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Citroen shines with serene C5 X

The Citroen C5 X.
The Citroen C5 X.

I’ve seen snake charmers encouraging their seemingly entranced reptiles to rise up to the sound of a flute, but I know it’s largely an illusion.

Sometimes a personal genie in a bottle would be useful to get out of tricky situations, but one thing that would be really good would be a magic carpet.

Just imagine how handy that would be for getting home, gliding over the traffic queues without any worries of red lights or speed cameras.

It is fantasy of course but Citroen have got pretty close to the experience in their new flagship car, even if the name they’ve given it isn’t the catchiest.

The glory days of the grand tourer

The C5 X is a welcome return to the glory days of the grand tourer and the name is a nod to the iconic models of the past such as the CX and XM, combining the status of an SUV, the elegance of a large saloon and the practicality of an estate.

As well as looking good, Citroen say it offers unrivalled comfort thanks to its advanced active suspension and seats, which together create the magic carpet-like ride.

Normally I’d dismiss such claims as overblown marketing-speak, but in the case of the C5 X, although, sadly, I’ve never been on one, it is how I imagine a flight on a floating carpet must feel.

Behind the wheel of one of the first models to arrive in the UK, it was the first thing I noticed as it glided over some questionable surfaces, taking ruts and potholes in its flowing stride.

I loved it, but some more traditional and committed drivers may find it just a bit too relaxing, preferring instead the conventional feel of the road in the seat of their pants.

But far from being spongy and wallowy, it felt pretty good to me whatever the quality of the road surface.

A return to premium saloon style

Surprisingly, even with the soft damping set up, it works well on twisty back roads without any of the expected body roll when pushed into the corners, a credit to the engineers’ skill with the active suspension.

That’s automatically adjusted using the driving modes of Electric, Hybrid or Sport which tailor the suspension accordingly.

The C5 X may celebrate the rich heritage of some of the great Citroens of the past but, more importantly, it shows the brand’s intentions for the future and represents a long-anticipated return to the big elegant, premium saloon area of the market.

The plain-speaking managing director of Citroen UK, Welshman Eurig Druce, talks of the major challenge he faced when he moved into the job a couple of years ago.

They were in number one slot – but unfortunately as the most discounted brand with too much emphasis on the rental market and no online presence.

He is turning that around with the C5 X with no pressure on dealers to achieve volume sales, no involvement in rental and each car built to order, all of which will improve residual values for buyers.

Brand to become market benchmark

The new car, he says, is a very important milestone for Citroen and he is determined that the brand will become the benchmark for the rest of the market, competing against the likes of the Mazda 6 Tourer, Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Superb Estate. From my perspective, the Citroen wins it hands-down for its looks alone.

So a lot is resting on the new car but from my brief time with it, the prospects are promising.

It has a strong presence at just under five metres long and almost two wide with a long sloping roof which drops down to a beefy back end with two spoilers and dramatic LED lights.

From the clamshell bonnet at the front, with new chevron badging, the whole profile has been developed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind, right down to the 19-inch alloys wrapped in low rolling-resistance tyres.

There’s a choice of two advanced petrol engines or a plug-in hybrid which
offers up to 37 miles of electric-only range and CO2 emissions as low as 30g/km.

That will be attractive to business customers with a Benefit-in-Kind taxation rate of just 12%.

Superbly plush and spacious interior

Prices start at just under £28,000 and there are three trim levels – Sense Plus, Shine and Shine Plus – and all come with electric heated door mirrors, acoustically-insulated insulated windscreen and advanced comfort seats which have an extra 15 mms of memory foam padding for more support.

The designers have aimed for an interior of serenity and it is superbly plush and spacious, especially for passengers in the rear.

An elegant top-of-the-range saloon with the status of a modern SUV and the practicality of an estate

The featured Shine Plus plug-in hybrid has a heated steering wheel, the central touchscreen is upgraded to a 12-inch unit and advanced head-up display and the Mistral black Paloma leather seats have perforated chevron design patterns, mirroring the Citroen logo.

There’s also a 360-vision camera as well as extended blind spot monitoring.

It needs it, as the view out of the narrow rear window isn’t great but that’s a small price to pay for the virtually non-existent wind or road noise and the stunning looks of the car itself.

So what we’ve got with this fine French fancy is an elegant top-of-the-range saloon with the status of a modern SUV and the practicality of an estate.

And if proof was needed, it’s possible to fit a full-size washing machine into the boot without having to lower the rear seats. I’m just not sure why you would want to.

The Facts

Model: Citroen C5 X Shine Plus Plug-in Hybrid auto

Price: £39,960 (£43,560 as tested)

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Top speed: 145mph

Economy: 200mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 30g/km

French flair drives the new Peugeot 308 estate

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