Video : Unmistakeably German

Keith Adams

Citroen C5

With the news that Citroën is pulling the C5 out of the UK market following slow sales, we thought it the perfect opportunity to remind you of what the company was trying to achieve at the car’s launch back in 2008. The C5 MkII was introduced to fight at the heart of the middle market – the Mondeo and Vectra had ruled the roost in that sector for a long time, but Citroën, following the super-successful BX and Xantia, wanted to remain a big player.

However, that the market was changing and, off-script, companies like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz were lapping up sales of cars bought by those who were previously known typified by the term “Mondeo man”. In a (fairly) humorous attempt to make play on this trend, those cunning French decided that it should try and beat the Germans at their own game, and appeal to us Teutonic-loving Brits – except that the ploy didn’t work and, try as it might, Citroën couldn’t get Britain’s middle-managers out of their A4s, 3 Series and C-Classes (more’s the pity). And the result was stark – in 2015, Citroën sold just 200 C5s in the UK… it was time to follow the Renault Laguna back to France.

A pity? Yes. We love choice here at AROnline and, with one fewer interesting option on the market, it’s time to wonder whether we really have seen the death of the ‘Dad car’ here in the UK.

Keith Adams


    • Other than the fact that it wasn’t really set up for comfort (a big Citroen should have fluid suspension!). And sometimes I look at it and think it looks a little too Picasso-like.

      Though the facelift has improved matters in terms of suspension setup and freshening up the looks.

  1. It’s all a great shame, because this was a good looking car , and if it shared the traditional Citroen attributes of comfort and good handling with its predecessors, filled a niche which was not really catered for by the Germans

  2. I drove one of these for a few days in France as a hire car and like it. Comfortable with a very good ride it was ideal for touring except in one respect – it felt absolutely huge to drive. The extremities of the car felt a long way away and hard to see so that I never really got used to the size even though it’s only a shade bigger than my regular motor.

    As all the manufacturers have stretched the size of their mid-range cars they’ve forgotten that drivers baulk at something too large. Look at how the BX (a huge seller in its day) evolved into the Xantia, then C5 Mk1 to C5 Mk 11. The increase in size over the BX has been massive and sales have dropped as a result. While the pundits say that the drop off in sales of these large cars is because drivers don’t want to buy a mass market badge I believe that a big contribution to the drop off is the size increase.

    • Indeed the Mondeo is as big as a Granada was.

      Honda I reckon fell into this trap with the Accord, it became as big as the Legend was, and nobody bought that, nobody bought the last Accord.

      Maybe crossovers are popular as their footprint sits somewhere between a C and D segment.

  3. An apt signoff of the article given that yesterday was father’s day.

    The traditional ‘dad car’, as in a big mainstream D segment car, is mostly dead. Hanging on by it’s fingernails with models such as the Mazda 6, and those with an axe above their head in this market such as Avensis and 508.

    However the dad car has evolved. The millenial young parents, with memories of their dad’s Cortinas, Marinas and Cavaliers, have shunned that for the crossover SUV. The ‘dad car’ of the next generation will be the Qashqai, Tourag and 3008. Company car dad cars 320d, A4 and C class.

    I remember being active in Citroen forums when this marketing campaign was underway. It was much lamented that the traditionally French big hatchback mk1 C5 was to be replaced by a Germanic style saloon with – shudder – steel springs off a Peugeot! (Top spec got traditional hydropneumatic suspension as an option – look for the electronic handbrake).

  4. I actually bought one of these, new last August, as i was in the market for a new long distance car, to give eventually my P6 a well earned rest. Even if i don’t need the space yet, i knew very well that for a real comfortable car, size does matter. For various reasons i did not consider anything German, while the offerings from JLR started at over €50K. Too much for me. The dillema between an SUV and a traditional “dad’s car” was cleared up fairly soon. Why buy something uglier, taller, something that will feel awkward in the mountains, consume more due to the larger frontal area and have large glass areas that turn the interior into a glasshouse in the summer? Exactly. Over to C5 then, that i must admit that i liked it, both the shape and the interior. The only trouble was that at the time there were only 4 cars available for immediate delivery. Anything else, and the delivery time was too much uncertain. At the last minute i had some second thoughts about the DS5 and the 508. But they didn’t last for long. I found out that the DS5 was based on the 3008, whereas i knew that the C5 is almost C6 underneath. No comparison. So, off with the DS5. The 508 shares the same platform with the C5, i had a better choice in the available cars, but, did i like it? Erm, no. It was the C5 then. And i must say that after 10 months and almost 20K miles, i feel that i made the right choice. Despite the steel suspension and the small 115 hdi engine(i had no other choice unfortunaly),it is a car that after a full 8-10 hours of work, i am not afraid to get in and do some 200 miles at high speed in comfort and silence to reach home at the end of the day. And i still like the way it looks more and more in and out.

