Citroën C5 AirCross PHEV review: good for your butt, and your petrol bill

Front view of Citroën C5 AirCross PHEV parked outside a house
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Two minute review

Huge amounts of room, supremely comfortable front seats, a smooth ride, plenty of storage and the ability to make trips without touching the petrol engine. That's what you get from the Citroën C5 AirCross plug-in hybrid.

The C5 AirCross blends family practicality with a surprisingly smooth ride, making it an ideal option for those who regularly ferry around multiple people, and their belongings. 

Citroën's distinctive 'AirBump' design language ensures the C5 AirCross stands out from other mid-size SUVs, while the delightfully cushioned front seats are a treat for your rear end.

There are three proper-sized back seats, and plenty of head and leg room to go around, making it ideal to transport a car full of kids or adults in relative comfort - further enhanced by Citroën's smooth air suspension.

The ability to drive in a fully electric mode means the C5 AirCross can transform into an electric car for shorter journeys, and we were easily able to get over 25 miles of range from a single charge. It'll help save you money on petrol, as well as being that bit kinder to the environment.

There's no range anxiety fear here either, with the petrol engine providing the safety net of easy top-ups.

You'll also find all the connectivity you need, including support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on the 8-inch central display, while the customizable 12.3-inch instrument cluster display allows you to choose what you see.

The infotainment system isn’t the quickest around, and while basic driving aids such as cruise control and lane assist are present, you don’t get adaptive cruise or pilot assist options here.

For families however, the Citroën C5 AirCross ticks pretty much all the boxes, so long as the kids can learn to share one USB port.

Side profile of Citroën C5 AirCross parked on drive

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Citroen C5 AirCross price and availability

  • Prices for the plug-in hybrid C5 AirCross start at £34,375

Our C5 AirCross Hybrid came with a few optional extras (metallic paint and black roof), which bumped its price to £35,155.

The Citroën C5 AirCross Hybrid is currently available in the UK and across Europe.

Citroen C5 AirCross design

  • Unique 'AirBump' design helps it stand out from other brands
  • Huge amounts of space inside
  • Supremely comfortable front seats
We drove

Close up of front of the Citroën C5 AirCross outside a house

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Citroën C5 AirCross Shine Plug-in Hybrid
1.6L, 4 cylinder, turbo
Battery: 13.2kWh
Power (combined): 225hp
Top Speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Range: 33-40 miles WLTP
Price: £35,155

Citroën's bold design language ensures the C5 AirCross stands out from the SUV crowd, with its slender headlights, cutesy 'AirBump' design elements on the front and sides, and almost bug-eyed tail lights bulging from the rear.

Blue accents around the bubble shapes on the front and lower doors provide a welcome splash of color, and its 18-inch diamond cut wheels give it a flashy footing.

This mid-size SUV stands tall, but it doesn't feel overbearing, and climbing inside is easy with no huge change in altitude required to get into a seat.

Once inside you'll find an elevated seating position which gives you a good view of the road, and the cabin is spacious, offering plenty of space for adults in the front and back.

The AirBump aesthetic continues inside too, with patterns on door panels and rounded air vents.

Something else you'll notice immediately after getting into the C5 AirCross are the front seats. They are wonderfully cushioned, with the padding verging on a sofa level of comfiness. 

The seats make long journeys far more enjoyable, and in the back the middle seat is almost full size, allowing three adults to sit in relative comfort, with enough leg and head room to go around - plus there's a USB port accessible to rear seat passengers too.

There's a decent selection of storage options inside the C5 AirCross too, with the central armrest between the front two seats opening to reveal a sizable storage area.

You also get dual cup holders between these chairs, along with a couple more cubby holes. One is likely designed to drop your keys in, while the other is suited to a mobile phone and conveniently located by a USB port.

The door pockets lack depth, but span most of the width of the door, providing more space for your stuff.

Open up the boot and you'll find a huge 460 litre luggage capacity available to you. Fold down the rear set of seats and it grows to 1510 litres. There's certainly plenty of space available here.

Citroen C5 AirCross drive, range and charging

  • Expect 25-29 miles of all-electric range
  • Produces 225hp, and 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds
  • You can charge the 13.2kWh battery using the petrol engine

The plug-in hybrid Citroën C5 AirCross features a 1.6L, four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine along with an electric motor connected to a 13.2kWh battery.

When working together, the petrol and electric motors can produce a combined power output of 225hp, which gets you from 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds. That's hardly rapid, but it's quick enough to get you moving swiftly on motorways.

There's also enough pick-up to get you away from junctions and perform overtakes with ease, but it's not going to thrill you with speed - although it can get up to 140mph.

Citroën has spent time over the years reducing the size of the steering wheel, and the one in the C5 AirCross Hybrid is nicely compact, allowing more space for the driver while also providing the required level of control.

The ride is supremely smooth thanks to Citroën's Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension, which helps dampen imperfections in the road. It works too, as we enjoyed a stable driving experience in the C5 AirCross.

You get a trio of drive modes to choose from. 'Hybrid', as the name suggests, lets the car use the best of both petrol and electric worlds, deciding on when each drivetrain should be used.

Switch to 'Sport', and the petrol engine will be prioritized most of the time, with acceleration boosted and handling firmed up a little - although there's not a huge difference. This is, after all, a family SUV so a lively driving experience was never going to be something you'd expect.

