It's an SUV! It's a wagon! No, it's the Citroen C5 X, and it shows just why the discerningly French brand is one that shouldn't go so overlooked.

Let’s be honest, the humble station wagon has rather gone out of fashion. Sure, petrolheads might still love them – that cohort very much includes myself – but the majority of people seem to have conceded that a bigger, heavier, thirstier SUV is a better way of getting the job done.

However, it seems that Citroen has found a way to make a wagon that people might buy – give it a hint of added ground clearance, some subtle black plastic cladding, and imply it’s a crossover by giving it the name C5 X. That’s right, the once frumpy C5 wagon has evolved into something seriously sleek that’s neither a wagon nor an SUV by either conventional measure thanks to an almost sedan-like roofline. Indeed, even Citroen Australia’s managing director Kate Gillis describes it as being, “in true Citroen fashion, a one-of-a-kind car”. You can say that again.

Just one version of the 2023 C5 X is offered in Australia, the top-spec Shine which comes priced from $57,670 before on-road costs. Just about everything you could want on it comes as standard, so what paint colour you’d like is about the only choice you’ll need to make – only Magnetic Blue is standard and most hues charge $690, although the Pearl White of my tester is the dearest at a $1050 added cost.

Certainly, the unique styling of the Citroen C5 X is a hit in my eyes. With the lower body cladding remaining subtle, big 19-inch wheels as standard, and a long 4805mm profile, it looks thoroughly premium. Telling of just how sleek but practical a design it is, it stands just 1490mm tall despite offering 194mm of ground clearance.

What really makes me feel that it’s more of a wagon, however, is the driving position. You really do slip down into the cockpit, sitting low down and cocooned by its cabin that’s refreshingly unique. Naturally, Citroen’s trademark chevrons appear almost everywhere throughout the cabin – from the stitching on the seats and door cards, to the texture of the dashboard, to the perforations in the seats, and even as a grain over the top of the wooden trim – which makes it all the more distinctive.

Between the Paloma leather upholstery and wood-grain trim on the dashboard, it feels quite high-quality inside the cabin as well, while the very supportive ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats, combined with heating for the front seats and steering wheel, certainly does the job of maintaining comfort. What really makes it relaxing above all else, though, is just how quiet this cabin is inside thanks to the acoustic insulated windscreen and side windows. You’ll definitely hear a pin drop in here, it’s that serene.

Being a Citroen, it’s not without its quirks. For instance, the trip computer doesn’t show up in the (admittedly small) 7.0-inch instrument cluster, but instead on the head-up display, making the instrument cluster seem almost like an afterthought. However, if you turn the HUD off, the trip computer and other vehicle information shown on it then appears in the instrument cluster. I’m sure it’s something most won’t mind, but it’s a bit odd nonetheless.

Likewise, the shifter situation is a bit of an odd one, using a stubby little toggle switch for going between Reverse and Drive (and yes, the moulding of it and the surrounding trim incorporates more chevrons) and tiny buttons for engaging Park or putting it into Manual mode to use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

But beyond this, it’s actually more of a straightforward interior than you might expect. The infotainment system, for instance, doesn’t require a computer science degree to operate; instead, it’s logically laid out on its 12.0-inch touchscreen, has straightforward TomTom sat nav, offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and even has a “Hello Citroen” voice command so you can control it hands-free while driving. The climate controls and all other switchgear is also as straightforward as you like. Don’t get me wrong, the quirks are still here – after all, even the steering wheel is more square than it is round – but it’s done logically enough that it isn’t alienating. It’s a bold personality without the off-putting brashness.

Being the size that it is, it’s undoubtedly practical as well. There’s a big centre console storage cubby, a wireless phone charger with an extra storage tray hidden under a cover, and sizeable door pockets to boot. Perhaps the only thing that has been overlooked is a rear centre armrest – something that should be present in a $57k car, let alone one designed to be a comfortable tourer.

Of course, the boot is massive as well, able to accomodate 545 litres of luggage with the rear seats still in place and 1640 litres with the rear seats folded flat. The cargo area is nice and long as well, meaning some items you might need to fold the seats down for in a normal, stubby SUV will easily fit with them up in the C5 X. Ah, the benefits of a wagon… if, indeed, you see the C5 X as one.

