French marque puts its best foot forward for India debut.
After one failed and one false start by sister concern Peugeot, the French PSA Groupe (now part of the global Stellantis behemoth along with Fiat Chrysler) is all set to unleash its snazzier stablemate Citroen in India. A tie-up with Hindustan Motors for manufacturing at the latter’s under-used Chennai plant, this time Citroen has bigger plans for India with a slew of India-relevant launches lined up in the coming months even as it strengthens its network in the country starting with 10 cities this month. The C5 Aircross is Citroen’s global flagship ‘SUV/crossover’.
True to European sensibilities, Citroen has preferred to give a crossover look for the C5 instead of a conventional boxy SUV design. It is striking to look at though with an unmistakable wide front grille with the double chevron logo integrated neatly in the middle. The DRL slits on top of the headlamps are another cool and unmistakable touch. The front bumper looks busy with large air intakes for effect – something you also notice in profile under the front doors. The A-pillar slopes nicely into the curvy roof. It looks muscular and chunky from most angles. The large 18-inch alloys have a design similar to the air intakes. The design is a good balance of understated lines and in-your-face curves. In terms of size, the C5 has a good presence on the road. Compared to rivals, it is longer than a Hyundai Tucson but not as tall as the now-not-on-sale Honda CR-V.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Unlike many European carmakers including the other French carmaker, Renault, Citroen is going to offer its debut India model with a 2.0-litre diesel powertrain. On paper, this makes 177ps of power but the torque is as high as 400Nm. As some of you will know, it is the latter figure that is the reason for the shove when starting off and a typical characteristic of diesel engines which make them seem more powerful than an equivalent petrol engine. This engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic of the torque convertor type. Those expecting 4×4 or atleast all-wheel-drive will be disappointed. Just like most crossovers and even “SUVs” off-late, the C5 is a front-wheel-drive only. However, there are some electronics to help with grip. More on that later. The onboard computer was hovering around 13-14kpl on our test run although the certified figure is 18.6kpl.
RIDE & HANDLING
Citroen has been harping about comfort for a long time now. And it is not without reason. The French are known to make some of the best-riding cars in the world and Citroen is no different. It is a skill it has honed over decades of rally expertise. The suspension set-up on the C5 has to be one of the best we have seen in the segment. Unlike traditional suspension set-up, Citroen employs a simple but more layered approach with additional hydraulic cushions that help control the contraction and expansion of the suspension parts responsible to give a subtle ride. And you can immediately enjoy a less thudy and more pliant ride in this SUV. On the handling front, the steering has an optimum level of assistance to make it easy to handle in tight parking space or squeezing in between traffic (visibility is pretty good too) and yet become heavier as speed builds which helps keep it composed at high speeds. Shove it into a high-speed curve and this Citroen has enough grip to keep going valiantly without sending a shiver down the driver’s spine. Speaking of which, the C5 Aircross gets Grip Control as well which is its traction control system that can be altered by turning a dial on the central console for different kinds of terrain. The modes include standard, snow, all-terrain (off the road) and sand. You can also switch off traction control assistance if you feel particularly brave. Braking is assuring too with disc brakes on all wheels.
INTERIORS & FEATURES
The C5 Aircross cabin is a delightfully cheerful place. The talking point of the interior is the rear seat. Unlike convention, it has a unique three-individual seat arrangement. The downside is that it isn’t as plush as many sofa-like rear seats on cars. Instead, it makes enough space for the third guy to sit comfortably over long distances. The floor at the rear is relatively flatter too. The seats have an interesting six-pack design both at the front and rear. The boot is humungous and the biggest in its class. Plus, the rear seats can be individually folded to add to the luggage space. The interior colour is a nice shade of grey and goes with the understated, yet quirky approach of the French. The steering wheel is a three-spoke chunky design with the usual array of steering controls. What is only odd is that the cruise control switch stalk which goes under and behind the steering wheel. It is a bit inconvenient to use especially if you not familiar with the operation of every switch on the stalk. The instrument cluster is a neat digital display with simple and elegant fonts. The central infotainment screen is a big 12.3-inch display with a reliable touch experience.
With the price expected to be in the Rs 25-30 lakh bracket (ex-showroom), the C5 Aircross will be a lot of money. Yes, it is more than a capable car in terms of providing a comfortable and satisfying drive that is even more appropriate given our tough road and traffic conditions. They have done a lot of things with the Indian conditions in mind – such as offering a full-sized spare tyre given how they are prone to punctures. It does have a lot going for it but a few misses as well. The car won’t be a full import though. Citroen will be part assembling it in India which means there is scope to sweeten the deal. We wait for that final price announcement. That apart, and if 4wd is not sacrosanct for you, the C5 Aircross is one of the most capable SUV/crossovers that you will find in India.
LxWxH: 4500 x 2099 x 1710
Turning circle: 5.35m
Boot space: 580 litres
Engine: 1997cc, 4-cylinder, diesel, 177ps, 400Nm
Gearbox: 8-speed AT
Fuel efficiency: 18.6kpl
Fuel tank: 52.5kpl
[Image Credit: Citroën]