That's saying something judging by Citroen's back-catalogue of quirky designs over the years, but the C5 X really is something that'll stand out on UK roads when it arrives later this year. Knowing that big, stately and impossibly comfy French cars fail spectacularly in most places other than France and China, the C5 X uses an assortment of styling themes to make it appealing to a greater spectrum of people. That's why it shuns a traditional 'three-box' saloon car shape for a silhouette that's part-estate-car, part coupe-SUV, and as SUVs are all the rage there’s a raised ride height and driving position. It rivals anything from a Volkswagen Arteon eHybrid to a Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid.
Actually, the Citroen C5 Aircross is worth mentioning as the C5 X pinches that car's structure, its petrol engine and plug-in hybrid system. Obviously, here at Electrifying.com, we're only interested in the plug-in hybrid.
Under the rather long bonnet sits a 178bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine, which is supplemented by an 81.2kW electric motor and a 12.4kWh battery pack, giving 222bhp. Citroen claims a CO2 figure as low as 30g/km meaning business users will be paying 12% company car tax, and a 34-mile electric range.
Our test drive in Spain didn't allow us to test just how accurate that claimed range is, but judging by our experience with the C5 Aircross plug-in hybrid, it won't be much less than that in normal driving. The C5 X also slips between petrol and electric power very well, too, with the engine only getting a little coarse on steep uphill roads.
Fuel economy-wise, Citroen says the C5 X will manage 188mpg but that's no way representative of real-world driving. That said, as with all PHEVs, plug in as often as possible and you could see anything between 80 and 100mpg on mixed roads.
Citroen also makes the job of plugging in a bit easier as there's not only a smartphone app, but if the car recognises it hasn't been connected to a charger for more than 10 days it'll remind the driver to do so. The C5 X gets a 7.4kW on-board charger meaning a full charge will take less than two hours. Moreover, just as with its mechanically-similar sister cars like the C5 Aircross and Vauxhall Grandland Hybrid-e, the C5 X can charge its batteries while driving (to the detriment of fuel economy).
Big Citroens of the past have been known for very comfy suspension, and the C5 X is no different. Recent Citroens have been part of the brand's 'Advanced Comfort Programme' and, putting it simply, features special dampers on the suspension to give a pillowy-soft ride, extra squidgy seats and, with the plug-in hybrid C5 X, a new electronically-controlled suspension system.
We've been moderately impressed with the comfort in models like the e-C4 and C5 Aircross PHEV, but the C5 X is in a different league. On all sorts of roads whether its battered city streets, scarred country roads or super-smooth motorways, the C5 X has the type of ride quality that you would expect in a car costing nearly 10 times as much. Factor in thicker glass for better sound insulation on our top-spec Shine Plus model and around 30 miles of pure-electric running (up to speeds of 81mph), and the C5 X is outstandingly comfortable and refined.
It doesn't go to pot if you drive the C5 X enthusiastically, either. The steering is a little on the lifeless side, but the car grips well and always feels secure. There are different driving modes including a 'Sport' setting that firms up the suspension, but really the C5 X is more at home being driven leisurely.
As for space inside, there's plenty of it upfront and thanks to Citroen building the car not just in China but with the Chinese in mind, there's tons of rear leg and headroom. The boot doesn't quite offer the space of a traditional estate car like the Volkswagen Passat GTE or an SUV like the C5 Aircross, but at 485 litres (1,580 litres with the seats down) it's still of a decent size.
The C5 X feels a bit Volkswageny in terms of quality too. It easily has the most tactile and well-screwed-together interior of any Citroen on sale. The dashboard has a lovely mixture of squidgy plastics, stitched leather (the stitches are in the shape of Citroen's double-chevron badge) and wood trim giving a pleasingly quality feel. There's also a new version of Citroen's infotainment system which is both easier to use and looks better than before.
Citroen has pulled off a bit of a coup with the C5 X as it could have felt like a big car with an identity crisis, but it doesn't. In many respects it's a welcome alternative for those bored with plug-in hybrid SUVs.