Citroen C5 Aircross 2021: Observations after 1 day of driving

The C5 Aircross offers the kind of ride quality that is simply perfect for Indian roads. Even the expressway behaviour at speed is nice and composed. Your family will be very happy doing long distance journeys in the Citroen.

Citroen C5 Aircross Exterior Review

Design & Styling

The C5 Aircross is unique when it comes to styling and quite a head-turner. It looks fantastic, and offers something "different" which makes it stand out from today's Japanese, Korean and Indian cars. Even GTO, whose tastes are very traditional, loved the looks and stance of the car. It's a different kick for sure. There is definite French quirkiness, but somehow, we don't have complaints.

On the road, other drivers, bike riders, pedestrians, old and young – all looked eagerly at our test car, with some wanting to know more about this unfamiliar maker. The car gets traditional Citroen badges, LED daytime running lights and tail-lamps, plastic cladding on the sides, silver inserts, fake air vents on the side, 18-inch alloy wheels and roof rails. The vehicle will be available in 4 single-tone body colours and 3 dual-tone shades.

Build Quality, Fit & Finish

The C5 Aircross has a monocoque construction and is built on the PSA Group's EMP2 platform. This platform is used by many other cars & many brands (including Opel and Toyota), but none of them are sold in India. The car is very solidly built. The doors & tail-gate have a good deal of weight to them and there’s not much flex in the body panels. The bonnet is not quite as heavy, but it's far from light or flimsy. Interestingly, the heavy doors feel like that of a tijori (vault) and shut with an incredibly satisfying thud. GTO looked funny, opening & closing the driver's door multiple times in succession just to enjoy its sound & feel. Overall fit & finish are just as you'd expect from a European car. Citroen hasn't shared the kerb weight of the C5 Aircross, but the Euro-spec car with the same engine weighs about the same as the Jeep Compass (~1500 kilo range).

Wheels & Tyres

Both variants gets funky 18” 'swirl' two-tone diamond cut alloy wheels with grippy 235/55 Michelin Primacy 3 tyres, which look proportionate to the metal on top. They fill up the wheel arches well, especially the front which isn't usually seen in India. While ride quality is very good, we wish Citroen had chosen a more sensible R17 size (or R16) as it would offer an even cushier ride + cheaper tyre replacement costs + lower chance of alloy wheel damage (thanks to a taller tyre sidewall) on broken Indian roads.

Ground Clearance

Citroen hasn't revealed the exact ground clearance of the car. The wheel - tyre combination fills up the wheel arches very well. In fact, the gap between the tyres and wheel arches is tight. Citroen does not appear to have significantly raised the car's ground clearance for India, and we guess it didn't need to as the international GC rating is 230 mm! We didn't scrape the car anywhere in our test.

Standard & Extended Warranty

The Citroen C5 Aircross will come with a standard warranty of 3 years / 1,00,000 km. Extended warranty will be available at launch. As is always the case, we strongly recommend extended warranty coverage, especially for European cars.


The C5 Aircross is loaded with safety features such as 3-point seatbelts for all five occupants, 6 airbags, blind spot information system, ESP, ABS, hill-hold, hill descent control, traction control, ISOFIX child seat mounts (including for the front passenger seat), coffee break reminder, underinflation warning, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera and auto door unlock on crash. The C5 Aircross was tested by the Euro NCAP in 2019. The standard car scored 4-stars in the crash tests, while the optional safety pack variant (which includes automatic emergency braking for cyclists) managed to get 5 stars.

Citroen C5 Aircross Interior Review

Cabin Design & Quality

Just like on the outside, the interior is also unique in many ways (e.g. split air vents). We love it! Sit inside and you know this is a premium product. The feel & design are appealing. The interior has a dual-tone metropolitan grey theme with silver, glossy black and chrome inserts. Glass area is sufficient. The dark-coloured interior doesn't feel as "airy" as a beige cabin, but it will conceal any signs of soiling better than a lighter theme. Soft-touch material has been used on the dashboard, and part quality feels good for the most part. Some of the plastic parts though - such as the glovebox & parts of the doorpad - feel rudimentary. A very premium-looking gear shifter and race car-like large paddle shifters have been provided. The pedals are finished in aluminium, which give them an upmarket look. Overall, the cabin feels well-built and durable. We didn't find any rough edges in the vehicle. Adding to the premiumness is a very uniquely European smell that you get in the cabin. This cabin aroma emanating from either the cabin materials or climate control makes the C5 Aircross one of the best smelling cars that we have sat in.

