Citroen's C5 and C6 are on the verge of being reborn as distinctive-looking, high-tech, comfort-led cars
Citroën is set to re-emerge as the most distinctively styled mainstream brand in the world by launching a new large saloon at the start of the next decade — and the new C-xperience concept hints at some of its themes.
The C-xperience was originally touted as a nonspecific concept looking at future design directions the firm could take. However, Autocar understands that it has in fact been created to test reaction to a reborn Citroën C5 and C6 family being launched and to make a statement that the company has no intention of retreating from the big saloon market.
Citroën CEO Linda Jackson has previously hinted at the firm’s ambition, recently saying: “We are a mainstream brand but have the ability to overturn the established codes of the mainstream. In fact, our customers now expect it. How far can we take that? Can we go high end? I would say yes. Whatever the segment is, we can do it, but in our own way.”
Suggesting that the firm’s ambitions in the large car market were far from dead, she added: “The separation [of Citroën] from DS presents us with enormous opportunities. It has allowed us to redefine and clarify our aims for the brand with no limits and with nothing off limits.”
The DS 5 was the largest car in Citroën’s portfolio prior to the separation, although a version of the C6 is still sold in China.
At 4.85 metres long, the C-xperience is a similar length to the last C6. Its low height (1.37m), long wheelbase (3.0m) and swooping roofline may have been designed more for dramatic effect, but they are also a sign of the Citroën design team’s determination to continue the left-field design strategy kick-started with the C4 Cactus in 2014. By comparison, a Ford Mondeo is 4.87m long and 1.5m tall and has a wheelbase of 2.8m.
However, Citroën hopes that it can stand out from established class leaders such as the Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat by invoking a more grown-up version of the design flair that has proved so successful on the C4 Cactus and that will be applied to the new C3 when it goes on sale later this year.
It is also no coincidence that the C-xperience name references the CX, which was built between 1974 and 1991, winning the European Car of the Year trophy in 1975 and scooping more than 1.2 million sales during its lifetime. The CX was notable for — and named after — an aerodynamic profile that bucked convention and set new trends when it was originally launched.
The new C5 and C6 would benefit not just from striking exterior design but would also get a similarly uncluttered dashboard, large touchscreen and lounge-like chairs in the front and rear.
“Our core message is ‘Be different, feel good’, and every car we build will embody that philosophy,” said Jackson.
Citroën’s Advanced Comfort programme will be key, too. Although this is expected to be introduced before the new saloons arrive, its basic tenet of using an all-new suspension system to put ride comfort at the heart of the car’s make-up, while also filtering out external noise and vibration, brings Citroën back to its historical core strength of creating visually arresting cars that prioritise comfort. Potentially, it also gives Citroën a technological edge over its rivals, underpinning another core brand value established under Jackson’s leadership of offering cuttingedge technology.
“We have the history and the DNA to build unique and rewarding cars,” said Jackson. “We want Citroën to be an attractive, aspirational and iconic brand, whichever segment it is operating in.”
The success of a new C5 and C6 hinges on the cars being popular in the Chinese and Asian markets, where large saloon cars still sell well. Although it is likely the cars would be sold in Europe as well, sales of large saloons have plummeted in recent years as buyers have switched to SUVs. The C5, for instance, sold 145,000 units in Europe in 2002 but just 14,000 last year. The C6, meanwhile, peaked at 7000 units in Europe in 2007 but sold fewer than 1000 units by the time it was killed off in 2012.