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Citroen C5 saloon (2008 – ) expert review

By Stuart Milne, 22nd September 2008

The verdict

The Citroen C5 offers excellent ride quality while successfully blending Germanic quality with French flair.

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Expert rating:



  • Fantastic ride comfort
  • Punchy diesel powerplant
  • Decently sized boot


  • Heavy depreciation
  • Vague steering
  • Cluttered controls

Full Review

1. Exterior

The third generation Citroen C5 is a handsome car, which sees it retain the chrome-edged double chevron grille, making it easily identifiable as a car from the French manufacturer’s stable. It’s the rear and rear three quarters which are the most radical for Citroen, with a pair of rear lights reminiscent of an Audi, which helps the C5 live up to its billing of ‘unmistakably German’ in it’s tongue-in-cheek TV ad. And like its rivals from Germany, the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, the C5 is a saloon; a departure for the big Citroen.
Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The Citroen C5’s interior is massively improved over the previous model, and oozes more of the Germanic charm that’s still in vogue. There are plenty of sober and tactile plastics, and a silver trim which runs intermittently from one door, across the dash and steering wheel to the other door, which is a nice touch. Like the Citroen C4 hatchback, the centre of the steering wheel is fixed, which takes some getting used to, and the hub is loaded with buttons – too many for some users – operating the trip computer, audio, telephone (where fitted) and the horn.
Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

Some of the Citroen C5’s practicality has been sacrificed for style, with a saloon car bootlid which affords less access boot than the previous C5’s wide-opening hatchback tailgate. However the boot is big; but at 439 litres it’s slightly smaller than its German rivals and the previous C5. There’s plenty of space for front and rear passengers though, and there’s a big glovebox.
Our rating: 3

4. Ride and handling

Most C5 buyers are likely to find the car’s stunning ride comfort more appealing than a sharp-edged and firmly sprung BMW, even through the latter would be the driving enthusiasts’ choice. The ride is sublime, soaking up undulations with ease, though there is plenty of roll through bends. While the steering is light and easy to operate, there’s not too much feel. Citroen offer two suspension setups for the C5: steel spring and Hydractive 3, which allows the driver to select between normal and sport settings. The steel springs feel firmer, but the Hydractive system offers even more ride comfort.
Our rating: 4

5. Performance

There are two petrol and four diesel engines on offer in the Citroen C5 range. Petrol options include a 122bhp 1.8 and a 143bhp 2-litre, the latter of which can be specified with a manual gearbox. The cars have 0-62mph times of 12.2, 10.7 and 12.8 seconds and top speeds of 124, 130 and 127mph respectively. The diesel engines are available as a 1.6, 2-litre (auto and manual), 2.2 and a 2.7 V6. We tested the best-selling 2-litre diesel and found it punchy, if not particularly refined. We’ve previously tried the 2.7 V6 and found it silky smooth.
Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Petrol models will retain just 30-35 per cent of the original list price after three years or 36,000 miles. Diesels fare slightly better, with 35-40 per cent retained. Insurance groups are about average for a large family car, although most Ford Mondeo models should be slightly cheaper to cover. Emissions of 157g/km for the 2-litre diesel – the most popular model – means it’ll fall into tax band D which costs £145 per year, but choose the automatic version and emissions are bumped up to 189g/km which costs £210 a year. Diesel fuel consumption falls into the low to mid forties for most diesels.
Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

The previous Citroen C5 models didn’t earn much of a reputation for reliability, but the third generation uses proven engines and feels better build using higher quality materials. However, there have been a significant number of recalls for the C5, including fixes for issues with its braking and fuel systems.
Our rating: 3

8. Safety

The C5 scored a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test programme for adult occupant protection and four stars for child occupant protection. It features seven airbags as standard and a pair of rear side airbags can also be specified. Citroen’s fixed steering wheel hub means the airbag is always deployed in the correct position, and as a result can be shaped for maximum torso protection. Additionally the steering column retracts by up to 65mm in the event of an accident. Other safety kit includes anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA), electronic stability programme (ESP) and traction control.
Our rating: 5

9. Equipment

All C5s come with decent equipment levels. The range is broken into the SX, VTR+ and Exclusive trims. All models include cruise control, trip computer and air conditioning, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and electric windows. The VTR+ adds adjustable Hydractive suspension (auto and 2.2HDi only), an MP3-compatible CD player 17-inch alloys, dual-zone air conditioning, electrically-folding mirrors, a driver’s seat with adjustable height and lumbar support, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers and front fog lamps. The Exclusive range-topper also features rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, acoustic laminated side windows, interior ‘mood’ lighting and electric front seats.
Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

The Citroen C5’s excellent ride comfort is definitely what sets it apart from its rivals. And despite its Germanic feel, it still retains the all-important French flair.
Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability3
  • Safety5
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:
C5 1.6 HDi 110 VTR
The cheapest C5 still offers cruise control and air-con.
C5 1.6 HDi 110 VTR+ Nav
Best-selling C5 gets sat-nav and other toys.
Blow the budget:
C5 3.0 HDi V6 Exclusive
Great diesel V6 is shared with Jaguar and Land Rover.

The Citroen C5’s excellent ride comfort is what sets it apart from its rivals