Review: Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016)

Rating:

Very comfortable, fantastic all-speed refinement, lots of interior space, well equipped from mid-range upwards.

Terminally uninteresting, dynamically soggy, patchy interior quality, confusing dashboard, no hatchback option.

Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016): At A Glance

Before Citroen stumbled upon a new way of making its cars interesting in the form of bubbly plastic side panels, the C5 was typical of its approach. Comfy, spacious, and slightly baffling. This second generation model, launched in 2007, is at least more interesting than original C5, which appeared to have been styled by stretching out a Citroen Xantia with a giant rolling pin.

Indeed, this C5’s exterior look is a strong point, with its sharp-yet-slightly-bulbous styling sitting nicely on the fine line between challenging and handsome.

In the cabin it’s not so successful however, with a dashboard typical of Citroen’s often confusing approach to layout. There are buttons, dials, switches and displays of various shapes, sizes and colours all over the place. Even the steering wheel is a novelty itself, with a fixed central boss and a rim design that bizarrely seems to encourage ‘eight and four o’clock’ hand placement.

In market that often trades outright comfort for a sense of ‘sportiness’, the C5 unashamedly does nothing of the sort. It’s as softly sprung and quiet as many a luxury car. If you weren’t staring at two static chevrons on the steering wheel, you’d swear you were in something a lot more expensive and infinitely more German.

That means that while it’s not the most engaging car to drive – positively lacklustre at any sort of pace, in fact – it’s probably the most comfortable car in its price bracket to tackle a long motorway run with.

Towards the end of its life the C5 became well equipped across the range, with all models getting air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows all round, electric mirrors and Isofix for child seats.

It wasn’t always the case though, with Citroen progressively adding more specification in mid-level cars in a bid to make the ageing C5 more attractive. The base spec SX car comes wth plastic wheel trims, which in this class is shameful. VTR and VTR+ add alloy wheels, sports seats, front fog lights and fancier interior trim, while the Exclusive specification throws everything at it, including navigation, part-leather upholstery, parking sensors and electric seats.

What does a Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016) cost?

Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4779–4829 mm
Width 1853–2096 mm
Height 1451–1495 mm
Wheelbase 2815 mm

Full specifications

If the C5’s main strength is its ride quality and its secondary one its exterior styling, Citroen clearly didn't leave itself a lot of time or budget to do the interior. It’s all a bit of a mess.

The basics are okay, in the sense that the C5 offers lots of space front and rear, plus a good driving position – including some of the comfiest chairs you’ll find in any car. However, the overall packaging is quite poor. There’s no hatchback option for a start, which is strange considering the majority of Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo modela sold are hatchbacks, so although the rear seats split 60/40, practicality is fundamentally hampered by the tailgate.

It’s also lacking in cubbyhole space, with very shallow door pockets, a small storage space beneath the centre armrest and - worst of all - the classic French glove box – roughly the space of a jam jar because Citroen has left the fuse box in there. It means your C5 will be cluttered up in no time.

The boot isn’t very big either, at 439 litres way down on most saloons you care to name, including the Volkswagen Passat, Peugeot 508 and the Ford Mondeo. Worse still it’s a funny shape, because the massive boot hinges cut into the sides.

Which leaves us with the real Achilles heel of the C5 experience: the dashboard. A conglomerate of shapes, screens and surfaces, it looks like a dozen separate designers were given their own small section to create and each tried to outdo the others.

There are 20 buttons on the steering wheel alone, the graphics on the small navigation screen have aged badly and the combined stereo and air con unit, with its many buttons and LCD display, wouldn’t look out of place on 1994’s best-selling boom box. The speedometer dials aren’t terribly clear either.

So all-in-all a bit of a jumbled disappointment – night and day compared to the classy simplicity of, say, the Volkswagen Passat’s cabin, and certainly not in keeping with the relaxed tone of the driving experience. 

Child seats that fit a Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016)

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What's the Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016) like to drive?

Those expecting Citroen’s mid-level saloon to break new ground in the way the Citroen saloons of old did will be disappointed by the C5 – it’s in most ways a very ordinary medium-priced, medium-sized saloon car.

However, one way it does stick to the old Citroen style is by virtue of its unabashed bias towards comfort. The C5 is probably the most relaxing saloon this side of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, because it combines the ride quality of a luxury car with first-rate ergonomics – comfortable chair, lots of driving position adjustment, plenty of space between the pedals, that sort of thing.

Citroen has also clearly worked hard on other things that enhance the sense of comfort, namely keeping noise to a minimum. There’s very little road or wind noise in a C5, until you reach much higher speeds, and even the diesel din is kept to a minimum most of the time.

Engine choice is very important here though, because some of them simply aren’t up to par when it comes to the old overtaking manoeuvres – namely the 1.6-litre 110PS diesel and the lower powered petrol engines.

If you’re only looking for fuel economy then the 60mpg-odd 1.6-litre diesel, which has been refined throughout the C5’s eight-year production run, looks good on paper, but really you’re best off looking upwards to the mid-level 2.0-litre unit.

Despite promising economy in the late forties on paper, a good deal less than the 1.6-litre, the reality is that you’ll work the smaller engine much harder, so economy in the two ends up actually quite close. According to Real MPG you can expect anywhere from 46-56mpg from a 1.6 diesel, and up to 45mpg from the 2.0-litre.

