French automaker Citroen is gearing up for its India debut with the launch of the C5 Aircross early next year. While the company is yet to officially reveal finer details of its maiden product, we can now report that it has narrowed down on the powertrain for the SUV – a 2.0-litre diesel engine paired to an automatic transmission will be standard.
Focusing purely on diesel engines, Citroen was initially contemplating bringing in either the 131hp, 1.5-litre unit or the 180hp, 2.0-litre mill, and was leaning more towards the smaller capacity engine at first, to keep the price in check. However, the automaker will instead be opting for the larger of the four-cylinder diesels, which should offer a performance more in-tune with the relatively premium positioning of the C5 Aircross. An 8-speed torque converter automatic will be the sole transmission on offer with the SUV.
We drove the C5 Aircross overseas last year with the 1.5-litre diesel and found the engine packs in enough low-down grunt to cope fairly well within city confines. However, as for its motorway performance, the powertrain fell short of expectations, “The 1.5 needs to be worked hard and acceleration is leisurely, at best. Pushing the engine hard also reveals another of its flaws – it’s pretty noisy at high revs, which makes you back off and hold a more relaxed pace. Quite frankly, the 1.5 diesel just doesn’t cut it at the price point the C5 will arrive at in India.” According to sources, our review nudged PSA into choosing the larger engine option for our market. “We take Autocar’s reviews very seriously and the comments on the 1.5 diesel certainly had some bearing on our final decision” said a company source.
However, unlike the 1.5 litre diesel that will be manufactured at the PSA-CK Birla joint manufacturing in Hosur, the 2.0-litre diesel will be fully imported. Hence, it won’t benefit from a lower level of customs duties that locally-assembled engines attract for CKD (completely knocked-down) production. Still, there will be significant customs duty savings over the fully-imported or CBU (completely built-up) route some of the C5 Aircross’ rivals - like the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace - are taking. That said, Citroen’s flagship SUV for India won’t be cheap and is likely to be priced well north of Rs 30 lakh. With both VW and Skoda recently ditching their diesel powertrains, this factor should play right into the hands of the C5, which will be the only European diesel SUV in the segment. Though styled unconventionally, the Citroen could find favour for its ‘torquey’ performance – a trait that customers often associate with an SUV of this class.
In addition to the sole powertrain option, Citroen will exercise prudence by bringing in the C5 Aircross in a single, top-of-the-line trim that should help lower inventory costs for dealers. The international-spec model comes packed with equipment including six airbags, an electronic parking brake, dual-zone climate control, hands-free tailgate, split headlamps with LED DRLs, a panoramic sunroof, powered driver’s seat, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Given the premium positioning of the five-seat SUV, expect most of these features to make it to the India-spec model as well.
Originally planned to arrive in late 2020, the C5 Aircross’ India launch has been delayed to Q1 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis. The flagship model will keep Citroen dealerships in the country ticking till more mass-market offerings are brought along. The company recently confirmed that the launch of its first vehicle “designed, developed and made in India” is on track and slated for later next year. The model, touted to be a compact SUV (codenamed C21), will boast high localisation levels of up to 90-95 percent and will operate in the heart of the market with a competitive price tag.