By Mike Torpey on 2021-01-30 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Citroen C5 Aircross
SUBSTANCE over style may not elicit that instant impact sought by lovers of first impressions.
But it has had nothing but a positive effect on the car that heralded Citroen's return to the SUV scene, the C5 Aircross.
Its design may seem more functional than fashionable but the combination of space, comfort and economy you get with this vehicle has seen it scoop up various awards.
Now the C5 has become even more efficient courtesy of a hybrid model - the French brand's first plug-in variant - complete with a zero emissions range of up to 34 miles.
Available in the higher spec Flair and Flair Plus trim grades, it is powered by a 180bhp PureTech petrol engine with an 80kW electric motor which together deliver 225bhp through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
A full recharge can be completed in less than two hours from a 7.4kW wallbox or around six hours from a domestic supply, and the hybrid is also fitted with a special drive mode to conserve electric energy in town centres.
Furthermore, charging can be programmed and deferred - using the C5's touchscreen or a smartphone via the MyCitroen app - to benefit from off-peak electricity tariffs.
And everything is neat and tidy, the charging cables stored in a dedicated space under the boot floor while the charging flap located on the rear left of the carintegrates an LED indicator for visually monitoring the process.
There's a white light for welcome mode, a flashing green one to indicating charging underway, a blue light for deferred charging and a green for when the charge is complete.
That's in addition to specific features to monitor Plug-in Hybrid driving such as a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel displaying a power meter, electricity and fuel gauges, range and an energy-flow diagram.
So that's the electric side of things concerning a car that is actually Citroen's initial model in its low-emission vehicle offensive, which will lead in 2025 to a 100 per cent electrified range.
But the hybrid, along with the conventional C5 Aircross range, is an SUV with serious family appeal.
For one thing it's exceptionally comfortable and features something Citroen calls its Advanced Comfort system which includes a modified suspension, advanced shock absorbers and extra padded seats.
The upshot is a smooth ride quality that, even with a full complement of passengers aboard, makes the car feel like it's floating on air.
As for space, the C5's flexible rear accommodation set-up of three individual sliding chairs means you can adjust legroom or luggage capacity while folding everything down frees up a whopping load area.
Cabin storage is also useful thanks to a central flip-up container, double opening centre console, large door bins, rear seat flaps, a glove box and cup holders.
As you would expect from a hybrid model there's a mixture of economy with performance, the car's 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor returning us an average 42.1mpg in SPORT mode and 48.5mpg in ECO mode over 200 miles of mixed urban and open road driving.
It has plenty of punch too, that 225bhp full system output making for a 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.7 seconds.
Add no less than 19 driver assistance technologies ranging from a reversing camera to coffee break alert, plus another half dozen for connectivity, and you have a hybrid SUV that's up there with the best.
And that's before the capacity to personalise has been taken into account. For instance the hybrid can be specified with touches of blue on the front bumper insert and the Airbumps, a choice of 18 or 19-inch alloy wheels, ground under-body and wheel-arch protection, two-tone roof bar and an optional panoramic opening glass roof on Flair Plus versions.
Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid Flair
Mechanical: 225bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl petrol + 80kW electric motor driving front wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 157.2-222.3
Insurance Group: 32
C02 emissions: 32-41g/km
Bik rating: 10%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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