Avoid any of the petrols if efficiency is your main priority, because although they offer a more refined experience by nature than the diesels, you’re looking at 30mpg and nowhere near the low end punch of an equivalent diesel. Lose-lose.

As usual, the very best driving experience comes at the top of the range, with Exclusive versions getting laminated windows and air suspension as standard, to give bum and ears an even more cosseting experience. Stick a V6 diesel under the bonnet and, by virtue of its extra pace and standard torque convertor automatic – smooth and old school – this C5 will feel positively mollycoddling.

However, it’s a purchase that makes little sense, because it pushes the price of the C5 into premium car territory – a territory that doesn’t suffer the sort of catastrophic depreciation that a bells-and-whistles C5 will. Neither the 2.7-litre nor later 3.0-litre V6 models are especially fast, and even though the adaptive suspension has a ‘sport’ mode, the button might as well say ‘toaster’ or ‘solipsism’ for all the relevance it has to the C5 driving experience overall.

For those reasons the very middle is the sweet spot of the C5 range - 2.0-litre diesel, VTR+ trim, manual gearbox. We’d probably avoid the EGS auto too, which is actually an automated manual that, while efficient, shifts gears with all the composure of a learner with a hangover.  

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.6 16V THP 42 mpg 8.6 s 153 g/km
1.6 e-HDi 110 Airdream EGS 61 mpg 12.8 s 117 g/km
1.6 e-HDi 115 Airdream EGS 61 mpg 12.6–12.8 s 117 g/km
1.6 e-HDi 115 ETG6 66 mpg 12.8 s 111 g/km
1.6 e-HDi EGS - 12.8 s 117 g/km
1.6 e-HDi EGS Tourer 61 mpg 12.8 s 117 g/km
1.6 HDi 50–61 mpg 11.6–13.4 s 120–140 g/km
1.6 HDi 115 61 mpg 11.6–11.9 s 120 g/km
1.6 HDi 115 ETG6 66 mpg 12.6 s 111 g/km
1.6 HDi Tourer 50–57 mpg 11.9–14.0 s 129–140 g/km
1.8 16V 36 mpg 12.2 s 188 g/km
1.8 16V Tourer 35 mpg 12.8 s 192 g/km
2.0 16V 34 mpg 10.7 s 198 g/km
2.0 Blue HDi 150 64–67 mpg 9.1–9.4 s 106–110 g/km
2.0 Blue HDi 180 Automatic 64 mpg 8.7–8.8 s 114 g/km
2.0 HDi 47–58 mpg 9.1–11.6 s 129–153 g/km
2.0 HDi 160 55–58 mpg 9.1–9.3 s 129–133 g/km
2.0 HDi 160 Automatic 46 mpg 10.0–10.2 s 163 g/km
2.0 HDi 200 Automatic 46–48 mpg 8.3–8.6 s 155–159 g/km
2.0 HDi Automatic 46 mpg 10.0 s 163 g/km
2.0 HDi Automatic Tourer 46 mpg 10.2 s 163 g/km
2.0 HDi Tourer 46–55 mpg 9.3–12.1 s 133–155 g/km
2.2 HDi 48 mpg 8.3 s 155 g/km
2.2 HDi Tourer 43 mpg 10.4 s 175 g/km
3.0 HDi V6 Automatic 39 mpg 7.9 s 189 g/km
3.0 HDi V6 Tourer 46 mpg 8.6 s 159 g/km

Real MPG average for a Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

88%

Real MPG

22–62 mpg

MPGs submitted

448

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Is buying an electric car for commuting realistic at the moment?

My daily commute is a 180-mile round trip on a variety of motorway sections, roundabout filled dual carriage ways and B roads. I currently drive a 2009 Citroen C5 diesel automatic. Tax is a whacking £350 and fuel is costing me an average of 15p a mile with 30k miles p/a. I am 6'4'' with a grumpy back and have found the C5 very comfortable to drive. Plus, the automatic is much less tiring than my previous manual car. I would like to get running costs down. Is it worth buying a modern car and is an electric car even realistic? I live on a terrace street with no charging points but do have the potential to charge an electric car at work. I also travel abroad regularly so an electric option would need to be happy sitting in the airport car park for several weeks at a time. I am not in a position to spend tens of thousands on a new car. I have investigated lease deals on various new/nearly new modern diesels as well as some hybrids. However excess millage costs that I would incur make this an unrealistic option. Also if I were to buy a newer car, in the back of my mind is its actual value with 2035 not too far off.
Electric cars make sense for a lot of people. However, with no home charging available and regular trips abroad, you'd have to be really dedicated to running an electric car for 30k a year. We'd recommend sticking with a modern diesel for your mileage. No matter which route you go down, any car's going to depreciate rapidly if you add 30k a year (hence high lease costs). The only way to avoid this is to run an older model like your C5 but, as you're probably finding, that'll result in higher maintenance costs. I'd look for a frugal diesel like a modern Skoda Octavia, Kia Ceed or Ford Focus. You could consider a hybrid but fuel costs will be expensive - hybrids are at their best around town.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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What Cars Are Similar To The Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016)?

Key attributes of the this model are: Diesel engine, Refined ride, Economical and Large family.

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