Citroën’s first foray into the SUV world makes a competent all-rounder

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Contrary to what the name might suggest, the C-Crosser’s not a boat but Citroën’s new SUV. Imagine you’re a greengrocer. You sell a good selection of homegrown fruit and vegetables: apples, strawberries, cauliflower, cabbage. But there’s a sudden rush on bananas. What do you do: attempt to grow them yourself? Not in Blighty. No, what you do is buy a few in and flog ’em as your own.

That sums up Citroën’s approach to SUV-making. Having recognised the current boom for 4x4s, parent company PSA has gone in with Mitsubishi to develop the Outlander soft-roader for Europe. It has taken that car, given it styling to suit the brand’s avant-garde image and chassis tuning to suit European roads. The result is the C-Crosser, and its PSA sibling, the Peugeot 4007

Love the huge door mirrors — you can see so much out of them and they seem to make the C-Crosser more agile than it is.

There isn’t much history in the C-Crosser’s closet, Citroën’s only other forays into the 4x4 arena being decidedly left-field offerings such as the BX and AX 4x4s, the C25 4x4, the Berlingo XTR+ and, of course, the never-to-be-forgotten Mehari 4x4 and the crazy twin-engined 2CV Sahara.

The C-Crosser concept itself was first displayed at the Geneva show back in 2001 and also happened to feature drive-by-wire steering. But that was very different from the car you see here, which is technically little more than a restyled, rebadged Mitsubishi Outlander/Peugeot 4007.



Citroën C-Crosser headlights

The C-Crosser may be little more than a Mitsubishi Outlander or Peugeot 4007 but, in reality, there’s very little wrong with that. The fact that it is described by Citroën’s marketing people as “a true Citroën, featuring genuine Citroën DNA” may well be one of the more ambitious uses of hyperbole you’ll come across in a press pack (which is saying something) but the C-Crosser’s Mitsubishi underpinnings are nevertheless hard to fault.

And when it comes to its engine and six-speed gearbox, the Citroën makes an extremely convincing case for itself beside any rival, including its Mitsubishi cousin. The C-Crosser uses the same 2.2-litre HDi unit found in the Outlander and 4007, among others. It produces 156bhp at 4000rpm and a solid 280lb ft at 2000rpm, and it is unusually clean for such a torquey off-road powerplant, producing just 190g/km of CO2.

The Mitsubishi sat-nav system works fine, but isn’t as polished or quick as the PSA system Citroën uses elsewhere

The C-Crosser is identical to the Outlander mechanically, featuring a part-time four-wheel drive system that can be engaged merely by rotating an iDrive-like knob down by the gearlever. This engages a series of sensors that detect wheel slip, steering angle and road speed to apportion however much torque to the rear wheels the system sees fit.

Suspension is by struts and coil springs at the front and what Citroën ambitiously describes as a multi-link arrangement at the rear. (In fact, there are only four links, not five, the number normall associated with "multi-link".) The C-Crosser’s spring and dampers rates are bespoke compared with those of the Outlander and 4007, but the rack-and-pinion power steering and all-round disc braking systems are identical.


Citroën C-Crosser interior

Barring badges and different trim colours and patterns, the interior of the C-Crosser is effectively identical to that in the Mitsubishi Outlander, including part-time third-row seats suitable for children. It’s well finished and feels tough, but buyers will look in vain for the sort of quality touches displayed by upmarket rivals, and found in Citroen's DS models.

By buying into an established SUV recipe, Citroën has also given the C-Crosser many of the virtues of the longer-standing members of the class. It has lockable four-wheel drive, five roomy seats, two extra folding seats behind those for the kids, a proper tailgate, a flat boot floor and nearly 1700 litres of cargo space.

You can only specify your C-Crosser with a six-speed manual, a shame because an auto would broaden its appeal

On the one hand, it’s hard to fault the C-Crosser for the amount of space it offers inside, or for the amount of equipment it offers, especially in top-of-the-range Exclusive guise. The front seats are a mite flat but entirely comfortable on long journeys and they offer support in most of the right places, while those in the middle row (which in most situations will be regarded as the back row) are well shaped and comfortable.

Even the occasional two seats in the rear are surprisingly roomy for children, although they are not the most simple to erect. But at least they’re there; the Freelander, BMW X3 and Toyota RAV4 don’t even have them.

The main issue we have with the cabin concerns the quality of the plastics, of which there are quite a few different varieties, and the rather cheap and not especially cheerful way in which the various buttons, stalks and switches operate.

Basically, there’s no difference whatsoever in the cabin materials or quality between the C-Crosser and the Outlander. They are identical inside, apart from minute detail badging. Given that the C-Crosser Exclusive costs considerably more than the Outlander, Citroën is asking a lot from its customers.