Although most older Citroen C5 wagons you’ll encounter will have a diesel engine in them, the C5 X sticks solely to petrol power, utilising the same 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder you’ll find in a host of other Citroen and Peugeot models. Producing 133kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at a low 1650rpm, it’s capable of getting the 1430kg C5 X from 0-100km/h in a claimed 8.1 seconds. An eight-speed Aisin automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are both standard.

It might not be the most powerful engine in the world, but there’s no denying that the 1.6 is a cracking engine. Thanks to its strong low-end torque, it never feels as though it’s breaking a sweat, while the relatively low displacement and smaller turbo means that it feels responsive when you do plant the throttle. It’s only then that you’ll ever hear it, either, as the rest of the time it remains utterly muted, never shattering the cabin’s quiet ambiance.

However, the real magic of the C5 X comes from its suspension, as in Citroen fashion it uses independent suspension with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions at each corner with the promise of delivering the brand’s famous ‘magic carpet ride’ – and deliver on that promise, it does. It simply eats up the bumps ravenously – before you know they were there, they’re gone, with only the worst of road surfaces able to thwart it – while still managing to keep things controlled in the corners.

Sure, the first time you throw it around a bend it’ll feel a tad odd driving on hydraulics, but very quickly you get used to how progressive it feels, especially compared to even some air suspension systems. In a world of ‘sporty’ rides, trust a Citroen to show that comfort is still what you really want.

By no means is the long C5 X a corner-carver, but through longer sweeping bends it feels right at home, especially when you factor in the pleasant weighting of its steering and progressive power delivery of its engine when combined with the impressive body control the suspension affords it. This is one of those cars where putting it in Sport mode offers a tangible difference as well, rather than simply making it noisier and thirstier like in some cars.

And that’s the funny thing – for a big wagon (or SUV or however you view the C5 X) it barely uses more than a drop of fuel. Over a 230km course of mixed driving, I saw a return of a mere 6.8L/100km – not much above its 6.0L/100km claim, which likely would have been achievable had the car not sat idling for so long while taking photos. Trust me when I say you’re not going to see that sort of fuel economy from many SUVs out there.

Perhaps the only disappointment to note is the transmission, which I felt was the only thing that at any point came close to spoiling the serenity. Although a torque converter auto, it feels to have been tuned to replicate the feeling of a dual-clutch gearbox, and while that’s fine when you’re linking together some sweeping bends, it can display a touch of hesitancy and jerkiness in traffic. Most of the time, though, it’s entirely fine, but I do feel it should have been tuned more for smoothness like the rest of the car has been.

Given the fancy hydraulic suspension setup, you can at least take comfort in knowing that the C5 X is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, although maintaining it outside of the warranty period is something I can’t imagine would be cheap. That neatly leads onto servicing – Citroen offers capped price servicing for the first five years/75,000km, but at an average of just under $564 per service it is on the expensive side.

To me, though, I feel it’s worth taking a gamble on. It’s refreshing to come across a car so focused on comfort and refinement today when the rest of the car market would have you believe everything needs to be sporty even when it absolutely doesn’t need to be. And really, that lack of pretension is perfectly fitting for a wagon like this – it owns that it is what it is, and it’s shameless in its pursuit of being fit for purpose. I think it’s fantastic, and an alternative to the sea of largely drab SUVs that absolutely shouldn’t be overlooked.

2023 Citroen C5 X Shine List Price: $57,670 | As Tested: $59,012
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Superb ride quality, 1.6L turbo is a cracking engine, well-equipped and surprisingly logical interior, massive boot
Cons: Transmission is occasionally hesitant, pricey servicing, no rear centre armrest

In a nutshell: In a sea of ‘sporty’ cars, it’s refreshing to find one as focused on comfort as the 2023 Citroen C5 X is. It might have a few quirks and be expensive to maintain, but it’s well-equipped, refined, and more practical and efficient than the sea of drab SUVs that are bought in droves. The C5 X, then, is a real thinking person’s car. In my eyes, it’s worth bucking the norm for.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Jarvis Citroen in conjunction with Inchcape Australia for three days with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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