Citroen C5 X plug-in hybrid review
Citroen’s new plug-in flagship is a comfortable cruiser with plenty of electric range for most commutes, however it can’t match cheaper SUVs when it comes to boot space
- Comfortable suspension and ride
- 34-mile electric range
- 12% company-car tax rate
- Boot space
- £35,000 starting price
- Steering devoid of feeling
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||34 miles||217mpg||30g/km|
Citroen has a rich history of producing big, comfortable flagship models that go against the grain in one way or another, from the original DS of the 1970s to the later CX and XM executive saloons. Now, the French brand has launched its range-topper for the electrified age: the plug-in hybrid C5 X.
This is a big car, measuring over 4.8 metres end to end and with a wheelbase of 2,785mm. Few mainstream saloons or hatchbacks can match the C5 X’s size, and neither can some of the family SUVs it competes against, such as the Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage. Although it’s worth noting that the Skoda Superb – one of the few, more obvious rivals to the big Citroen – is a little longer on both those measurements.
Plant yourself in the driver’s seat and you'll quickly notice the slightly elevated floor, followed by just how close your backside can get to it, making the C5 X feel more saloon-like than any SUV. It’s therefore more of a crossover per se, but regardless, the Citroen still has a spacious cabin overall, with room for four six-footers to travel in comfort. Even with the optional panoramic sunroof fitted to our test car, headroom in the rear isn’t bad, but we’ll talk more about practicality in a bit.
Two petrol engines kick off the C5 X line-up, with all versions getting front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. However, it’s the range-topping plug-in hybrid version that we’re interested in here. Power comes from a 1.6-litre petrol engine coupled to a 109bhp electric motor, fed by a 12.4kWh battery – the same powertrain found in the recently updated Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid SUV. Like its sister car, there’s 222bhp and 360Nm of torque on tap, plus you get a pure-electric driving range of 34 miles.
Citroen is also claiming fuel economy of up to 217mpg, while fully recharging the 12.4kWh battery takes less than two hours when hooked up to a 7kW home wallbox. With CO2 emissions of just 30g/km, the plug-in model sits in the 12% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax band for 2022-23, meaning company-car drivers will have to fork out just £850 a year to run even the top-spec hybrid version – nearly half what you’ll pay for the basic petrol model.
Underneath the C5 X is the same platform that underpins the Peugeot 308, Vauxhall Astra and DS 9, among others, with Citroen pulling out all the stops to offer what it believes is “ultimate comfort”. For example, the firm’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension components are now joined by the Active Suspension technology seen on several DS models. This system uses sensors to read the road surface ahead, allowing the car to adjust its hydraulic dampers to prepare. Both features are standard on all models.
Our first C5 X drive was in the French equivalent of top-spec Shine Plus trim. The Stellantis Group plug-in hybrid setup is pretty familiar by now, most recently appearing in the latest Vauxhall Astra Hybrid to name but one, and it’s a decent system. The automatic gearbox is smooth, with a pretty seamless transition between electric and combustion power.
There’s also not much whine from the electric motor when travelling around town in EV mode, and the petrol engine only makes itself heard when you really put your foot down for maximum acceleration. Even then, its unremarkable four-cylinder tone never becomes truly thrashy.
Once you’re up to motorway speeds, the C5 X maintains a sense of refinement, with some wind noise around the A-pillars at 70mph (even with our range-topper’s acoustic glass), but road noise from the high-profile 19-inch wheels is well contained. Meanwhile, the petrol-electric powertrain sits nicely in the background as it flicks between power sources.
In terms of ride comfort, in many ways, this is the most convincing execution of Citroen’s Advanced Comfort setup to date. The system does like to take a second stab at reacting to most undulations, but it does this in such a subtle, gentle fashion that you can’t help but feel you’re being wafted along. The setup may be softer than almost any of the C5 X’s rivals, but it manages to escape losing complete control of itself.
You’ll find the car leaning if you stamp on the brakes or throttle, and sudden jolts are transmitted through the cabin. But the overall effect is a solid ability to dial out the majority of road imperfections. As a result, the C5 X is extremely adept at eating up motorway miles, with the electrified powertrain alternating between low revs and pure-electric running, and the suspension and suspension gently floating you over road scars.
When you do encounter some twistier roads, the C5 X is far from completely undone. Admittedly, the perhaps overly light steering is devoid of any feel, but it’s direct at least. Plus, there’s surprisingly decent resistance to body lean in corners. Unfortunately, any attempt to really throw the big Citroen into a corner or two will just result in understeer. The chassis also struggles to cope with rapid changes in direction.
While there are some textured plastics with colour inside to break up what would otherwise be several slabs of dark grey, the C5 X sadly continues the Stellantis Group’s love affair with piano-black interior finish. In our experience, the stuff looks smart under showroom lights, but once you get it home, it shows up every particle of dust and scratches easily in everyday use.
The infotainment uses a slick interface and a pretty quick processor, but as with most manufacturer’s systems today, we’d swiftly bypass the built-in TomTom navigation and use the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that comes as standard to access our preferred smartphone apps. Entry-level cars get a 10-inch setup, but our pricier test model featured a larger 12-inch screen.
Boot space for the plug-in C5 X is 60 litres down on the combustion-engined model, offering 485 litres with the rear seats up, or a sizable 1,580 when you fold them down. There’s no discernible load lip to hoist heavier items over, and access is easier than in saloon rivals thanks to a load cover that moves up with the hatchback so you don’t need to move it out of the way yourself.
We didn’t get a chance to try Citroen’s smartphone app with the C5 X during our time with the car, but from earlier experience we know that it should offer decent integration with the flagship PHEV. It should allow you to check charge levels, schedule charging and warm or cool the car before you hit the road.
Available to order now, entry-level Sense Plus cars (priced from just over £35,000) come with LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, a 10-inch central touchscreen with 3D navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard.
All C5 X Hybrids also feature an ‘acoustically insulated’ windscreen aimed at reducing road noise in the cabin, a 'frameless' rear-view mirror with electrochrome dimming, part-leather-effect Advanced Comfort seats and the Advanced Comfort Active Suspension setup.
Upgrading to Shine trim (from just under £37,000) adds the larger 12-inch infotainment touchscreen, a head-up display, wireless smartphone charging, black and grey leather-effect upholstery for the Advanced Comfort seats and a heated steering wheel. There’s also chrome exterior trim, different alloy-wheel designs and ambient lights.
Range-topping Shine Plus similar to the version we drove. Priced from just under £39,000, it gets black leather, heated Advanced Comfort seats, acoustically isolated front and rear windows, a powered tailgate and additional safety systems like blind-spot detection and a 360-degree reversing camera.
The Citroen C5 X is a somewhat niche car that sits between family SUVs and the dwindling number of large saloons, but if you’re considering either of those, then there’s enough about the French flagship to warrant a closer look. We expect private buyers will find the nearly £39,000 price tag – or more than £500 per month on a finance deal – of the top-spec hybrid a little rich. Company-car drivers, though, should see it as a well equipped, comfortable motorway cruiser with enough zero-emissions ability for the daily commute.