Evolving the Citroën C5 into an SUV for its third generation was a good move on the part of PSA. The current model, new in Europe back in 2019, has already been restyled, gained new powertrains and had its interior revamped. Stellantis continues to tweak the model, offering refreshed petrol, diesel, HEV and PHEV powertrains.

The plug-in hybrid was in fact the brand’s first such model, lifting Citroën into C-D segment pricing levels where it had not traditionally found much UK market success.

SUV stands for…

And if you’re wondering about whether this two-wheel drive might be more accurately classified as a crossover, Citroën says no, it is a Silent Urban Vehicle.

Is the brand’s take on those three initials entirely accurate? That’s open to discussion but the C5 Aircross does indeed run in EV mode at lower speeds, provided the battery is properly charged. The official range is up to 41 miles and even in chilly late Autumn, I discovered that 30 is entirely possible.

The facelift brings the front end into line with many other new or revamped Citroën cars and LCVs, though the latest logo hasn’t yet landed on the tailgate, grille or steering wheel. Perhaps that will have to wait until the next generation appears in a few years’ time.

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The PHEV comes with little blue badges on each front wing, as well as the extra flap on its side for the charging port. Other than that, it looks nearly identical to every other C5 Aircross. Which means an SUV-style stance with grey plastic wheel-arch extenders, integrated roof rails and chunks of body protectors on the lower parts of the doors.

Two trim levels for PHEV

There is a base trim called Shine which is only for the non-electrified 130 PS petrol and diesel variants, the 136 PS (mild) Hybrid and 224 PS PHEV (1.6-litre turbo+motor combined) coming as standard in mid-range Max model grade. The top level is called ë-Series and this includes Alcantara upholstery, 19 inch black alloy wheels, a two-tone roof including a large glass panel (part of which opens) as well as a vast catalogue of convenience and safety features.

Despite the rugged appearance, the plug-in hybrid has drive to just the one axle, an eight-speed automatic transmission doing quite a good job of delivering all 360 Nm of torque to the front tyres. Yes, greasy-wintery surfaces can present a challenge for a split second under hard acceleration but never in a dramatic way: electronic guardian angels soon kick in and grip is restored almost before the driver notices.

Top speed is 140 mph and the car will get to 62 mph in 8.7 seconds. More relevant in the real world is a charging time of under two hours for the 41.2 kWh battery via a 7.4 kW home connection.

By its own admission, Citroën would note that the C5 is all about comfort, not sporty handling and this isn’t just marketing-speak, it really does feel good to sit in any of what are five exceptionally soft individual seats. The rear ones can be slid back and forth too, which is handy to maximise boot space (or legroom).

The high driving position took me a little while to become accustomed to but it was soon all OK after some adjustments. While not dissimilar to that of the Berlingo there isn’t quite so much head room: still excellent but you don’t feel as though you could drive in a top hat.

Fiddly gear selector

Something which does need to be rethought is a P R N D B switch. This is fiddly as even with a foot on the brake it doesn’t always engage D or R at the first attempt. Instead, you need to do this slowly, which can be annoying when making a three-point turn. The Aircross wins back some points by having steering wheel paddles and for the flawlessness of the automatic transmissions shifts.

Other things which award the C5 bonus points would include an almost ridiculously deep bin below the central armrest – you can even drop a litre water bottle down there – plus two other places to store stuff on the console. Door bins are big too, as is the glovebox.

Kids will love the big windows

The designers made sure that the windscreen and all side glazing are generously sized, which only makes it all the more curious as to why the back window is fairly small. At least it has a good-sized wiper (with programmed wash function). And hit the button to electrically lift the tailgate and you discover a vast boot with a floor which hides another compartment where the charging cable lives.

Even a few hours with this 4.5 m long SUV are enough to convince anyone seeking a commodious and economical family car that the Citroën should be on their shortlist. The soft suspension and seats as well as what is a remarkable amount of space inside are all strong-points. The economy offered by the PHEV system and great value pricing are equally compelling reasons.

The Citroen C5 Aircross is priced from GBP23,670 (96 kW/130 PS petrol), with the PHEV starting at GBP35,935.

More electrified models

The next news for Citroen will be the launch of an updated ë-Berlingo. In addition to the facelift, there is to be a new 150 kW motor and a 50 kWh (54 gross) LFP battery, extending the range to an official 199 miles.

Also coming in 2024 is the ë-C3, details of which were revealed in October. Stellantis will manufacture this small EV at its Trnava plant in Slovakia with speculation that it could also be made at what had been FCA’s Kragujevac factory in Serbia. Preliminary specifications are an 83 kW motor and a 44 kWh LFP battery with an identical WLTP range to that of the electric Berlingo and charging at up to 100 kW DC.