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Citroen unveils C5 Aircross plug-in hybrid

Australian case ‘under study’ for plug-in hybrid variant of Citroen C5 Aircross SUV

7 Nov 2019

A PLUG-IN hybrid version of the Citroen C5 Aircross mid-size SUV claimed to be capable of a 50km electric-only range is under study for the Australian market.


Touted as the French brand’s technological flagship, the new variant is also its most powerful, combining a 134kW four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with 80kW electric motor, sending a combined 168kW and 320Nm to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.


It will go on sale in Europe during the first half of 2020 as the opening salvo in Citroen’s push to offer electrification on every model in its range by the middle of the decade, with at least one full-electric model joining the line-up.


Given the European starting price of the C5 Aircross Hybrid is €39,950 ($A64,350) and

the internal-combustion-only version sells here from $39,990 to $43,990 plus on-roads costs, Citroen would be unlikely to compete with Australia’s incumbent plug-in hybrid mid-size SUV, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which is priced from $45,990 to $53,990 plus on-roads.


If it does end up on sale in Australia, the C5 Aircross Hybrid will have to rely on its more modern design and comparatively upmarket interior to justify a significantly higher cost of entry.


This, and the fact that during silent electric running the hybrid Citroen would benefit from class-leading levels of sound insulation already present in up-spec C5 Aircross variants, including acoustic laminated front windows.


Also, the company’s bespoke Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension technology and special seating foam further insulate occupants from the outside world.


Both the Citroen and Mitsubishi post combined fuel consumption of 1.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, although the French SUV is rated using the more conservative WLTP cycle designed to more closely reflect real-world figures.


Similarly, the difference in rating regimes allows the Outlander’s claimed electric-only range to be 4km higher than the Citroen, despite its 12kWh battery pack being slightly smaller than the French SUV’s 13.2kWh capacity.


But compared with the front-drive Citroen, the Outlander PHEV packs all-wheel drive courtesy of 60kW electric motors on both axles, along with a basic 87kW/186Nm naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet.


Peugeot’s 3008 GT Hybrid4 out-punches both with its 220kW all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid set-up that can dispatch the SUV from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.5 seconds while offering the same battery-only range as the C5 Aircross. This model – Peugeot’s most powerful production car to date – is also under study for Australia.


A full recharge of the C5 Aircross Hybrid takes four hours using a 14-amp domestic power outlet and less than two hours using a 7.4kW wall box charger. The multimedia touchscreen or a smartphone app can be used to program charging times to exploit off-peak energy prices.


Topping up the battery while on the move is boosted using the automatic transmission’s Brake mode that amplifies regenerative braking during deceleration. Meanwhile, Citroen claims a starter-generator enables the petrol engine to kick in and cut out quickly and quietly.


By placing the new model’s battery pack beneath the three individually sliding and folding rear seats, Citroen has been able to preserve much of the C5’s boot space (480 litres with the seats slid backward, 600L with them slid forward) and the 1.9-metre load length is shared with internal-combustion-only variants.


Compared with Australian-delivered C5 Aircross models that lack adaptive cruise control, the Hybrid is capable of Level 2 autonomy when the Highway Driver Assist system is engaged, which combines the suite of up to 20 available active safety and driver assistance technologies to “partially delegate” driving in “urban traffic and fast lanes”.


Since launching here in July this year to much hope and expectation, the C5 Aircross has so far been a slow seller in Australia with 34 units reported to date comprising four in June, four in July, 11 in August, nine in September and six in October.


As Citroen has more than 30 dealerships around Australia, it is possible that all these deliveries were demonstrator cars.


Further hampering matters was a disappointing four-star crash-test safety rating handed down by ANCAP.

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