Recommended. It's French, but it thinks it's German and doesn't have the price tag. The new C5 might be a bit confused about its roots, but one thing is certain; it's good.
Citroen, it seems, is on a bit of a roll. Not only have they become one of the greenest manufacturers, but they're also starting to design some really good-looking cars. The previous C5 was hardly a show stopper; its lump-of -plasticine design was coupled with a shoddy interior and poor build quality.
This generation is a quantum leap forward. Citroen is making a lot of references to the Germans; having taken a fairly large leaf from the books of Audi and BMW when designing the car. And to its credit, the C5 is striking. It has a much sleeker profile, but the real head turner is the front, where the C5 has been given a large attractive grille and sweeping headlamps, while the Citroen badge flows into the bonnet line, in keeping with the current brand style. It is no longer difficult to picture this car in the same bracket as the likes of the BMW 3 series and Ford Mondeo, and other than the price - which remains competitive with its rivals - the previous car is a distant memory.
Certainly when you first step into the new C5 it has the feeling of something much more expensive. The whole cabin has been superbly put together with soft-touch plastics and a smart leather steering wheel, the centre of which doesn't move while the wheel itself rotates around it. Exclusive models get soft leather seats with massage function too - a first for a car in this segment.
The rear is not quite as spacious as its rivals though; if you put anyone over six-foot in the driving seat, rear leg room is compromised and would become uncomfortable over a long journey. However, for shorter trips there is plenty of space for four adults, and the boot is substantial.
The C5 makes an excellent motorway companion, and the well-built cabin doesn't let in much wind or road noise. The Hydractive suspension tackles bumps and lumps in a limousine-like fashion, while avoiding the wallowy feeling associated with traditional hydro-pneumatic systems. The steering could be a little heavier for more confidence into corners and although it handles well, it isn't as agile as a 3-Series.
There is a range of engines to choose from, but we think the real peach is the 2.0-litre HDi, which provides a good balance of torque and economy (50.4mpg). The added bonus is that this model also comes with Citroen's Self-Levelling Hydractive suspension as standard. There's little fault to be found with the standard steel spring suspension, which you'll get with the smaller engines, however you do get exceptional levels of refinement and comfort with this set-up.
On the whole, the C5 gets a firm thumbs up. It doesn't quite have the prestige of a BMW or the spaciousness of the Mondeo, but you can't grumble at that price tag. And thankfully that part isn't very German at all.
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