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Click to view road test review picture gallery“Citroën couldn’t have
  picked a better time to
  join the SUV market
  with its new C-Crosser.
  Because demand for
  these vehicles is now
  stronger than ever...”


HUMAN NATURE IS A FUNNY THING: tell someone they can't have something and they'll fight tooth and nail to get it. Take, for example, 4x4s and large SUVs. Despite barracking by the anti 4x4/SUV lobby,
the
'eco police' and the greedy tax- grabbing politicians and local authorities, sales of 4x4, SUV or dual purpose vehicles were actually higher this year than last year.

A raft of new models, new manufacturers entering this sector and the ever-improving fuel economy performance of existing 4x4 makers are keeping sales buoyant — Land Rover has just recorded its highest ever sales month in 60 years worldwide and their UK sales in September were up 33 per cent; Jeep's UK sales were up by nearly 31 per cent.

A brand entering the SUV market for the first time is Citroën who has just launched the two-model C-Crosser range. This vehicle, like the new Peugeot 4007 which has also just gone on sale, is built by Mitsu-bishi Motors in Japan and is based on their Outlander SUV. However, the Outlander uses a 2.4-litre petrol engine with a CVT automatic tran-smission or a 2.0-litre VW-sourced diesel engine. Citroën and Peugeot versions use only their much better PSA 2.2-litre diesel unit.

Like Peugeot and their 4007, Citroën will have around 2,000 C-Crosser vehicles available for sale in its first year in the UK. Citroën says all of their vehicles are already allocated to dealers, so keen are their sales outlets to have their first-ever SUV 4x4 model to compete in a sector that has grown by 55 per cent in the past six years.

The introduction of C-Crosser will further enhance Citroën's plans to move the brand up-market and improve profitability. Whilst their C1, C2, C3, C4 and Xsara Picasso 'value' models will still be marketed with either 'cashback', zero per cent finance, no deposit or VAT-free offers in keeping with their value-for-money and low CO2 campaigns, the C-Crosser, together with Citroën's popular new C4 Picasso MPVs, allows Citroën and its dealers to compete for sales in more up-market vehicle segments.

The C-Crosser is a well styled, practical, robust and spacious five-
plus-two-seater SUV with 2WD, 4WD and 4WD Lock traction options available at the turn of a dial. The vehicle is available with two levels of trim and specification: VTR+ at 22,790, and Exclusive at 25,490. So far, 80 per cent of orders for the C-Crosser have been for the range-topping Exclusive models.

Both models are generously equipped, featuring automatic air condit-ioning, six airbags, an alarm, cruise control, automatic headlights, anti-lock braking, Electronic Stability Programme, traction control and alloy wheels as standard. Exclusive models have, in addition, leather up-holstery, heated front seats, electrically adjustable driver's seat, rear parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlights and a 6-CD autochanger. In addition, there is the usual array of extra cost options — including a colour satellite navigation system with reversing camera at 1,600 or the same but with a superb upgraded audio system costing 2,150.

However, Citroën is not forsaking their 'green' credentials. The PSA 2.2-litre HDi common-rail turbodiesel engine is lean 'n' green with low CO2 emissions and a DPFS diesel particulate filter. The engine will also run on 30 per cent bio-diesel if (or when) it eventually becomes widely available.

The engine produces 156bhp with 280lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm so there is plenty of power and low-down 'grunt' to move the C-Crosser along very swiftly on the open road, with very little effort in heavy urban traffic or indeed in off-road mud and on-road snow. Having the easily selectable two- or four-wheel drive traction available makes driving child's play in all weather conditions. Top speed is 124mph and 0-62mph is covered in just 9.9 seconds.

The official average fuel economy is 38.7mpg and my test car returned almost that at 37.4mpg during a week of motoring, largely in heavy traffic on motorways. Official figures are 29.4, 38.7 and 47.1mpg res-pectively for town, combined and touring. For the record, the CO2 emissions are 194g/km which means the annual road tax is 205.
Insurance will not cost a fortune either as the C-Crosser has been given a group 13E rating. If you want an SUV as a towing vehicle the C-Crosser has a maximum braked towing capacity of 2,000kg. The vehicle is covered by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty although this is not as long as the Mitsubishi Outlander's three years'/unlimited mile-age cover.

When it comes to driving, however, the C-Crosser proved to be a
very relaxing, comfortable and accomplished vehicle. More importantly, it was easy to drive; with excellent road holding and only the minimum amount of body roll for what is a higher-than-average vehicle. The road grip is excellent and the ability to select four-wheel drive on the move in very heavy rain was a real bonus. It sharpened up the steer-ing and the vehicle felt very secure in really bad weather.

The C-Crosser may come from Mitsubishi and be virtually identical in
all but styling to the Peugeot 4007, but from the front end the vehicle is pure Citroën — and it cannot be mistaken for any other brand. In
my view it is the best of the three for styling. It is not as aggressive as the Peugeot 4007 — which has a huge front grille — and has more character than the Outlander's round and bulbous look.

At the rear there is a large tailgate with a split lower section which gives easy access to the load area. This load section can offer as little as 184 litres of space with the third row of occasional seats in position, but it increases to 510 litres with the rear row folded. And with only the two front seats in use, there's a very useful 1,686 litres. I feel the occasional rear seats, and the legroom available, is so limited they can only be used by two small children for a short period of time. In reality, treat the C-Crosser and the 4007/Outlander as five-seaters.

Ease of use and adaptability are the two main reasons people buy these mid-range SUVs or MPVs. The C-Crosser meets those two req-uirements. Being a Mitsubishi under the skin, the build quality is first class and the interior styling is good, although the surfaces look a bit plasticky in places.

Overall, the C-Crosser is a good all-round SUV and there is nothing
to choose between it and the Peugeot 4007. They are both currently better than the Mitsubishi Outlander until the Japanese brand gets
the same PSA engine next month. Like the rest of the family, the C-Crosser will sell against the popular and best-selling Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander.

I consider the C-Crosser/Peugeot 4007 as being better suited to the real-life needs of more people. The Freelander will be the vehicle
of choice for customers looking for a thoroughbred 4x4 or perhaps
the Nissan X-Trail will fit that requirement as well. But for most people wanting a reasonably priced, easy to drive, versatile SUV, the C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007 both fit the bill comfortably.

So far as the C-Crosser goes, grumbles are few: some trim items lack the quality of a Freelander and third row seating is very small. But there's a lot on the plus-side: non-aggressive styling, sharp handling,
a powerful and flexible engine, easy to use 4x4 system and a practical interior layout. You also get good quality and competitive pricing. For my money, the C-Crosser it has to be. — David Miles

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Citroën C-Crosser Exclusive 2.2 HDi | 25,490
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 37.4mpg | Power: 156bhp | Torque: 280lb ft

CO2 194g/km | Insurance group 13E
Visit Citroën's website Click to go there now


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