It isn’t back-handed to call the Citroen C5 Tourer one of the most obviously French new cars on the market.
In the often bland mid-sized class, this sub-$50,000 turbo-diesel wagon is brimming with character. But it is also full of tangible features that make it successful in being what the badge on its rump says – a Tourer.
Only two years ago the Citroen C5 Tourer Exclusive HDi tested here cost $61,000, but a new local distributor – Sime Darby, which also imports Peugeot – has since culled the price to $47,190 making it a far more attractive proposition in the process.
And despite the price cut, the C5 Tourer is still loaded.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, panoramic glass roof, adaptive air suspension – with two modes, Comfort and Sport – full leather trim with eight-way electrically-adjustable and heated front seats with driver’s memory and massage function, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, power operated tailgate, and front and rear parking sensors (but no camera).
It’s many of those features, in addition to the engine and several other niceties that cement this big Citroen as a wonderful cruising car.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, with 120kW of power at 3750rpm and 340Nm of torque at 2000rpm, can struggle to shift the 1695kg wagon.
Citroen claims a 10.2 second 0-100km/h, which is about on par with most small hatchbacks, so the C5 Tourer Exclusive HDi certainly isn’t quick when the throttle is flattened. Some modern turbo petrol engines of the same capacity produce more torque than this turbo diesel, despite diesels traditionally being renowned for eclipsing them for pulling power.
Even more so than with outright acceleration, however, it’s when pulling off the line, or attempting to fill that traffic gap that suddenly appeared, that this turbo diesel’s lack of immediate response is most frustrating. The lag between pressing the throttle and the diesel coming on boost requires forward thinking when driving in the cut and thrust of urban traffic.
The Citroen feels at its best out on the open road. Once up to speed, it is effortless, with the six-speed automatic easily covering the small rev band.
Claimed combined economy is 7.1L/100km, but on a four-up weekend away to the country we achieved a still-excellent 8.2L/100km, with an impressive 800km-plus range. Over the 1500km life of the car the trip computer (which had never been reset) claimed 8.7L/100km with a 38km/h average speed.
An alternative 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine is offered only on the C5 sedan, but it's preferable to the diesel, despite the likely higher fuel usage. We also miss the 450Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 (recently dropped from the C5 range) that late last year retailed for $56,990 and was excellent where the petrol is just effective.
The Citroen C5 cements its status as a wonderful touring car with its adaptive suspension.
Unlike super-soft French suspension of old, the adjustable dampers provide good control over rough roads at speed. Yet there’s still this wonderful, wafting sensation with the C5, as if the car is gliding over scarred roads rather than driving over them. Its country road behaviour is superb.
Around town, the 45-aspect 18-inch wheels car occasionally snag a pothole, and, oddly for a car with multi-link rear suspension, the C5 can be prone to hop slightly sideways over mid corner irregulations.
The steering system in the Citroen C5 initially feels too slow and vague, though that’s perhaps because the soft-ish suspension takes a while to settle on turn-in to a corner, requiring the driver to wind more lock on. It gets better with speed, becoming nicely light and precise.
The ‘Sport’ button is also one not to be touched in the C5 unless the road is smooth. It slightly ruins the wafting ride, yet it also noticeably sharpens the handling, with flow-on benefits to the steering.
But the Citroen C5 is not a sports car, and that’s a good thing. Although the car feels nicely balanced and subtly rewarding at medium pace, start to push harder and noticeable weight shifting from side to side, and a hint of understeer, are signals of reluctance.
The torquey engine and comfortable suspension complement the interior of the Citroen C5, which is mostly brilliant in the ways that count, but also below average in other areas.
The consistently matched soft-touch plastics are nice, although the pixellated screen between the speedometer and tachometer and non-touchscreen central display betray the interior’s four-year vintage.
Despite the quirky, fixed central steering hub, designed to increase ease of use, the interior ergonomics aren't great, with small buttons and hidden menus making several functions difficult to access.
The steering wheel itself, however, is great to grasp, the quality of the leather is high, and the seat comfort all round is superb.
There’s plenty of support and adjustment up front, and the massage seat for the driver confirms the seat as one of the best available for the price.
The rear bench is obviously designed more as a two-seater, with an occasional middle chair, as the outer pews have great side and shoulder support and a deep, plush cushion. Rear legroom is only about average for the medium car class, however.
Lots of little comforts about, too – face-level B-pillar-mounted rear air vents, rear window sunshades, child door locks activated by a simple button on the driver’s door, and a boot light that doubles as a removeable torch. Incredibly, however, there are no cupholders.
The boot itself is 505 litres large, its low bottom lip makes loading items a breeze, and there’s a choice of either folding down a ski port or the whole 60:40 backrest to increase capacity to 1462L.
Although some wagons are noisier than their sedan counterparts, which have rear parcel shelves to help isolate rear wheelarch noise, the C5 Tourer is quiet regardless.
Its low level of coarse chip road noise is exemplary, although the suspension itself can make some noise when dealing with harsh roads.
Particularly considering its reduced pricing compared with when it was launched, the Citroen C5 Tourer is now only an engine and ergonomics upgrade away from being a prime pick in the medium car class.
Smooth, quiet, torquey, economical, spacious, supremely comfortable, and with lots of clever little features, this wagon delivers on more than just French flair.