Space & Comfort

There is enough space at the front. Cabin width is healthy and so is the headroom. The electrically adjustable driver’s seat is superbly supportive. The seat slides back enough even for tall drivers to feel comfortable (typical of European cars). It comes with lumbar adjustment as well. Sadly, in such a premium car, the passenger seat gets manual adjustment and no lumbar adjust. Worse still, it's recline angle is controlled by a rotary knob like that of a Premier 118NE!! Expect your spouse to scoff at it. The leather & fabric upholstery is of good quality, with just the perfect amount of cushioning and padding. If you have a bad back, you will love this car on long trips. The center console is high and provides a sweet cocooning effect. It incorporates a fixed, long and wide leather-wrapped armrest which is placed at a comfortable height. The doorpads too host a leather-wrapped armrest which is useable.

Driving Position & Ergonomics

Ergonomically, we found the C5 Aircross to be user-friendly for the most part. The steering is good to hold, while the hornpad isn't hard to press. The horn itself is a nice-sounding, typically European dual-tone unit. The steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach, which makes getting the desired driving position easy. On the flip side, you cannot help noticing that this car has been engineered for LHD markets & no one bothered to make it perfect for RHD countries. The engine start/stop button, gear lever and electronic parking brake all have an LHD orientation. Accessing them just feels very unnatural & some drivers will have to stretch out to reach them. The instrument cluster is fully digital and customisable. This is a rare digital instrument cluster that me & GTO both gave a thumbs up too (even liked it more than in the BMWs). The colour combination & design are perfect + classy. The driving position is brilliant with a clean view of the road ahead. Even the dashboard is not set high like we see in many new models. At 5'10", not only could I see over the dash, but also the bonnet. However, rearward visibility is restricted by the small size of the windshield. The driver footwell gets a large & useable dead pedal. 

Cabin Storage

The C5 Aircross does well in terms of cabin storage. There is a spot to park your smartphone at the base of the center fascia & a pair of cupholders on the center console. The door pockets are adequately sized, with no partitions or compartments. They can hold a variety of objects including 1L bottles and the knick knacks. The storage bin under the center armrest is massive! It has a section to hold a 1.5L bottle and I even managed to fit a small bag inside with ease. This storage bin is cooled. On the downside, the glovebox is weirdly shaped as the fuse box is located inside it. This restricts its carrying capacity. The glovebox doesn't have a cooling vent, but gets illumination. Coming to the rear, both front seats have seatback pockets and the rear doorpads get pockets that can hold a 1L bottle. Wait till you see the boot.


The C5 Aircross gets a dual-zone climate control unit which is effective. The interior was chilled in seconds, although we would wait to read in the Team-BHP ownership reports how it fares during hot Indian summers. The car gets an onboard Air Quality System which works as an air purifier. As mentioned earlier, there's an amazing premium smell that you get from the climate control and the cabin. @ Smokers, please don't light up in the cabin & ruin this lovely aroma.


Unique & Noteworthy Features

The C5 Aircross comes with most of the necessary features (including a panoramic sunroof and touchscreen head-unit with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), but not connected car tech, wireless charging, ventilated seats, 360-degree camera, subwoofer and other such goodies that we have come to expect in premium cars (thanks to the Korean twins). Standout features include three individual rear seats which can be slid front + back + folded + reclined independent of each other, ISOFIX child seat mounts on the front passenger seat (we do NOT recommend placing a child in the front), handsfree tailgate opening, customisable instrument cluster, double laminated front windows and a windshield that keeps road + wind noise low. The car also gets park assist, Eco and Sport driving modes, 5 selectable terrain modes and blind spot monitoring.

Audio System & Sound Quality

The C5 Aircross gets an 8" capacitive touchscreen head-unit with 6 speakers, voice commands and Android Auto / Apple CarPlay. The size of the touchscreen is adequate and the interface is alright to use, but it does have some quirks. Visibility is good even under direct sunlight. That said, the touch response is not the quickest and the display clarity while using navigation through Google Maps / Android Auto was sad. The doors hold a speaker each, while the front doors also house a tweeter.

The audio system is nice and most owners won't complain. But at the price at which the C5 is expected to sell, we would have expected more speakers, a subwoofer and truly premium sound quality. Just doesn't feel "special" & special is what premium customers pay the extra rupee for. To put things in perspective, the cheaper MG Hector offers vastly superior sound quality. Further, the volume doesn't go as loud as we'd like. Even at max level 30, it's not really loud enough for those BHPians who love listening to blaring music on that late night or early morning joyride. Another weird touch = volume controls on the left side of the steering wheel, while the track change is on the right (most cars have all audio controls on the same side).

