Review and road test of the Citroen C5 (2004 - 2008)
SHARPER FOCUSED FIVE
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Big Citroens have tended not to make a whole lot of sense as a new car buy. Most savvy buyers know that they depreciate heavily and the only way this can be offset is by negotiating big discounts from new. The facelifted Citroen C5, launched in 2004, was no exception. Although residual values proved to be far better than its predecessor, this was still a car that you needed to slash some seriously big numbers off the RRP in order to make viable. Fortunately many did and this means that used buyers now have the twin benefits of abundant stock and very low prices for what remains a decently modern car.
(5dr hatches and estates 1.8, 2.0 petrol, 1.6, 2.0, 2.2 diesel [VTR, VTX+ Exclusive])
In late 2004, the facelifted C5 went on sale. An entry-level 1.6-litre HDI 110 replaced the 2.0-litre 90bhp unit and the 2.0-litre 110bhp was upgraded to 138bhp. The 173bhp 2.2-litre twin turbo engine was introduced in Summer 2006 just after the arrival of the VTX edition models aimed at the company car market.
This updated car incorporated the company's contemporary front-end design, with the narrow aperture of the double chevron grille running the width of the car's nose. The boomerang rear lights look like those from the old Maserati 3200GT blown up to 200% on a photocopier. The front lamps are also a good deal more sculpted than the softer teardrop lamps of this car's predecessor. Xenon dual function lamps turn as the car corners - a throwback to the legendary DS.
An involuntary lane departure warning system was developed that prevented drivers from losing concentration or dozing off at the wheel. If the car detects a steady lane change without an indication, it can sound a buzzer in the cabin. Safety was enhanced with the fitment of no fewer than seven airbags, including one to protect the knee area as well as a speed limiter and the latest generation ESP stability control package.
What You Get
Building in features more often seen on luxury cars is an ongoing theme, the C5 featuring laminated side window glass. Not only does this aid safety in the result of an accident, it also provides enhanced protection against crime and even boosts the cabin's acoustic qualities. Manufacturers of car stereos have long lamented the fact that with a high proportion of echoing surfaces, the car's interior is one of the most acoustically challenging environments in which to create great sounding music reproduction. It has been found that the insulating layer of clear plastic inside a laminated windscreen produced less acoustic scatter than the harsher echoes that rebounded off a more brittle toughened screen.
Go for the estate version and you'll find that the load floor is wide and flat, giving a capacity of 563 litres which is the largest in class. More importantly, it's possible to exploit that space without significant intrusion from the rear suspension turrets, the Hydractive 3 system being tucked away beneath the floor. This means that the available width of 1176, measured at the narrowest point between the rear tail lights, is still the widest in class.
What to Look For
Insist on a service history. The complex suspension system is pretty reliable, but make sure that it's been checked out because replacement parts for it are pricey.
(Approx - based on a C5 V6 - ex Vat) Clutch assemblies are about £205, brake pads around £45 and an alternator around £175. You'll pay around £220 for a headlamp, around £245 for a radiator and around £110 (exchange) for a starter motor.
On the Road
Some aspects are carried over from its predecessor, Citroen reasoning that there's no point messing with things that work well already. This hatch or estate will ride and corner differently to anything you've ever driven. The credit for this goes to Citroen's unique Hydractive suspension. Devotees of the marque who owned an XM or a Xantia will know what we're talking about here, for both of these cars featured early versions of this system. In its latest form, the advantages of this fluid-sprung set-up over conventional steel springs are almost impossible to ignore.
Thus equipped, this C5 can read the road and adapt its ride set-up accordingly, depending on the ground surface, the speed and the way that you're driving. Sensors strategically located around the car feed information to a central control system that can then change both spring and damper rates as necessary.
Comfort then, is this car's number one priority. It's not seeking to deliver as sharp a driving experience as you could expect in a Mondeo or a 407 - it's looking at the high mileage driver who wants to arrive unruffled. Certainly, the engines are up to the job. These are sourced from the Peugeot/Citroen empire and include some familiar favourites. A choice of six powerplants is offered, with petrol engines from 117 to a hefty 210bhp as well as the acclaimed HDi common rail diesels developing between 110bhp and 138bhp. Revised six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes are also available as well as Citroen's award-winning particulate filter.
The Citroen C5 is a very interesting used car buy. It's also one that offers a lot of very high-tech function at an extremely low price. While this may sound rather scary in terms of ongoing reliability, it's probably a good car to buy now rather than in five years time. The diesels are well worth seeking out and the estate models are comparatively more competitive than the hatchback models. Our pick would be a 138bhp 2.0 HDi VTR estate.
Citroen C5 (2004 - 2008) review by ANDY ENRIGHT