Citroen is ready to make a splash in the mud... in the UK! Up until now, the French firm hasn’t dipped a toe in the SUV class. But that’s about to change as the C-Crosser is bursting into the off-roader market.
If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, that’s because the newcomer is part of a collaboration between Mitsubishi and PSA Peugeot Citroen. This has pro-duced the Outlander and the Peugeot 4007; we drove the latter in Issue 970.
All three get the same platform, 4x4 drivetrain and near-identical styling. Only at the front is there any variation, and in our view, the C-Crosser is the most handsome of the trio. With neat lights, the classy Citroen double-chevron grille and a sporty lower air intake, it’s not exactly a head-turner, but it has a friendlier face than the far more aggressive 4007.
Rivals include the Land Rover Freelander, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Captiva and Vauxhall Antara, so the French off-roader needs to look, and act, sharp in order to survive.
Along with its sister cars, the C-Crosser does have an advantage in this sector: it comes as standard with a handy seven-seat layout. The third row is quite cramped, as it is in the Captiva, while the seat folding mechanism has a cheap and flimsy feel. But there’s no denying the extra flexibility the layout provides. And boot space is decent. In five-seat mode, the load area has 510 litres of space; fold the rear seats flat, and this increases to 1,686 litres. The useful split tailgate supports items weighing up to 200kg, too.
Up front, the cabin is well laid-out, the driving position commanding and the standard equipment tally generous. The VTR+ comes with air-conditioning, cruise control and automatic headlights, while our flagship Exclusive adds leather, rear parking sensors and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Unfortunately, the design flair the maker has used to differentiate the C-Crosser from the Outlander outside isn’t replicated in the cabin. The finish isn’t as good as on other Citroens – such as the C4 Picasso – either.
Still, the driving experience is good. The newcomer features the same stiff suspension set-up as the Peugeot and Mitsubishi, which means it’s surprisingly car-like. The steering is accurate, there’s plenty of grip and body roll is minimal – although the ride is rather firm, and not as comfortable as other Citroen models.
Aiding stability is an electronically controlled 4x4 system, engaged by a switch next to the gearlever. Power from the 156bhp 2.2-litre HDi diesel can be sent to the front wheels or all four, but it’s best to leave the system in ‘auto’ mode and let it feed the diesel’s impressive 380Nm of torque to the tyres that need it most.
There’s a setting which locks the differentials, too, aiding traction over slippery terrain. But as ground clearance is so limited, the C-Crosser isn’t really a full-on mud-plugger in the same way as the Freelander.
Back on the tarmac, the punchy engine provides impressive acceleration. It’s quite green, too, returning nearly 40mpg and emitting 191g/km of CO2. However, it is rather noisy.
Buyers are offered a choice of two specification levels: the VTR+ costs £22,790, while the range-topping Exclusive we drove is £25,490 – the prices are exactly the same as for the equivalent 4007 models. By comparison, the Outlander will set you back around £1,000 less.
To put this into perspective, if you want a seven-seat Citroen, a luxuriously equipped C4 Picasso is nearly £4,000 cheaper. It’s no off-roader, but is a class-leading family transporter. The C-Crosser is unlikely to claim a similar title in compact SUV circles.
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