As this is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), the C5 AirCross can drive in a fully electric mode thanks to its 13.2kWh battery for up to 34 miles WLTP, according to Citroën.

You'll likely never hit the maximum estimated range given by manufacturers for PHEVs and EVs, but we comfortably managed over 25 miles from a single charge each time we recharged and drove in Electric mode.

Driving at relatively low speeds around town we were able to get 27-29 miles from a single charge, which is enough to complete the school run and get to and from the shops for many people.

The benefit of the C5 AirCross being a plug-in hybrid is you don't get any electric range anxiety, as the petrol engine automatically kicks in if you run out of charge, ensuring you can complete your journey without having to worry about finding a charger.

You can opt to turn on 'esave' mode too, which uses the petrol engine to charge the battery while you drive. It takes just over an hour of driving to fully recharge the battery, and while it can be a handy way to top it up if you don't have easy access to a charger, it will eat into your petrol consumption more.

If you do have access to a charger, it'll take you two hours to recharge from a 7kW home car charger, or six hours if you plug directly into a domestic socket in your house.

Close up of C5 AirCross charging port

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Citroen C5 AirCross specs and tech

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support
  • Customizable 12.3-inch digital cluster display
  • Infotainment simple to use, but a little slow

The Citroën C5 AirCross features the now-obligatory touchscreen infotainment display we've come to expect from pretty much any new car these days, however its offering is a little more understated than some, coming in at 8 inches.

That's still not a bad size - there are smaller screens out there - plus with Citroën's simplified interface it's easy to both read and use.

It's not the quickest system we've used however, and we found it sometimes took a little bit of time to load various features.

There are a series of touch-sensitive buttons below the screen which provide quick links to key features such as navigation and media - but there's no feedback provided when touched (some brands offer haptic vibrations here) and the infotainment systems feels like it takes an age to register your tap.

The delay is long enough to make you consider whether you tapped hard enough, but most of the time we were just waiting for the system to catch up.

This isn't the only display in the C5 AirCross however, as Citroën has also included a 12.3-inch instrument display behind the steering wheel.

There are a range of view options available for this display, allowing you to customize the information that's shown via buttons on the steering wheel. 

You get five different views to choose from, which includes 'Dials' for a more traditional display, 'Navigation' that mirrors directions shown by the sat nav from the main display, while 'Minimum' provides a highly simplified view with just your current speed, power level and the current speed limit of the road.

It's nice to have this level of customization, and makes the experience feel a little more personalized to the driver.

There is Bluetooth support, allowing you to connect your smartphone wirelessly to the car, which in turn allows you to stream audio to the C5 AirCross's speakers, as well as make and receive calls hands-free.

A single USB port is located at the base of the center console, allowing you to charge a device, but also enable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - which work well here. 

By connecting your handset to the car using a USB cable, you can use CarPlay (for iPhones) or Auto (for Android devices) to access core applications on the 8-inch display.

These include Apple Maps, Google Maps, Apple Music, Spotify, WhatsApp and more. You may find the mapping applications from Apple and Google have more detail than the in-built nav, but directions won't be mirrored in the instrument cluster if you opt to use these. 

That means you'll need to look at the central display to check navigation, which isn't quite as user friendly, or safe compared to checking the instrument display.

You'll also find a range of driving aids and features included too, including automatic lights and wipers, reversing camera, lane assist and cruise control.

The controls for cruise are located on their own stalk protruding from the driving column, and take a moment to learn and get used to. At first we found them a touch fiddly and they are hidden from view by the rest of the wheel, so you have to purely rely on touch. 

We'd have preferred on-wheel controls, but once you get used to the layout it does work reasonably well.

Along with the rear-facing camera, the C5 AirCross also features its own 360 degree view around the car, but it scans the area as you maneuver, so it doesn't give you a live view as it builds the picture when in reverse. It's a nice addition, but not as slick as proper 360 degree camera setups.

Should I buy the Citroen C5 AirCross?

Buy it if…

You want space for the family
With generous space throughout, almost three full-size seats in the back and a huge boot, you'll be able to fit kids, luggage and more into the C5 AirCross Hybrid. 

You use your car for the school run and shopping trips
We know the C5 AirCross has the space, but the plug-in hybrid model can do over 25 miles in all-electric mode, meaning trips around town will use little to no petrol, which in turn could save you money.

You want to treat your buttocks
The cushioned front seats in the C5 AirCross are an absolute delight. Your bottom will thank you after long journeys that you opted for this car.

Don't buy it if...

You want the best PHEV range
We averaged 25-29 miles of all-electric driving on a single charge, but there are plug-in SUVs which can go a bit further. The Kia Niro, for example, can do 33-35 miles on a single charge, although it’s a touch smaller than the C5 AirCross Hybrid.

You want the slickest infotainment
The infotainment system in the C5 AirCross works well, but it isn't overly fast and it's a little more on the basic side. It will suffice for most users, but those seeking better integration and a slicker experience may want to look elsewhere.

You need to charge a lot of devices on the move
There's no wireless charging pad here, and just two USB ports in total. That's fine if there are just two people in the car, but if there are five people who all want to plug in you may find the offering limited.

First reviewed: July 2021

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.