We drove the Citroën C5X 1.2 Pure Tech 130 S&S: the legend lives on…

We all know that the segment of the “grandes berlines” or the bigger saloons is under pressure. But then Citroën has a tradition to defend: making cars which provide splendid comfort, ample space for its passengers and can travel at speed for hours on end, without any fatigue for its occupants. The French call it “une grande routière”, and they whisper this with some respect. The tradition in France has been long, and magnificent. They have had in the ‘30s les grandes Bugatti, Voisin, Hotchkiss, Delahaye, and of course from the mid fifties of last century onwards the Citroën DS 19, Pallas 21. Then came the stylish CX, followed the XM and then by the iconic C6, a “voiture présidentielle” if there was one. So a “grande berline” simply MUST be on the menu. And indeed, there it is: the C5X.

The C5 X comes with different drivetrains, more powerful and electrified, but the dynamic Citroën Belgium PR team reserved for us the “base” version, with the well proven and pretty formidable 1 199 cm3 three cylinder 12 valve 131 HP engine coupled to an 8 speed automatic gearbox. Well proven we say, as this engine/gearbox combination is found in a great many models of the Stellantis group. It is found in Opels, DS Automobiles, Peugeot…and of course other Citroëns’. Does the C5X with this combination still have all the panache of a “grande routière?” Let’s see…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Impressive stance…

But first let’s have a walk around the car, and have a look at its aesthetics. It stands rather high on its wheels, so you cannot define it as an ordinary saloon. It rather has the looks of an SUV with its up to 19 inch wheels, and protections running around the wheel arches. When you look at its descending roofline, it also has the character of a luxury coupé.

On the front, a long chrome strip with the “double chevron” at its centre runs between the double headlights which are placed one above the other. Citroën describes the body shape of the C5 X typically as a hatchback crossover, and we would agree totally here.

In the interior, the dashboard has a rather classic layout, with small instruments facing the driver, spreading its information also on a clearly legible head up display. Luckily there is a large 12 inch touch screen display in the centre, with all the necessary functions well laid out, including the obligatory Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.


The strong point of the C5 X is of course its legendary interior space. Rear passengers find regal legroom and this puts this car truly in a (more than) premium league. All this space doesn’t come at the cost of boot space, which is in standard form still offering a good 545 litres, which is extendable to a whopping 1645 litres. Despite its higher stance, the loading sill is pleasantly low.

A pounding heart

If one wouldn’t know better, one gets the impression that a big, old school 2 litre four cylinder petrol engine is doing all the work; it is not exactly refined, as vibrations on partial load at lower revs are clearly felt in the steering wheel.

But once you put your foot deeper, the engine runs smoother, and the 8 speed automatic changes also less perceptible. The gearbox can be ultra smooth when accelerating gradually at low urban speeds, and the engine is not too rough either, and even almost inaudible. So the engineers did their homework in slow city driving circumstances. The stop start function can be jerky sometimes, but soon one learns to avoid that with a sensitive right foot. All this behavior lets you think back to the DS 21 and DS 23 Injections in the seventies, and when you have known these cars, it gives you the impression that it is typically Citroën, this engine efficiency with a hint of roughness. Because efficient this engine is. Consumptions between 6 and 7 litres are easy to obtain, given of course an anticipative driving style, avoiding sprint accelerations.

Not that this 1,2 litre, 1,4 tonne Citroën is slow. Remember, 130 HP is exactly what a flagship 1972 DS 23 injection 5 speed was capable of, and its torque with 210 NM was even less than the 230 Nm the 1,2 litre three cylinder puts to the front wheels. Don’t forget, the DS 23 had a 2347 cc engine…The DS5 will sprint from 0 to 100 in 11,3 seconds, the historic DS 23 took 11 seconds to do the same. Top speed of the C5 is 210 km/h, doing honor to the Citroën tradition of “grande routière”. The DS 23 Injection was teasing Porsches in their days with a top speed of 188 km/h.

The good torque characteristics of this 1,2 litre engine and the alert 8 speed gearbox lets you enjoy good punch for overtaking and gaining  speed.

Thankfully the climate controls are analog beneath the touchscreen…

The legendary suspension and comfort…

The strong point of the DS5, and this is where it continues the tradition, is its masterful behavior at (high) motorway speeds. Because here the suspension comes into play, and here, despite the fact that we don’t have an adjustable suspension in this “basic” version, the engineers did a masterful job and succeeded in giving this big Citroën exactly this floating carpet ride which is so typical of them. This indeed makes this car an absolute king of the road, come rain, sleet, slippery surfaces, the C5 always seems to float over it with unerring stability and comfort, and…at speed. Cornering is also no punishment for the driver either, even when you are in big hurry. Of course there is some leaning to be felt in corners, but then again this feels completely natural. 

When talking about comfort, we have to mention here the absolutely fantastic Citroën comfort seats, which really stand out.

The pinnacle of mobility…

There is one thing in which this 1,2 litre petrol engined C5 X truly excels too: it has just a petrol engine only, and this does result in mean less weight to carry around, but also, and this we tend to forget in our electrified age, it gives you absolute mobility. After a (very) fast 700 km trip, it just takes minutes to refuel, and you can continue your journey for as long (and fast) as you want. Your formidable “pure” EV than has to rest for AT LEAST one hour, provided you find the proper recharging station…for example in the cute village you entered in the Alpes Maritimes…

Citroën says less is more… the rest you can read on the head up display…

With the abysmal recharging infrastructure we will witness still for years to come, as it cannot keep up with the increasing volumes of EV cars, increasing, this is an element which cannot be stressed enough. The reason also why all manufacturers are offering also (plug in) hybrids…


Is this 1,2 litre C5 X a true “big” Citroën? You bet it is. All the way. We mentioned its strong points, and this indeed makes it a car which continues the legend with panache and unique bravour.

We also like its style, its value for money, its roominess, comfort, safe, unerring, stable handling. Of course the C5 X is also offered with more sophisticated drivetrains, like the 225 HP Plug in hybrid version, but you get already the real taste of what a big Citroën is all about, enjoying as we said absolute mobility  with this 1,2 litre petrol engined drivetrain…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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