After the 180 hp and 225 hp plug-in hybrid versions, the C5 Aircross is the first Citroën to be fitted with the new 136 hp Puretech light hybrid engine. What do we think of this version, which enriches the range and opens the door to electric motors? Find out in this essay.
A revised Puretech engine
In order to develop this new hybrid range, the Stellantis Group has teamed up with Punch Powertrain, which has developed a new 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that incorporates an electric motor, allowing the vehicle to be driven over short distances with a reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. This new automatic gearbox is combined with a completely redesigned 1.2 Puretech engine, 40% of whose parts are new, and in particular with a timing chain that replaces the much-maligned and problematic oil-immersed belt. This new engine develops 136 bhp, just a little more than the previous engine, for a torque of 230 Nm, identical to the previous generation. Finally, this new engine uses a Miller cycle, which increases its efficiency and helps to reduce CO2 emissions.
To complete the package, a small 48-volt battery with a capacity of 0.432 kWh is installed under the left front seat, allowing light driving in 100% electric mode. However, and this is the real trick of this new engine, Stellantis has opted for a strong energy recovery during braking, equivalent to that of electric vehicles, which, combined with the small capacity of the battery, allows it to be recharged very quickly, allowing a fairly long purely electric driving time, particularly in urban cycles. This small battery also has the advantage of not affecting the interior space, boot volume or fuel tank of the C5 Aircross, which maintains its positioning as a family SUV.
An ideal solution?
Getting behind the wheel of this C5 Aircross equipped with the new engine was therefore eagerly awaited to verify the contributions of this new hybrid offer, which is somewhat unique compared to what is available on the market. With this new offer, the C5 Aircross enriches its engine range with a simple hybrid engine that allows an easy entry into the world of electrification but, as you will see, is completely convincing.
Aesthetically, there is no difference between the C5 Aircross Hybrid and the other engines, and we end up with an SUV that has benefited greatly from its restyling and remains as modern and attractive to look at as ever. Inside, apart from slight modifications to the dashboard displays to indicate which engine is being used, there are no differences. What we have here is an SUV with a very horizontal dashboard that does not encroach on the space of the front passengers.
You can feel the difference as soon as you step on the accelerator. Where previously the EAT8 automatic transmission made the engine rev up in the first three gears, the new ë-DCS6 transmission allows the car to move off with the greatest smoothness and, above all, silence, which is a real plus compared to the previous Puretech. The first few metres are covered in 100% electric mode, very smoothly, with the feeling of driving in the plug-in hybrid version, even though the power of the electric motor is low, but the torque, which is immediately available, allows you to move off smoothly and quietly. As soon as the speed increases, the Puretech engine kicks in almost imperceptibly and takes over, offering more or less the same performance as the old engine. This does not make the C5 Aircross a sports car, nor is it intended to be, as Citroën's large SUV plays the comfort and family card first and foremost. The C5 Aircross's comfort is enhanced by the smoothness of the electric motor and the absence of noise and vibration, even if the electric motor does have a tendency to make a few odd noises.
The C5 Aircross equipped with this engine shifts gears very smoothly and without jerks, the alternation between the electric and the thermal engine is imperceptible and you have to rely on the colour of the dashboard to know which engine is in use: blue for the electric, white for the thermal. Of course, the city is its favourite playground and this C5 Aircross Hybrid 136 allows, if its technology is used efficiently, to drive mainly with the electric motor, on average 50%, but it is possible to do up to 78%. of the journey in electric mode by optimising its driving. This allows the brand's large SUV to display an average consumption of 5.5 litres per 100, a considerable gain compared to the 1.2 Puretech 130 engine, which consumed up to 9 litres per 100 in pure urban driving, so it is a step forward. especially appreciable in these times of expensive petrol. With a peak power of only 21 hp, we were afraid that the electric motor's effect would be very weak and only come into play when starting or decelerating, especially as the battery is small, but surprisingly we found ourselves driving at high speeds, powered only by the electric motor, for a reasonable distance before the combustion engine kicked in to recharge the battery.
This is true on the motorway at 90 kph, where it is possible to do half the journey in electric mode. Obviously, the motorway is not its favourite playground, but it is still possible to use the electric motor alone for up to 5-10% of the time at low load, which still allows us to see a significant drop in average consumption. Over the 2,000 kilometres of the test, the average consumption was 6.3 litres on the motorway, one litre less than the previous C5 Aircross with Puretech 130 engine and EAT8 automatic gearbox.
This new engine is undoubtedly the ideal solution for those who cannot recharge a plug-in hybrid every day and have to travel long distances. The C5 Aircross weighs less than 75 kilos, which has a positive effect on fuel consumption. This new technology is relevant for the first step towards electrification thanks to its small, fast-recharging battery, which allows 100% electric driving over long distances in urban or suburban areas. To achieve this, however, it must be used wisely, particularly in terms of energy recovery management. As the latter is very powerful, you have to learn to lift your foot in time to both recharge the batteries and slow the car down without using the brakes, since this strong recovery allows you to drive almost with just one pedal, as in a 100% electric car, the brake pedal really only being used to stop. Once this driving habit has been acquired, the 136 Hybrid engine will be at its best and will be particularly useful and effective in reducing fuel consumption without reducing driving pleasure.
The C5 Aircross 136 hybrid replaces the old Puretech 130 engine with an EAT 8 gearbox in the brand's large SUV range. The C5 Aircross hybrid 136 costs €1,650 more than the latter and has the same specification, but the price difference of €170 makes the difference between the old pure thermal version and this new hybrid a few hundred euros, which is quickly offset by the fuel savings. Citroën has also chosen to equip the electrified versions of its vehicles better, and the C5 Aircross hybrid 136 is no exception. It is equipped as standard with front parking assistance, hands-free starting, electrically folding door mirrors with welcome lighting, and soundproofed and laminated front side windows, all of which are not available on the equivalent 130 Puretech version.
For the rest, the C5 Aircross remains true to itself, a true family SUV with plenty of space for passengers, which proved to be extremely comfortable throughout its 2,000 kilometres and on all routes, with a smooth, truly enjoyable driving experience. The interior remains as pleasant as ever, with a warm atmosphere enhanced in this Max version by the Alcantara seats. All in all, the C5 Aircross offers a cabin where travelling is a pleasure and where every passenger will easily find comfort, storage space and exceptional convenience. This long-distance test shows that the C5 Aircross has been successfully restyled, becoming more modern and more assertive without losing its fundamentals. The new 10-inch screen brings a welcome touch of modernity to the dashboard, even if it is a shame that Citroën has retained the old multimedia system with its two climate controls, which further reduces the screen's usable width. It's even more of a shame that when you pair your phone and switch to Android Auto, still with a cable, navigation is rather limited. This is the only major drawback of the C5 Aircross, which seems to be lagging behind in this respect, especially in view of the competition from Renault Austral.
In conclusion, the new 136 hybrid engine is an excellent alternative to the purely thermal versions, where it offers a significant improvement in fuel consumption and driving smoothness, but also to the rechargeable hybrid versions, where it is clearly more accessible. The difference between the C5 Aircross Hybrid 136 and its plug-in hybrid equivalent 180 is €6,700, a considerable difference even if the plug-in hybrid version allows you to drive longer distances in 100% electric mode, provided you recharge every day, which can prove to be a significant constraint. It is therefore an excellent proposition that Citroën offers with this new 136 hp hybrid engine, which combines smooth driving and fuel economy while being accessible compared to an equivalent thermal engine.