiet high-speed cruising. CO2 emissions are at the top of what most fleets will consider, though.
Exclusive models get the added comfort of Hydractive III+ hydraulic suspension. A trademark of large Citroens, pressing switches on the centre console can lift this high enough to climb the steepest of speed bumps, or almost drop it low enough to tuck the tops of the tyres under the arches. Even in the Sport setting, there’s an instantly recognisable waftiness to the C5’s ride quality. This is quite refreshing in a sector that has become obsessed with sportiness in recent years.
Of course, the trade-off is that this is very much a soft and luxurious cruiser and not quite the driver’s car that the likes of the Ford Mondeo, and the DS5, can claim to be. But that’s always been part of the character of a big French saloon car, so it fits here.
Better still, there’s an air of exclusivity to the C5. The C5 hasn’t radically altered Citroen’s position in fleet, but conversely this also means there’s less likely to be hoardes of them in the company car park. If it’s an option you’ve not considered for a few years, perhaps it’s worth revisiting.
There’s been almost a sense that the DS5 is making its more conservative sibling obsolete, but it doesn’t have to. If subtlety, effortless long-distance cruising and refinement are high on your agenda, the C5 is a company car option that’s very much worth taking for a test drive.