Citroën C-Crosser

The C-Crosser is equipped only with the 2.2-litre HDi engine found in various other Citroen and PSA models. It pulls strongly, revs smoothly, and still returns 40mpg. By and large, the C-Crosser serves up an impressive amount of performance, considering its size, weight and dynamic aspirations, and it does so in a satisfyingly refined manner.

A wide band of torque gives the C-Crosser good low-end acceleration and mid-range overtaking ability, provided you’re willing to work the six-speed manual gearbox. (A six-speed automatic is available as a £1225 option.)

In dry conditions the C-Crosser is just as secure and quick in 2wd as it is in 4wd

The most impressive aspect of this torque delivery is in the low to mid-ranges, right at the point where you want a slug of acceleration. Even at 1500rpm, there’s a surprisingly muscular stream of performance available, and it stays strong until just the other side of 4000rpm. Compared with, say, the Vauxhall Antara, the C-Crosser is quieter, more refined, and perkier to drive.

Even against the stopwatch, it does a reasonably good job, just ducking under the 10sec barrier for the 0-60mph sprint and taking only a shade over 30sec to reach three figures. You never feel the need to thrash it merely to keep up with other traffic.

The minority of C-Crosser owners who fancy taking their cars off road will be disappointed to find that peak pulling power isn’t served at lower revs to help out with mud-crawling. Although the C-Crosser has lockable four-wheel drive, there’s little doubt that it wouldn’t perform as well over fields as an identically engined Land Rover Freelander.


Citroën C-Crosser cornering

There’s a genuinely impressive edge to the C-Crosser’s chassis, a welcome change for a Citroen. Despite the size and weight it is a surprisingly enjoyable car to drive. It’s easy to place on the road and will corner surprisingly hard for something with such a raised centre of gravity, though.

What distinguishes the C-Crosser dynamically is its lightness of touch and its well-weighted, well-judged steering. It’s so accurate that you can place that handsome nose with real precision on the road and, inevitably, this soon allows the car to shrink around you, far more so than in something like a Vauxhall Antara.

All-wheel drive pays dividends on the wet circuit, making the C-Crosser much quicker and stable than in 2wd

The Citroën even rides surprisingly well for a vehicle of its type, smoothing away most intrusions as if they don’t exist without being so soft as to allow the body to float around if you press on. Yes, there is an inevitable amount of body roll if you really lean on it through a fast corner, but even when it moves around, it does so in a controlled manner.

The all-wheel drive system is probably over-engineered for the average owner’s needs. You engage the system by rotating a dial knob down by the gearlever, and you can do so at any time, and at any speed.

Although the ride isn’t quite as hushed or pliant as that of a Freelander, the body’s tautly controlled. Wind and road noise, the quality of the cabin materials, the notchy gearchange and the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel could all be improved upon, but they’re secondary criticisms.

Unlike the lack of originality that this car represents. For the car maker which gave us front-wheel drive, hydropneumatic suspension and disc brakes before any other, that could be a problem. Citroën customers may expect something more innovative.


Citroën C-Crosser SUV

The reason Citroën believes that the C-Crosser justifies its premium over the Outlander is its specification and, on paper, it clearly has a point. The C-Crosser Exclusive has almost everything you’d want (except standard-fit sat-nav) from a Freelander-level SUV, including cruise and climate control, leather, rear parking sensors and a steering wheel that adjusts for height but, curiously, not reach.

Those opting for the standard VTR+ model are also well catered for on equipment, if not overall quality. Standard kit includes Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, and climate control.

Sat-nav system is a pricey option but includes decent stereo upgrade

The C-Crosser should be fairly light on the pocket once you’ve made the plunge. On average, it returned 29.2mpg on test, with a best of 39.6mpg. That gives a real-world touring range of about 385 miles. Officially, the manual C-Crosser is claimed to return 42.2mpg on the combined cycle, the automatic offering a claimed 40.9mpg.

Insurance isn’t cheap (group 37) but then you won’t get hammered by company car tax like you will with many other SUVs, thanks to the relatively low 175/km emissions rating in the manual car, which rises to 180g/km in the automatic. That means it sits in VED band H (manual) or I (auto). 


3.5 star Citroën C-Crosser

We like the C-Crosser for all sorts of reasons, some predictable, some not. The Citroen is easily the best-looking member of the triumvirate that also includes the Mitsubishi Outlander and Peugeot 4007. It is surprisingly well resolved, dynamically speaking. It's really enjoyable to drive, with good steering and impressive torque. It’s big, comfortable and quite refined.

True, the rearmost seats are not the simplest to operate, and some of the cabin materials could be better. Neither is the C-Crosser cheap in Exclusive trim. There's a cost issue, too: a Toyota RAV4 diesel, Chevrolet Captiva, and even a Land Rover Freelander are all cheaper. Nevertheless, this is a competent compact SUV from Citroen, produced with with a little help from a friend.

Pricey for a Citroën but looks good and drives well on road.


Citroen C-Crosser 2007-2012 First drives