UK CAR Road Test
Citroen C5 SX

In the C5 range, the SX is the top-rated two-litre HDi specification. You can't get this engine with Exclusive or Exclusive SE trim and equipment, which, on the list of saloon diesels, are available only with the 2.2. Of course, in the context of the C5, the word saloon is a little misleading. This is the five-door hatchback model and it's called saloon only to differentiate it from estate.

Despite the high seating position, there's plenty of headroom front and rear. The rear seats also have better knee  and foot room than many of the C5's rivals. Plenty of space in the boot, too, with its securing net and collection of side-mounted tags to keep bottles and whatever in place.

Velour upholstery is standard in the SX and this version shares the rather suave fascia design with its sweeping, gradual curves. 

As soon as you start the engine, there's a familiar diesel clatter but it's heard more by people outside the car than by those inside. And it doesn't take long for the diesel noise to fade away as the C5 accelerates away and then settles into cruising mode. 

The two-litre is relaxed when in long-striding motorway mode but there's a punchy performance as you climb to the torque plateau. It gets to 188lb/ft at 1750rpm and although that's way below the 2.2 HDi's phenomenal 237lb/ft, the smaller engine clambers onto its top level 250rpm sooner.

I never felt that it was straining and the mid-range pull on the level and on climbs was invigorating. On one trip I did several miles on a hilly single-track road with passing places at each minor summit and the C5 certainly did its stuff as it raced up the gradients so as not to "overlap" any oncoming vehicles with the almost inevitable shuffling about that causes.

Out on country roads, the suspension soaked up the bumps, and yet let the car swing securely through fast corners.

The two-litre HDi models don't have the full auto-adaptive Hydractive suspension which is reserved for the top cars in the range (as in the Citroen Xantia V6 review). They use a simpler version which still has self-levelling as well as that ingenious facility to lower itself on motorway runs and raise itself on really bumpy surfaces.

After all the high-powered turbo diesels we've been driving lately it actually came as a bit of a relief to experience one whose performance was neither more nor less than adequate for its purpose. When buying, consider the positive fuel economy benefits - in the right circumstances the C5 showed every sign of being able to make a tankful last 600 miles


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