JUST when you thought there couldn't possibly be room for any more SUVs in today's car market, along comes Citroen's flagship C5 Aircross model - and it has all the ingredients to make it a great success.
It aims to rival the big guns such as the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar as well as PSA stablemate, the Peugeot 3008, so there is plenty of quality opposition to take on.
But the C5 Aircross has its own appeal with a distinctive style that includes the funky airbumps, albeit in more discreet form these days.
It's certainly a good looking car with its high-sided, athletic design, complete with a wide, robust front end with slim LED daytime running lights that flow into the large grille housing the Citroen emblem.
The side profile is dynamic in its styling with those airbumps, chunky wheels, tinted windows, roof rails and high ground clearance.
At the rear there are 3D lights, twin exhausts, a floating roof, along with plenty of cladding to protect the car should you venture away from the Tarmac. Smart flashes of colour on the bumper, doors and roof rails really help the car to stand out in a crowd.
There's a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines and the C5 Aircross is available in three well equipped trim levels called Feel, Flair and Flair Plus with prices ranging from £23,225 to £32,725.
The interior is modern, spacious and practical with three individual rear seats that slide forwards and backwards, can be tilted or folded completely flat.
And the storage options are impressive too ranging from 580 litres to a whopping 1,630 litres with the rear seats dropped down. In addition, there are 32 litres of clever storage compartments scattered throughout the car.
Personalisation options are important these days and the C5 Aircross offers a generous amount of choice. There are seven body colours, three colour packs, along with contrasting roof shades which in total means customers can choose from 30 different combinations.
And of course, apart from being exceptionally practical, modern SUVs need to offer all the latest infotainment and connectivity systems. And the C5 Aircross does exactly that with the likes of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, DAB radio, a navigation system, Bluetooth, a great sound system, 12-inch driver information panel, an eight-inch touchscreen and plenty more besides.
The cabin is well insulated against noise with laminated windows helping to keep the outside sounds at bay. And Citroen has worked tirelessly to develop a more cushioned ride to help smooth out undulating road surfaces along with smaller potholes - this system seemed to work well on a lengthy road route around Berkshire with plenty of damaged and worn roads. In addition Grip Control with five settings is available as an option.
We tried a couple of models, both in mid-grade Flair trim, which Citroen believes will be the most popular choice.
First up was the 1.2-litre, three cylinder, 129hp petrol driven car with six-speed manual gearbox costing £25,325 (metallic paint added a further £545 to the price). This car could reach 62mph from a standing start in 10.5 seconds, topped out at 117mph, and according to official WLTP figures, can deliver a combined 40.9mpg with carbon emissions of 121g/km.
Despite being powered by a three-pot engine, the acceleration through the gears was sharp and responsive with ample power on tap at all times. The car was happy weaving through the busy town centre crowds and cruised effortlessly at motorway speeds too.
The road holding is confident and there was minimal sign of any body sway. I should add that the car was sitting on 18-inch wheels which seemed like the perfect match.
The driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility and all the readouts and controls are well positioned for ease of use. My only slight gripe was the positioning of the cup holders behind the gear stick. We had a couple of small water bottles in them and they constantly got in the way. But that aside the car was a delight to drive and offered all the comfort necessary for any lengthy journey.
Next up was the diesel-powered car with a 1.5-litre, four cylinder 129hp engine mated to an eight-speeds automatic gearbox complete with paddles. This car could complete the 0-62mph dash in 11.8 seconds, maxed out at 117mph and could deliver 52.3mpg and 106g/km on a combined run.
This version felt a little more refined than the petrol model and was quieter when pushed hard. It also featured a number of options that bumped the price up from £28,425 to £30,790. These included a handsfree tailgate, 19-inch alloys and a panoramic roof that allowed light to flood into the car.
Once again, the C5 Aircross was accomplished on busy roads as well as out on faster country lanes, and the automatic gearbox was perfectly timed. This car also boasted a Sport mode to sharpen up its responses and, with the better fuel economy, would be the choice for business drivers clocking up heavy mileage.
Citroen has packed a compressive list of safety features into the car along with 19 driver aids as standard on higher trims or available as options on other grades. These include the likes of highway driver assist that works in tandem with the adaptive cruise control to keep you in your lane while controlling the speed, braking and acceleration.
There is also active safety brake, collision risk warning, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, traffic sign recognition, park assist and the Grip Control with hill descent assist.
All in all, the front wheel drive Citroen C5 Aircross is a fabulous all-rounder and is a worthy contender for sales in the SUV market. It looks great, drives beautifully, is packed with technology, plus it's safe and practical.