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Citroen C5 Tourer 2.0 HDI VTR+

Click to view picture galleryLong-legged, shapely body, French
  ancestry with a hint of German
  muscle... it all sounds like a fashion
  supermodel and, in some respects,
  the new Citroen C5, and in particular
  the C5 Tourer estate, is just that

THE ALL-NEW AND SIGNIFICANTLY MORE UP-MARKET C5 Saloon was introduced in April this year (2008), and now the Tourer joins the model line-up. Citroen's marketing message for the new C5 range as a whole is that it combines German styling and quality with French flair. A case of Allo'-Allo', the new C5 has arrived.

This French-German message is a move to separate the new C5 from the volume competition (such as the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra, Peugeot 407 and Honda Accord) and move it more up market to compete against the premium brands of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and, to some extent, the Volkswagen Passat.

When it comes to design, Citroen's cars have always been unmistakeably different. Many have become icons of world motoring: models such as the Citroen DS, the SM, the Traction Avant and even the 2CV have all left their mark in automotive history.

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

However, with the introduction of the new C5 upper-medium segment range of four-door saloons and estates, Citroen are once again placing more marketing emphasis on design, style, comfort, quality and innovation — but still with an emphasis on value. A major styling change for the new C5 Saloon was the adoption of a four-door body rather than the previous five-door hatchback layout — itself a further indication of the vehicle's move up market.

This sector — from the 'volume' to the 'premium' end — 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 credit-crunch.

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

Prices for the C5 Tourer start at 16,695 and rise to 25,495; saloon variants cost between 15,995 and 24,395. Citroen UK estimates that 40 per cent of C5 customers will opt for the new Tourer estates.

Citroen has succeeded in giving the all-new C5 Saloon and Tourer models a prestige image = thanks to the sharper, sculptured and muscular 'Germanic' styling lines for the long, sleek body. Now all it has to do is convert the new image into sales.

The C5 definitely looks a classy vehicle, and the plush and well-equipped interior is a considerable move up market. It feels a true five-seater = bordering on 'premium' class — and the huge boot in the Saloon is equally matched by a large load area in the Tourer. For the driver, the new C5 introduces the second-generation 'fixed-centre' controls steering wheel introduced first on the C4 models. Standard equipment includes stability control, seven airbags, a collapsible pedal assembly to reduce foot injuries in an accident, cruise control with speed limiter and air conditioning.

Citroen says particular attention has been paid to soundproofing, so the ride is as quiet as it is traditionally comfortable on big Citroen passenger cars. Next to the very acceptable styling changes, the absence of engine and road noise in the cabin are the C5's most praiseworthy features and the laminated acoustic glass really does cut down significantly on wind noise.

There is a wide choice of engines but the option of which engine to choose depends on which trim and equipment level the customer specifies. Petrol engines are the 127bhp 1.8i and 143bhp 2.0i-litre units and there are four turbodiesel engines with 110, 138, 173bhp outputs as well as a V6 208bhp unit. Automatic transmission options are also available for some models, again depending on equipment specification, with 2.0-litre petrol, 2.0-litre and 2.7-litre V6 diesel engines.

Uniquely, Citroen offers C5 customers the choice of two forms of suspension, yet 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 customers, Citroen has retained its 'magic-carpet' ride option with its Hydractive 3 Plus self-levelling suspension which automatically adjusts its settings according to the road, driving conditions and the driver's motoring style. Citroen UK say they expect around 70 per cent of customers to opt for the dampers and coil spring suspension — and that would be my choice, too.

Sharing the front-end styling of the Saloon version, the Tourer is characterised by a sculpted rear 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 rear. The Tourer's boot offers 505 litres of load capacity making it one of the most spacious in the segment. And when the rear seats are folded, the capacity increases to a total volume of 1,462 litres.

The new C5 is not as sharp or controlled in the handling department as most of its new German 'best friends', but it is comfortable 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. However, while it firms up at higher speeds it still doesn't provide much feed-back to the driver.

The instrumentation is comprehensive but the layout is 'quirky' Citroen and newcomers to the brand will take some time getting used to the cluttered layout.

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 with Peugeot under the PSA banner plus Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover) are the pick of the bunch. Most customers will opt for the 2.0-litre 138bhp turbodiesel unit which in the C5 Tourer gives a top speed of 124mph, 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds and 46.3mpg. For the record, my test car came close to the official average fuel economy, returning 44.3mpg. The all-important CO2 rating of 160g/km puts this estate in Band D for a road tax bill of 145.

To maximise on obtaining the best possible fuel consumption and the lowest possible CO2 emissions, Citroen has fittted high ratios for fifth and sixth gears in the manual gearbox. This means that the 2.0HDI Tourer is really at its best on the open road and motorways. It coasts along quietly and effortlessly at 70mph, using just 2,000rpm. However, once on busier A and B roads the high gearing means considerable use of the gearchange, and on many occasions driving in fourth gear in slower traffic was required: there just isn't enough torque from the 2.0-litre diesel engine from 40mph onwards in higher gears to get this quite heavy estate moving without dropping a gear or two. Nevertheless, for motorways it is a very long-legged cruiser.

The new Citroen C5 is a marked improvement over the outgoing model and a significant step up in design, quality, comfort and overall refinement. With residual values forecast to be around 36 per cent better than the old C5, it looks a serious proposition and, true to form, Citroen UK are offering the C5 Tourer with zero per cent finance over three years.

So you know what to expect before visiting the showroom, here's the good and the bad news. Bad first: vague handling and light steering, fiddly switches and poor visibility due to the relatively small side windows and wide pillars. The good news is that you'll be getting a sleek car with an eye-catching exterior and with much improved interior design and quality, good ride comfort, a quiet and spacious cabin, a sound diesel engine and a high level of equipment as standard. — David Miles

Citroen C5 Tourer 2.0 HDI VTR+
| 19,595
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 12.1 seconds | Overall test MPG: 44.3mpg
Power: 138bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 160g/km | Insurance group 10E