Review: Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016)
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.
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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.
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Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016): What's It Like Inside?
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)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Citroen C5 (2008 – 2016) like to drive?
- Engines range from 1.6 e-HDi 115 Airdream EGS to 3.0 HDi V6 Automatic
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 22–62 mpg
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.
|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.
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.
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