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CITROEN OPENS A NEW BOX OF TRICKS; MOTORS: Distinctive looks, acres of space and economy.

Byline: By BILL McCARTHY bill_mccarthy@mrn.co.uk

CITROEN'S range-topper is bit of magician's box of tricks.

It seems to be able to square the circle between providing acres of space, reasonable performance, stunning economy and more gizmos than Inspector Gadget - all at a knockdown price.

It has distinctive looks as well. It's not everyone's cup of tea, with the front end sporting almost a leer via the distinctive slanted front headlights and sharp-nosed grille. It has the opposite look at the rear end where it has almost a smiley visage.

However you view it, it is certainly striking and has put a marker down in the fleet sector dominated by Vauxhall and Ford.

Given the size of the vehicle I though the 1.6 litre engine would struggle to pull such a large body. Admittedly, acceleration would hardly make your hair stand on end with a 0-60 mph time of around 11 seconds - but it is still respectable and the torquey engine has bags of pull at low revs and acclerates smoothly.

The best bit though are economy and emissions. Citroen claim more than 52mpg and after a week of solid motoring including a long jaunt to an airport and back, it went back with more than a quarter of a tank. Impressive enough but with CO2 emissions of only 142g/km, this place this cruiser in the 15 per cent car tax bracket, making it much cheaper than many of its rivals.

A further incentive for the private buyer is that the low emissions also put it into the lower road fund licence bracket.

And a cruiser is what it is. It handles fairly well on corners, but it is on the long open road that it comes into its own.

The C5 features Hydractive 3 suspension. In simple terms electronic sensors automatically set the height of the suspension to take account of driving conditions. It sits lower on the motorway but on more demanding country lanes notches it up a fraction to improve road holding.

Road and engine noise is effectively damped and the five-speed gearbox mated to the 110bhp engine is precise and easy to use.

Now in its second generation, the C5 is one of the safest cars on the road and boasts a five star Euro NCAP safety rating.

It also features seven airbags, traction ctonrol ABS with brakeforce distribution and electronic stability programme.

The C5 comes with a choice of three petrol and three diesel engines. Prices start from pounds 14,995, rising to pounds 22,695 for the top of the range petrol estate.

It is fitted with all the usual electrics, but newer innovations are also available such as lane departure warning system, directional headlights, cruise control and speed limiter and laminated, noise-reducing glass.

All new C5s have the option of the Trafficmaster Oracle system which warns of traffic jams well in advance and offers alternative routes.

Its on old cliche, but true in this case - you get a lot of metal for the money.

FAST FACTS MODEL: Citroen C5 1.6 HDi VTR

PRICE: pounds 16,995

MECHANICAL: 110bhp, 1,560cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5spd manual gearbox

MAX SPEED: 118mph

0-62MPH: 11.3 secs

COMBINED MPG: 52.3

INSURANCE GROUP: 9

CO2 EMISSIONS: 142g/km

BIK RATING: 15 per cent

WARRANTY: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles; 3yrs paint; 12yrs anti-rust
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 8, 2005
Words:564
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