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First drive: Supple Citroen C5 glides in

Accomplished: Citroen's C5 offers impressive refinement, bags of space and styling that harks back to the DS and CX models of yesteryear.

Citroen launches a renewed attack on the prestige car segment with its all-new C5

15 Jun 2001

CITROEN'S new C5 is about to glide into local showrooms, bringing with it the supple ride the French marque is famous for.

The newcomer will be pitched squarely against the likes of the Volkswagen Passat, Alfa Romeo 156, Peugeot 406 and Renault Laguna, but Citroen says it also hopes to steal sales from the Audi A6 and BMW's 318i and 325i.

Although the C5 replaces the Xantia in the local line-up it is closer in size to the former XM flagship, measuring 4.62m long and 1.77m wide. It also stands a full 8cm higher than the Xantia.

It is offered with a choice of three engines, with pricing starting at $41,990 for the entry level 2.0-litre, 16-valve manual. A four-speed Tiptronic-style auto adds $2000 to the cost of this model.

But the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel C5 Hdi, which comes standard with the four-speed auto, actually costs less than its petrol counterpart at $43,750.

Topping the range is the 3.0-litre, 24-valve V6 at $56,990.

"I think we've got the pricing pretty right," Citroen Australia general manager Miles Williams said.

"The C5 will carry us into a broader segment than we have been competing in." Citroen Australia aims to sell 273 C5s during the remainder of this year and 595 in 2002. The V6 model is expected to be the volume seller.

The 2.0-litre, 16V engine develops 101kW at 6000rpm and 186Nm at 4100rpm - respectable but by no means earth-shattering outputs - while the 3.0-litre V6 cranks out a more substantial 157kW and 279 Nm.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel puts out a modest 82kW but this is more than offset by the hefty torque peak of 255Nm at just 1750rpm.

C5 is notable for a couple of reasons, firstly because it marks the introduction of Citroen's new alphanumeric naming convention.

The "C" stands for Citroen, while the 5 denotes the model's positioning within the line-up. It will be joined by smaller siblings - dubbed C2, C3 and C4 - over the next few years.

A larger C6 model - built off the same platform as the C5 - is also in the pipeline.

The C5 is also noteworthy in that it dispenses with the somewhat bland, mainstream styling of the Xantia in favour of a more adventurous shape that harks back to the DS and CX models of yesteryear.

Its face is adorned by large, angular headlights while the low bonnet and high boot lend it a distinctive wedge shape.

C5's styling is not purely a concession to visual appeal as Citroen claims the 1.48m high roof and flat floor make it the most spacious vehicle in its segment - hence the company's aspirations to steal sales from the pricier Audi A6.

It features an MPV-like semi-raised driving position which results in increased comfort and a better view of the road, according to Citroen.

The French marque is synonymous with ride comfort and Citroen says the C5's third generation Hydractive suspension sets new standards in comfort and roadholding.

Hydractive 3's intelligent control system manages the two suspension settings - comfort and dynamic - to vary springing and damping as necessary.

At cruising speeds the system lowers ride height by 15mm at the front and 11mm at the rear, improving stability and reducing fuel consumption as a result of less wind drag.

When the road surface is badly damaged, vehicle height can increase by 13mm to offer more suspension travel.

The company says Hydractive requires no maintenance for the first five years or 200,000km.

The C5 also uses multiplex electrics which reduces the cost of manufacture and makes for easier maintenance, according to Citroen.

A raft of safety features are standard including anti-lock brakes, emergency braking assistance, traction control and six airbags - two of which are curtain bags.

All models come with air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, automatic windscreen wipers, power sockets for computers and mobile phones, a trip computer and six-speaker CD stereo.

The V6 model features an eight-speaker JBL audio system with a CD stacker under the driver's seat, alloy wheels, cruise control, electrically adjustable front seats, wood trim dashboard and auto lights with self adjusting height level.


CITROEN'S C5 deserves to make a greater impact on the prestige car segment than the outgoing Xantia did.

The newcomer is spacious, refined and stylish - and not just in a quirky way.

It is an imposing car in the metal and its wedge-like profile and large glasshouse lend it a distinctive appearance.

The high roof and long wheelbase (2750mm) are claimed to endow C5 with more interior space than its rivals and there is little reason to doubt this claim.

There is ample space for front seat occupants and rear seat passengers also have little reason to complain. Most individuals (top-line basketball players excluded) should find head and legroom to their liking.

On the road, the C5 feels well tied down, exhibiting sharp turn-in and gentle, progressive understeer at the limit. In short, it is pretty much foolproof.

Citroen buffs will be pleased to know the C5 retains the supple ride quality that has been a trademark of the brand and the car soaked up most undulations in its stride during a drive program from Sydney to the Hunter Valley.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine is a willing performer but it does have its work cut out to haul the 1318kg (1325kg for the auto) sedan around.

The five-speed manual is a smooth, slick-shifting unit, which is just as well as the lack of low-down grunt means frequent gear changes are the order of the day.

You could do worse than choose the diesel which is arguably the best value proposition in the line-up.

The oil burner has bags of grunt even though it has only 87kW to its credit - the 255Nm torque output is the more telling figure.

The diesel mates quite well to the four-speed Titpronic-style auto, although there is a curious hesitation when you get on and off the throttle.

A claimed fuel consumption figure of 6.8 litres/100km certainly weighs in its favour.

The V6 is a smooth, gutsy unit that feels almost BMW-esque in its sound and power delivery.

You need to give the throttle a decent stab but you will be rewarded for your efforts with a seamless rush of acceleration accompanied by a pleasing howl from the exhaust.

Overall, the C5 appears to be a well-engineered package that deserves consideration from buyers in the $40,000-$60,000 bracket.

The only factor not in its favour is Citroen's low-key image in Australia.

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