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Motornet: Citroen Takes The Path Less Travelled

C5 – Citroen takes the path less travelled…

Citroen have always marched to the beat of a different drum when it comes to manufacturing cars, with some notable successes... but have they lost the beat with the new C5?

Photographers universally hate bright, direct sunlight - especially when they're trying to take photographs! But it wasn't just the sun that was distracting photographer Neil when eyeing up Citroen's latest offering through his camera lense * it was the car itself.

"I can't find a good angle with this car - nothing looks right!" he exclaimed.

Wellington's new school of design - formerly the old Dominion museum - was an appropriate place to shoot the C5. With Neil lengthily muttering and sighing over his lenses, young designers certainly got the opportunity to size up the Citroen.

And look they did. This Citroen does attract attention, but possibly for the wrong reasons. Basically, not only is it hard to photograph, it's also pretty hard on the eyes. With a high and wide body, it looks slightly out of proportion from just about every angle. It's not that it’s ugly, just… slightly odd looking.

But for all that, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder...

You wouldn't think there would be too many good kiwi blokes who would trade their top-of-the range Holden Commodore in for a Citroen, but one guy who bailed me up would have happily driven away in it - in a heartbeat. Said he loved the looks and wanted to know all about the car. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he's driving one right now.

Anyway, in terms of design, you get the picture (or possibly you don't, but no matter). This car isn’t for the shy and retiring. What about the rest of it?

Inside, it's cavernous - there is literally room to roam. The pleasantly styled cabin is rich with storage space, and head and legroom, both front and rear, is nothing short of amazing for a car in this class. The downside is a slightly strange driving position. You sit a long way from the dashboard, quite upright, but also quite low-down. Because the bonnet drops away sharply (and can't really be seen) it takes a little getting used to.

In saying that, passengers universally love this car. They get to loll around in plenty of comfort, enjoying all the amenities the cabin has to offer, such as dual control climate air conditioning, a good quality stereo with single CD (with an eye-level LCD display on the dash, which makes for easy to see adjustments), and plenty of nice add ons, such as the twin lighted vanity mirror. Neither is safety an issue, with the C5 carrying six airbags, and equipped with emergency braking assist, not to mention ABS. Oh, and the seats are superb. Very soft on first acquaintance, but excellent on trips of any length.

For the driver, it's a different story. The steering is a little woolly and struggles to convey any useful road feel. The handling, too, raises a few eyebrows. The springless hydro-pneumatic suspension - a unique Citroen trait - keeps the car very flat when turning in, but subsequently makes it hard to judge when the handling reaches its limit. Typically through corners, the C5's nose will push wide and the car can get quite out of sorts if really pushed.

The ride though, generally can't be faulted. For 95 percent of the time, it's like riding on a magic carpet. I guess that's why during the other five percent, when the C5 will unexpectedly jar through a pothole or bump over a broken piece of tarmac, that it's so noticeable and unsettling. I also noticed that the parcel tray would creak a fair bit whenever the ride got rough.

I wish I could say that the four-speed auto helped lift the C5's game, but it managed to let the side down. First impressions are good, while the tiptronic option on the gearbox works very well, but overall the transmission seemed at times to be a little clunky and occasionally unable to make up its mind as to what to do next. This was especially noticeable when going downhill.

The C5's two-litre petrol engine was generally up to the task, but at times struggled with the kerb mass of the car - some 1325kg. Producing 100 kW and 190 Nm of torque at a comparatively high 4100rpm means the C5 - at least in two-litre form - is no ball of fire from a performance point of view. Citroen claim the C5 auto will do 0-100 km/h in 11.2 seconds, and while that's probably pretty close to the truth, it feels a little slower. Punters might be advised to give the manual version a go, which cuts the 0-100 time to 9.8 seconds.

At $44,990 (plus three grand for the auto option) Citroen have crammed a great deal into this car. From the suspension that will automatically adjust itself depending on whether the car is being driven in a sporty of sedate fashion and the auto on/off headlights, through to the key fob button which automatically closes all the electric windows, this car has a true touch of class.

The fact that it doesn't quite live up to the some of all its parts is a little disappointing, and could mean that potential Citroen converts opt for something a little more conservative when making a new car purchase. For those already charmed by the many attributes that make up the Citroen marque, a few shortcomings can easily be dismissed as character and a trade up is probably just around the corner. Anyone for a used Xantia?

Specifications

Price - $47,990 (V6 option produces 152kW and 285Nm, cost is $64,990)

Engine - 1997cc 16v automatic producing 100 kW at 6000rpm and 190 Nm of torque at 4100 rpm

Weight - 1325kg

Performance - 0-100km/ph in 11.2


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