Car ReviewsCitroenCitroen reviewsSUVsVideos

2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Sport review (video)

If you feel like the mid-sized SUV market is full of too many examples from the same cookie-cut template, there is one unique specimen that is often forgotten about. It’s the 2023 C5 Aircross Sport from French avant-garde brand, Citroen.

Facelifted for 2023, the C5 Aircross Sport comes in as a practical, comfortable and quirky option for those wanting something a little different. In this review we’ll try and discover why, according to VFACTS figures, only 37 examples have been sold in Australia so far this year (through November). It occupies less than 0.0 per cent market share.

2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Sport: Specifications

Engine: 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Output: 133kW@5500rpm / 250Nm@1650rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 19×7.0, 205/55
ANCAP: Four stars
Tare weight: 1402kg
Power-to-weight: 10.54:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 5.7L/100km
Our consumption: 6.9L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 53L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 23.33kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.36 seconds*
0-100km/h: 8.89 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.96 seconds*
1/4 mile: 16.55 seconds at 142.2km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.566g*
100-0km/h braking: 39.41m in 3.11 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.227g*
Decibel at idle: 41*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 81*
Starting price: $54,990

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Sport: How much does it cost?

The Australian market lucks out in getting a suite of variants to choose from. In fact, only one ‘Sport’ variant is on offer now. Prices start from $54,990 (excluding on-road costs), placing it above average on the pricing scale when compared to the entry-level prices of popular opponents like the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, and Subaru Forester.

But it is also higher than average when compared to entry-level fringe luxury rivals like the Skoda Karoq, Volkswagen Tiguan and Renault Koleos. In its defence, the one variant available aligns better to a mid- or high-end variant from its competitors, feature-wise.

One significant item that holds many back from buying European vehicles is the perceived running costs. Citroen is obviously trying to improve this by offering a prepaid service pack and laying out service costs upfront. You can purchase a three-year service plan for $1100 or a five-year plan for $2000.

Otherwise, if you choose to pay service by service, the first five cost $415, $744, $415, $758, and then $429 when serviced at a Citroen service centre. Servicing is required less than average, at 20,000km or 12 months. You also receive a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and five years of complimentary road-side assistance.

2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Sport: Interior & packaging

The cabin is extremely comfortable yet practical. Citroen has always been unapologetic about its departure from the norm, and the C5 Aircross Sport’s interior is no exception. The use of unique materials and geometric shapes give the cabin a distinct character. The seats are made from a combo of Paloma perforated leather and blue Nappa leather. Blue stitching is also used on the door armrests and the dashboard’s unique decorative strap. Many buttons and switches are edged or tipped with a chrome finish, which adds class to the space.

Citroen has shaped its specialty with extremely comfortable “Advanced Comfort” seats. The brand explains that the high-density foam used in the core of the seats is designed not to sag over time, then an extra 15mm of softer foam feels like you’re sitting on a pocket of air. They feel tremendously supportive and durable. Adding to that, the driver’s seat scores an inbuilt massager as standard – very unique for this class.

The high-rising centre console has been redesigned with a new layout of controls for the 2023 Sport, including an ‘e-Toggle’ gear selector and a new driving mode selection button. There is also a generously-sized storage area with two USB ports and a wireless phone charger. Typical with French-made cars, the placement of controls differs slightly from other makers, but you do get used to it over time.

Along with the 2023 mid-life refresh is a new 10-inch horizontal touch-screen, up from 8.0 inches. It is crisp and clean to the eye, making it quick to grasp while on the road. It also has common menus and climate buttons separated out with flush buttons.

Climate vents are now located below the screen so the screen sits higher towards the driver’s line of sight when driving. Onboard, the screen has in-built sat-nav, and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Disappointingly, it misses out on wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

To the right sits a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Again, the screen quality and layout of menus and gauges are clear and concise, making the driving experience more seamless. The graphics are also quite nice and modern.

In terms of actual space around you, it is easy to live with in the front and rear. There is lots of headroom and legroom no matter where you sit. The rear also gets three individually-adjustable seats, so the centre seat position feels just as comfortable as the outboard seats – especially with that Advanced Comfort design. We notice the rear doors have a huge opening, too, which makes entry and exit, or baby seat installation a breeze.

Further back and the boot is substantial for a mid-sizer. With 580 litres to play with, and a more upright or vertical rear shape than most, the boot is bigger than the Renault Koleos (493L), the Toyota RAV4 (542L), the Kia Sportage (543L), and the Subaru Forester (498L). But short of the Skoda Karoq’s 588L and the Volkswagen Tiguan’s 615L. The boot expands to 1630 litres with rear seats folded.

For a mid-life update, there has been some significant external design changes made for the better. At the front, new V-style 3D-look LED lights and a piano key design look brilliant as they blend in with the continuing shape of the glossy black grille. The LED headlights also look more mysterious with their darker appearance.