Rear Passengers

Rear Seat Comfort & Space

Ingress & egress are easy. The cabin rear uniquely features 3 individual seats which can be separately adjusted. The good part of this arrangement is that 3 adults of a moderate weight will sit nicely. But heavier passengers will find each seat to be narrow (guess they are designed for the slim French!). The seat bolstering won't be ideal for heavy folk as it will poke you and interfere with the support. Also, no center armrest due to this unique seat arrangement.

For me & GTO (both fit & slim Mods), the cushioning and padding of the rear seats was just perfect - its neither too soft nor too hard. All 3 seats get comfy adjustable headrests as well. The headroom & legroom are strictly adequate though. We set the front seat for my 5'10" driving position, and GTO (also 5'10") could sit behind. But just that. Two 6-footers will NOT be able to sit one behind the other.

The seatbacks are adjustable, although I don't see you using their adjustability as the backrests are comfortable only when reclined all the way. Back support is excellent. Under-thigh support is sufficient and occupants of the side seats can slide their feet under the front seats. While the floor is almost flat and the center console does not stick out excessively, the middle passenger will be happier placing his feet on either side of it. The rear windows are big and a lot of light comes into the cabin, which will keep occupants from feeling claustrophobic in this dark cabin. Rear occupants do get a/c vents and a USB port for charging.

Boot Space

Luggage space is a cavernous 580 liters & we found the boot to be perfectly shaped. You can easily go for driving holidays with luggage for 5. The C5 Aircross is also well-suited to airport duties for international passengers. Sliding the rear seats forward increases boot space to 720 liters. Further, the rear seat’s backrests are split and fold down almost flat for when you need to haul serious cargo. Folding the backrests down gives the C5 a luggage capacity of 1,630 liters. The boot also gets a couple of shallow storage compartments on the sides and tie-down hooks for a net. A light and 12V power socket have been provided in the boot, while Citroen has given a big 2-piece parcel tray above the boot area. Why 2 piece? The outer half rises with the tailgate, while the inner half stays in place.

C5 Aircross 2.0L Diesel Automatic Review

DW10FC turbo-diesel engine produces 175 BHP @ 3,750 rpm and 400 Nm @ 2,000 rpm:

The C5 Aircross will be available with just one engine & gearbox option - a 2.0L diesel mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Not offering a petrol puts the brand at a disadvantage as many customers now prefer petrols, although we can tell you this diesel engine is amazingly refined. The unit produces 175 BHP and 400 Nm which are healthy numbers & comparable to the Hyundai Tucson. The diesel engine is very smooth, refined and fast. It is quite tractable, which makes the car city-friendly. Throttle response is good and so is the driveability. The power delivery is linear in nature and passengers will be comfortable as there is no jerkiness or sudden kick from the turbo. The taller seating, good ergonomics, excellent frontal view, light steering and not-so-large footprint make the C5 Aircross stress-free to drive in the city. The turning radius of the car is 5.35 m, which is acceptable for the size.

Because of the engine & suspension, you will really enjoy this car on your highway drives. On the open road, the diesel’s 175 BHP and 400 Nm provide more than enough grunt to make the C5 Aircross a fast performer. The performance is enjoyable & you'll like taking the car to its max revs of ~4,800 rpm. What amazed us is that, even at these rpm levels, the engine sounds good and is beautifully refined. In fact, the refinement levels are so good that your passengers will think there's a petrol engine under the hood. The mid-range is strong and overtaking is a breeze. In terms of cruisability, the C5 Aircross will do 100 km/h & 120 km/h in top gear at a relaxed ~1,300 rpm & 1,800 rpm respectively. Yep, that 8th gear helps cruisability as well as fuel economy on the highway.

The 8-speed torque-converter AT (developed with Aisin) is butter-smooth in its operation, and only the slight change in engine pitch tells you when an upshift happens. When it comes to shifting speed, the transmission is acceptably quick, but not as fast as VAG's DSGs. Kickdown response time is satisfactory & it does not get confused either. The gearbox is in the right gear 99% of the time. A manual mode and racecar-like big paddle shifters have been provided. These are really nice, well-sized paddle shifters which look amazing and are great to use. Interestingly, they are mounted on the steering column and not the steering. Thus, they don't move as you turn the wheel. We prefer this kind of setup as its avoids confusion in fast corners. In summary, we'll say that the automatic gearbox is excellent; owners will be pleased.

The C5 Aircross gets 3 driving modes: Normal, Sport and Eco. Normal mode is the default when you start the car. Sport mode is what you should use when you're driving hard. Eco mode is genuinely useable on a daily basis, because the engine has 175 BHP on tap. We see owners using it in the city as well as for relaxed expressway cruising. Note that the Eco & Sport buttons need to be long-pressed to activate.

