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Click to view road test review picture galleryAllo, Allo, it’s the new
  Citroen C5. And this
  time round there’s no
  French resistance to
  German styling!
  Better still, the crisper
  ‘sculptured’ lines
  and the plush and well-
  equipped interior
  contribute to a
  perceived move up-
  market...”


CITROEN'S CARS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN UNMISTAKEABLY DIFFERENT when it comes to design. Many have even become icons of world motoring. Models such as the Citroen DS, the SM, the Traction Avant and even the 2CV have each left their mark in automotive history.

In recent times the CitroŽn brand in the UK has become better known for its discounts, low prices and a range of products with 'green' (low CO2) credentials rather than ground-breaking and memorable design.

However, with the introduction of the new C5 range of four-door saloons and estates, Citroen is once again placing more marketing emphasis on design, style, comfort and innovation — albeit still
with an emphasis on value.

The introduction of the new C5 — with saloon variants already on sale and Tourer estates available from July — sees a German theme being used for marketing activities: 'German styling and quality with French flair', says Citroen. For their new C5 television and cinema advertising campaign, Citroen uses Bavaria and Berlin as locations with the C5 driving hero looking like a cast member from 'Allo 'Allo, all played out to a backing track of Wagner's music.

With the upper medium-sized C5, Citroen has positioned itself to com-pete against the Volkswagen Passat and is moving closer to the 'premium' models of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz
C-Class. This is a bold move — rather than competing for sales against the volume sellers in the segment such as the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra and Peugeot 407.

However, this sector, from the 'volume' to the 'premium' ends, is now under pressure due to falling sales and higher taxation levels. Business customers and fleet operators are downsizing to smaller, more tax-efficient cars — and retail buyers are not readily buying due to the well-publicised credit-crunch.

Around 70 per cent of Citroen C5 UK sales traditionally go to fleet and business users in the very competitive upper medium D-sector. Citroen averages around 8,500 C5 sales each year in the UK, with the 2.0-litre HDI diesel with the mid-range VTR+ specification being the most popular model.

Prices for the New C5 start at £15,600 and rise to £24,395. Tourer estate versions are expected to cost around a £1,000 more than their equivalent saloon models. A major styling change for the new C5 is the adoption of a four-door saloon body rather than the previous five-door hatchback layout — itself a further indication of the vehicle's move up-market.

Citroen has given the all-new C5 a prestige image with sharper Ger-manic 'sculptured' styling lines on the long, sleek saloon body. It looks a classy vehicle, and the plush and well equipped interior is a consider-able move up-market. It also feels a true five-seater, bordering on 'premium' class, and there is a huge boot which is definitely 'executive' class in size.

For the driver, the new C5 introduces the second-generation fixed-centre controls steering wheel introduced first with the C4 models. Standard equipment includes stability control, seven airbags, a collapsible pedal assembly designed to reduce foot injuries in an accident, cruise control with speed limiter and air conditioning.

Citroen says that particular attention has been paid to soundproofing so the ride is as quiet as it is traditionally comfortable with big Citroen passenger cars. In keeping with the varied requirements of fleet, business and retail customers, the C5 offers a wide choice of engines. Petrol engines are the 127bhp 1.8i and 143bhp 2.0i-litre units. In addition there are four turbodiesel units with, respectively, 110, 138 and 173bhp outputs, as well as a 208bhp V6 unit. Automatic trans-mission options are available for some models, depending on equipment specification, with 2.0-litre petrol, 2.0 and 2.7-litre V6 diesel engines.

Uniquely, Citroen offers C5 customers the choice of two forms of suspension, again depending on which equipment level is chosen. Fleet and business user-chooser customers are likely to opt for the new conventional dampers and coil spring system. But for long-standing Citroen customers, the manufacturer offers the option of its Hydractive 3 Plus self-levelling suspension (its 'magic-carpet' ride) which auto-matically adjusts its settings according to the road, driving conditions and the driver's motoring style. Citroen UK expects around 70 per cent of customers to opt for the dampers and coil spring suspension.

While sharing the front-end styling of the Saloon, the Tourer is char-acterised by a sculpted rear-end that unites style with load space.
At 4.83m long and 1.86m wide, the Tourer maintains the elegant front appearance of the Saloon, but with added room and functionality at the back. The Tourer's boot offers 533 litres of load capacity, making
it one of the most spacious in the segment. When the rear seats are folded, the capacity increases to a total volume of 1,490 litres. Citroen UK estimates that 40 per cent of C5 customers will choose the Tourer variant.

So, sharp styling, a roomy and well-equipped interior, a high level of value for money specification and a wide range of engine options are the pinnacle selling points for the new Citroen C5 range. And with a starting price of £15,600 for the four-door saloon it looks, both visually and financially, an attractive proposition.

If load space is a priority — and there is growing demand for estate models from business and private users alike — then the C5 Tourer estate looks an even better proposition. How previous C5 owners, who liked the five-door hatchback's versatility, take to choosing between
a saloon and an estate, well, only time will tellÖ

Apart from the Germanic exterior looks, the next most noticeable improvements over the old C5 are the perceived higher quality and much more modern interior. Particularly impressive is the ride comfort and the quietness, with very little intrusion from engine, road or
wind noise.

The new C5 is not as sharp or controlled in the handling department as most of its new German 'best friends', but it is unquestionably comfort-able without being too soft. There is little to choose between the conventional coil spring suspension layout and the 'magic carpet' ride offered by the optional Hydractive 3 Plus system, but many current C5 owners changing to the new models will want the traditional Citroen 'big-car' comfort feel. The steering is too light at low speeds, although this does make parking easier. It firms up at higher speeds but still doesn't provide much feed-back to the driver.

And whilst the design certainly looks elegant, thanks to its sleek, wide and low stance, the relatively small side windows combined with the wide pillars do reduce visibility out of the car.

The instrumentation is comprehensive but the layout is quirkily Citroen — newcomers to the brand will take some time getting used to the lay-out but it appears pretty cluttered.

As for the engine choice — well, nothing is new in the line-up and the petrol engines will be only of interest to a few customers. The diesel units — shared under the PSA banner with Peugeot, Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover — are the pick of the bunch. Most customers will opt for the 2.0-litre 138bhp turbodiesel unit, which gives a top speed of 127mph and 0-62mph in 11.6 seconds. The official average consump-tion figure is given as 47.1mpg but my road test average worked out
to 33.5mpg. The increasingly all-important CO2 rating of 157g/km puts this particular C5 in Band D, giving a road tax bill of £145.

Customers also have the choice of 1.6-litre and 2.2-litre turbodiesel engines, as well as the widely used 2.7 V6 turbocharged diesel unit. But the latter, with emissions of 223g/km and a high benefit in kind tax rating for business users, is not the one to choose. Overall, I feel the 2.0-litre HDI will prove to be the best engine option for most people.

In my 'against' list I have vague handling and light steering, poor visib-ility and fiddly switchgear. On the 'for' side I have the sleek and eye-catching exterior design, the much improved interior design and quality, ride comfort, the quiet and spacious cabin with a high level of equip-ment as standard and sound diesel engines.

When all's said and done, the new Citroen C5 is a marked improvement over the outgoing model. It is a significant step-up in design, quality, comfort and overall refinement. And with residual values forecast to be around 36 per cent better than the old C5, it looks a very serious proposition indeed. — David Miles

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Citroen C5 Saloon 2.0 HDI VTR+ | £18,495
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 11.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 33.5mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 236lb ft

CO2 157g/km | Insurance group 20
citroen

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