    Is it German then? Well, it wasn’t overprised, it doesn’t have a chopy ride, and the interior is neither austere, nor kitch blinky. On the contrary, the last C5 has kept the values of the traditional big Citroën, by being stylish and comfortable. The only shame is that this one seems to be the last of the breed.

  5. I thought this was already dead in this country!

    Prob with these cars is it does not have the badge to sell. Also as soon as people become parents these days they seem to have to get a people carrier of a crossover. Silly thing is some of these crossovers are actually offer less room than the cars they are replacing – but again its the follow the crowd thing that seems to be spreading around the world these days.

  6. The current C5 is 8 years old now, which in modern terms is an eternity, so I’d be amazed if they sold much anywhere

  7. I remember how successful the Xantia & Renault Laguna MK1 were. Both good looking cars in my opinion. Yet their successors diminished in popularity (probably due to the dominance of the Crossover / SUV craze). Great shame, but a sign of the times.

    I personally still prefer the 5 door (Focus/Astra etc)hatchback style but the choice is even less so, now that more Crossovers are being launched.

    Guess it’s an age thing too… when I was a lad, the choice was either 2/4 door saloon or Estate… and they did the job.

  8. A shame that Citroen tried to pretend the car was German when it clearly wasn’t. Why or why wouldn’t Citroen celebrate its unique Frenchness to a nation of Francophiles? Nicole? Papa? It wasn’t like state-owned Renault didn’t cash-in on the celebration of their nation to great success.

    Lets face it, at the there were plenty of genuine German cars out there if thats what you wanted. Indeed there were many others that played down their German origins (Insignia, Mondeo, Leon, etc.)

    So why join that pack? Especially when you have a USP of that wonderful, wonderful suspension along with a design flair and a reputation for solid diesels? The ad campaign was doomed and in being so fatalistic, they doomed both the car and its genre.

    The death of this car reminds me of the sad loss of the Sierra, but with even more to lament.

  9. Car magazine has a brief interview with Carlos Tavares, boss of PSA. He is pitching Peugeot to take on the Germans (and DS as a third = premium brand) while Citroen is going back to being distinctive – that and recent announcements on suspension changes suggests Citroen is going back to what it does best and PSA now know what their traditional strengths are.

  10. As a lover of the previous XM, I bought a 2002 C5 estate when they were first launched. Unfortunately, the quality was beyond dire, in terms of design, materials, build and customer services it was shocking!

    Any hope of a return to the C5, with the Mk2, were dashed when the estate turned out to be tiny and the hydraulic suspension restricted to the range topper only. Shame!

    I’ve owned Volvo’s or Land Rover’s as my main cars ever since. The large size had nothing to do with a Citroen loyalist abounding the brand forever.

  11. I still miss my Xantia, the most comfortable car I have driven. I was a passenger in a Mondeo driven down the same road as the Xantia and the ride was bone breaking in comparison. BMW’s I have been in are even worse.

    The problem with the C5 however is not just the image problem. Thing use to break on the Xantia regularly and it was a nightmare to work on. If the French could put a bolt or a nut in the most awkward place possible, they would do it.

    The C5 alas did not fix these reliability issues. Complicated electronics and the French are a poor combination. Not to mention with horror stories about the cars being stuck in limp home mode, they managed to make the one bit of the Xantia that was reliable, unreliable.

    Besides they slowly abandoned the hydraulic suspension, which was the best thing on any Citroen. So they basically made a less reliable copy of the German competition, shame.

    • Have to say my old Xantia never put a foot wrong. Only niggle was the idle control valve once got gummed up, a generous spray of air intake cleaner and it never faltered again.

    • I have no experience of the first generation of C5, but the current one doesn’t have any issues, and absolutely in comparison with the German opposition is just as well if not better built.

  12. C5 sales figures show the MG6 sales in a better light. MG6 sales have manage at least double that every year! It seems saloon cars are going the same way as saloon bars!

  13. You will find that the quality of newer C5s has suffered in the gradual cheapening of components in the way that Rover did. Having been in and driven several Xantias, C5s and Lagunas, the only real comment I can make is that they all felt very tired after 5 years or so, rather like an old saggy sofa that was ready for the tip. In comparison, a 5 year old Audi, BMW or Merc will still feel taught and new.

    As for the quality of Citroen electronics, the less said the better!

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