At the rear, that piano key 3D theme is mirrored, along with shadowy tinted glass that moulds around the 3D LED shapes. You get a real sense of attention to detail and high-quality craftsmanship with the light units.

New 19-inch fully black diamond-cut alloy wheels and ‘Airbump’ door protectors top off the C5 Aircross Sport with a rugged and sporty appeal.

Comparing with rivals in the medium SUV market, the sole C5 Aircross Sport variant would certainly be considered the top-spec variant when you look at the feature listing. And that helps to justify the price tag.

Safety features include autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning with unmarked road edge detection, active lane-keeping aid, advanced driver attention detection, adaptive cruise with stop and go function, tyre pressure sensors, and surround-view parking cameras.

Other standout features include an electric tailgate with foot sensor, a panoramic opening glass roof, heated front seats and a massaging driver’s seat, Nappa leather, and those 19-inch black alloys.

2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Sport: Powertrain & handling

Lifting the bonnet, you’ll  find a capable 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder ‘PureTech 180’ engine. It propels with 133kW of power and 250Nm of torque, kicking in early from a low 1650rpm. This is a 12kW and 10Nm gain from before the mid-life update.

Behind the wheel, it feels like a respectable amount of grunt and pull to keep up with demands. The turbo really helps with pick-up from a low speed and low revs. In normal driving situations, you never really feel like it needs more power. It can thrust from 0-100km/h in a claimed 8.2 seconds, and our testing with a Vbox revealed a time of 8.89 seconds.

Our main gripe with acceleration is with the start/stop function. It feels clunky and the engine takes too long to get up and running again. Other SUVs get going much quicker and smoother. On that note, the engine is matched with an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission. Although, you’d swear it was a dual-clutch unit. Gear changes are felt more than other torque converter systems, but we’re happy to feel a ‘real’ auto working away instead of a tacky CVT.

For a medium SUV with no hybrid or electric option, the C5 Aircross achieves praiseworthy outcomes when it comes to fuel consumption. Officially, it averages 5.7L/100km. Our testing over about 500km uncovered an average of 6.7L/100km. Though, most of our driving was made up of slower urban-style journeys. Having said that, it does cheat by not powering all four wheels and requiring the more expensive 95 RON petrol.

With power only being sent to the front wheels, the C5 Aircross Sport is far from the most capable of SUVs off road. It also has a space-saver spare wheel, and no off-road driving mode. Ground clearance is rated at 182mm, which is enough to clear rough dirt roads and steep driveways with no issue.

The suspension is soft and spongey, ideal for providing ultimate comfort levels. It also absorbs bumps exceptionally well. After all, this is one of Citroen’s trademark skills. The smooth ride for passengers stands out among the class. Citroen and the original C5’s legacy comfort levels shine through.

The suspension is made up of what Citroen calls ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ that augment absorption of bumps to offer a “flying carpet” effect. Conventional suspension is made up of a shock absorber, a spring, and a mechanical stop. This system adds two hydraulic stops on either side of the damper – one for compression and the other for rebound.

Operating the steering is made easy; it feels light at lower speeds yet reasonably secure and grounded at higher speeds. Sometimes, when the suspension is compressed or working hard, straight-line stability fades a bit in terms of steering feel.

2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Sport: Key attractions/reasons to buy

  • Ride comfort: True to the Citroen pedigree, the seats and suspension offer ride and comfort levels not seen in this segment.
  • Attention to detail: The ‘Sport’ facelift really lifts design elements to a higher class. Check out the detailing in the taillights, for example.
  • 133kW engine: Outputs from the turbo engine have been boosted to offer some extra kick over the predecessor so now it’s both very economical while offering decent performance. Being very light in weight at just 1402kg helps.
  • Big boot and practical second row: Three individual seats, adjustable separately and on rails, and a 580L boot.

2023 Citroen C5 Aircross Sport: Key considerations before you buy

  • Price: We would say the price tag is justified if it was offered with four-wheel drive. But it’s not.
  • Safety rating: ANCAP has awarded four stars, which doesn’t look good among a sea of mostly five-star alternatives.
  • Clunky start/stop and auto. These two systems need further refining in our view as take-off is too slow and cumbersome as is.

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Ride & handling
  • X factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

We don’t quite understand why the Citroen C5 Aircross performs so poorly in sales, because it is a brilliant medium SUV. There is a zesty engine, dazzling design elements to boost X factor, class-leading comfort, and a generous amount of features as standard. If we saw all-wheel drive, a five-star ANCAP safety rating, and some more variant options, it could attract more interest in the market.

Mark Davis

Mark's fascination with cars originated long before he was allowed to get behind the wheel himself. To him, cars are more than just a mode of transport; especially the ones that adopt purposeful innovations while preserving the joy of driving. With a master's degree in IT, he brings a tech-savvy perspective to our car reviews, particularly as the automotive industry embraces digital advancements. Mark joins Driving Enthusiast as a road tester after more than a decade at PerformanceDrive.
Back to top button