In addition to these, the C5 Aircross comes with standard, snow, all-terrain (mud, damp grass, etc.), sand and traction control off modes for tackling various terrains. An idling start/stop system has also been provided, which worked seamlessly on our test car.

Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)

Citroen has done a fabulous job with the refinement levels. There is no body shake on start-up or shut down. At idling, you can hear some clatter from the engine, but it's nicely muffled on the inside. Stand outside the car and you'll notice how much of a difference there is in noise levels between out & in! Even at high revvs, the insulation is excellent & most passengers can be fooled into thinking it's a petrol engine. Wind and road noise are also very well controlled, including at triple digit speeds. Part of the reason for the wonderfully controlled NVH level is the use of double-laminated front windows and an acoustic windshield glass. These glasses help a lot in keeping outside noises out. The refinement levels are frankly superior to many Audis, BMWs & Mercedes' we've driven.

Mileage & Fuel Economy

The C5 Aircross has an ARAI rating of 18.6 km/l. 4-cylinder turbo diesels & 8-speed ATs offer good fuel economy in the city & more so on the highway, so owners will be satisfied in this area. What one must remember though is the 52.5-liter fuel tank is smaller than its rivals. The Compass and Tucson get 60 and 62-liter units respectively.

Citroen C5 Aircross Ride & Handling Review

Ride Comfort

The Citroen C5 Aircross comes with a MacPherson strut suspension with "double progressive hydraulic cushions" at the front and a twist beam axle with single progressive hydraulic cushions at the rear. Despite the 18" rims, the low speed ride is excellent! All the bumps & joints on the road are absorbed very well by the suspension. In fact, it is one of the best riding cars that I have tested in a long time (the last was the Hexa). The French really know how to give you a comfortable ride = the Peugeot 309, Logan, Duster and now, this Citroen. The C5 Aircross offers the kind of ride quality that is simply perfect for Indian roads. Even the expressway behaviour at speed is nice and composed. Your family will be very happy doing long distance journeys in the Citroen. What further aids comfort are the excellent, supportive seats.

Just the earlier week, we tested the Tata Safari (also with 18 inchers) and that isn't even close in terms of ride comfort. However, the pre-facelift Renault Duster (2019 and before) with 16-inch rims is still the benchmark for a magic carpet ride. If we give the pre-facelift Duster a 10 / 10 rating for ride quality, we will give the C5 Aircross an 8.5 / 10 score. We are sure that if Citroen gave the C5 Aircross 16 inch rims & taller tyre sidewalls, it would be a 10 / 10.

Handling & Dynamics

The Citroen has sorted road manners, but it's not sporty, or even as much fun as a Jeep Compass.  High speed stability and composure are excellent - just as we would expect of a European car. There is no floatiness or bounciness on the highway. Expressway dips & undulations are dismissed well. You can confidently maintain high speeds over long distances. Very frankly, the high speed behaviour and overall feel of the car is comparable to Audis and Mercedes' costing Rs. 40-50 lakh.

In fast corners and on twisty roads too, the car has good poise. Sweeping curves can be taken at fun speeds and we're damn sure those Michelin tyres are contributing to the sorted dynamics too. Grip levels from the 235 mm Michelin Primacy tyres are impressive & it's nice to know that the ESP is there to help in an extreme situation.

Although, the driving experience is not what we would call sporty. A car like the Compass feels decidedly sharper, more agile & fun to drive on the twisties. It's clear that the Citroen's suspension is tuned more for comfort.


Like most modern cars, the C5 Aircross gets electric power steering. It is one-finger light at parking and slow speeds, which makes it very easy to pilot the car in the city. It weighs up acceptably at high speed. The steering wheel itself has a lovely design. It is small & sporty, but this isn't a steering that is "involving" for an enthusiast.


The C5 Aircross comes with disc brakes at the front & rear. The braking is powerful and the car comes to a halt from triple digit speeds in quick time. The pedal feel is sharp. It'll take a little getting used to when you are new to the car, yet we liked this sharp pedal feel.

Niggles & Problems

As a brand, Citroen isn't particular known for top reliability. Google up and you'll see several reports from UK & Europe that reliability can be patchy. That is unfortunately the case with almost all European brands, be it VW-Skoda at one end of the market or Audi-BMW-Mercedes at the other. Don't expect a "Fortuner" experience & be sure to get that extended warranty.

Continue reading the discussion on the 2021 Citroen C5 Aircross on our forum.

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