After the 180 hp and 225 hp plug-in hybrid versions, Citroën is completing the C5 Aircross electrified range with a new 136 hp single hybrid version. What is the value of this version, which enriches the range and gives access to electrified engines? Find out in this essay.
Getting behind the wheel of this C5 Aircross equipped with the new engine was therefore eagerly awaited, in order to verify the contributions of this new hybrid offer, which is somewhat unique compared to what is available on the market. In fact, the engine offered by Stellantis is based on the extensively revised 1.2-litre Puretech, 40% of whose parts are new, and equipped with a chain rather than a belt drive. The engine is mated to a new 6-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with a small electric motor (21 hp peak) powered by a very small 432 Wh battery. This unit delivers 136 bhp with the same torque as the previous engine (230 Nm), but above all, this hybrid solution aims to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by an average of 15%.
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 minor modifications to the dashboard displays to indicate which engine is being used, there are no differences and we are left with an SUV that still offers a high quality feel, with a very horizontal dashboard that does not encroach on the space of the front passengers.
The difference is immediately noticeable when 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 start up with the greatest smoothness and, above all, the greatest 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 if the power of the electric motor is low, but the torque, immediately available, allows you to set off on the only electric motor. 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. Two qualities that go hand in hand with this new hybrid engine, which blends in particularly well with the C5 Aircross's comfort, adding the smoothness of electric driving and the absence of noise and vibration, even when the electric motor is in the mood for it.
The C5 Aircross equipped with this engine shifts gears very smoothly and without jerks, the alternation between the electric and 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. On the 31 km circuit designed to test the alternation between urban cycles and departmental roads, the C5 Aircross Hybrid proved to be extremely pleasant to drive, allowing you to drive at the permitted speeds without any problems with electric driving, which, if used correctly, can really work wonders. In fact, 52% of the journey could be made on electric power alone, without trying to be as efficient as possible and with a few hard accelerations to see what this new engine had in its belly. As a result, the C5 Aircross has an average fuel consumption of 5.9 litres per 100 km, an improvement of more than a litre per 100 km, which can still be improved with the zen driving style typical of this type of engine. . With a peak power of only 21 hp, one might have feared that the electric motor's effect would be really weak and only when starting or decelerating, especially as the battery is weak, but very surprisingly I found myself driving at more than 70 km/h and being able to rely on the electric motor alone for a reasonable distance before the thermal engine kicked in to recharge the battery.
The quality of this new hybrid engine in the C5 Aircross is such that it is fair to ask whether the plug-in hybrid versions are still worthwhile, as this engine seems to have succeeded. The C5 Aircross offers a really smooth ride and, thanks to energy recovery, a very pleasant taste of electric driving. As the latter is powerful enough to quickly recharge the small battery, it is possible to drive in city traffic in "one pedal" mode, since when the accelerator is released, the braking is so sensitive that it is almost possible to do without pressing the brake pedal, which is only necessary for a complete stop or significant slowing down. This new engine can undoubtedly be described as the ideal solution for those who do not have the option of daily recharging and who have to travel long distances, especially as the C5 Aircross has a reduced weight of just under 75 kilos, which is advantageous in terms of fuel consumption, especially on the motorway.
The 136 C5 Aircross Hybrid, which costs €4,500 more than a similarly equipped Puretech model, has the advantage of an automatic gearbox and is also better equipped, as it comes with front parking assistance, hands-free start, electrically folding door mirrors with welcome lighting, and acoustic and laminated front side windows, all standard features not available on the 130 Puretech. In addition, its penalty is also reduced to around €170 when you have to count around €550 for the old Puretech engine. This increase may seem significant, but compared to the previous version of the Puretech 130 engine with the EAT8 automatic gearbox, the difference is only €1,150, which is largely offset by the increase in equipment, the reduction in the penalty and, above all, the very positive effect of this new hybrid engine on the driving experience, which really convinced me.
For the rest, the C5 Aircross remains true to itself, a real family SUV with plenty of space for the passengers and an extremely comfortable ride, even if the 19-inch wheels on this test version were a little too firm in places. Nevertheless, Citroën's large SUV still has a pleasant interior where the atmosphere is warm and where travelling is good, especially with this new engine that offers smoothness, silence and significantly reduced consumption. More accessible than plug-in hybrids, which cost almost €7,000 more, this new engine makes a fantastic combination with the natural qualities of the C5 Aircross, making it an ideal solution. The conditions of this test did not allow to verify the consumption on the motorway, which will not be its favourite playground, but there is no doubt that the hybrid solution should allow some savings, which will be verified in a future more thorough test.
In conclusion, this new hybrid engine proves to be very relevant, as it offers smooth driving at an additional cost that is quite reasonable in view of the benefits it brings. Despite the small battery, it is possible to drive most of the time on electric power alone, which allows considerable savings, especially in city traffic, where the C5 Aircross with the previous Puretech 130 engine was rather greedy. Driving here is smooth and quiet, perfectly in keeping with the C5 Aircross's natural comfort, which it maximises. It is undoubtedly an excellent surprise that this new engine will be used throughout the range and will prove to be even more relevant and efficient in the lighter models. I have to admit that I was thrilled by this C5 Aircross Hybrid 136, as this new engine is efficient and fits perfectly, Citroën is rearming its large SUV with this new version which should, I hope, allow it to see its sales rebound.