The new Citroen C5 marks something of a watershed for Citroen - not because it brings the manufacturer on a par with the Germans, as might be hoped in France, but for a return to chic, alternative, refined cars that used to mark the company out. The previous C5 looks terrible in comparison, with an unimaginative design and inadequate interior.
Citroen would have us think of Teutonic rivals BMW and Audi when looking at this new model, a big ask if we were looking at the range a few short years ago. The comparison is fair in terms of the steps forward made in quality and refinement, but thankfully there remains some Gallic flair here to keep us interested.
The styling is bold and distinctive - Citroen has moved the C5 on from being an option for those with tight budgets to a genuine alternative to the usual suspects. The interior is now much better suited to poaching customers from premium brands, with improved materials and ergonomics inside the car.
What the interior does lack in this context is space - passengers won't want to spend too much time in the back if they're tall. The boot is commodious enough and four-up cruising is manageable for shorter trips, but some of the C5's rivals have sort this better.
The comfortable ride is thanks to Citroen's Self-Levelling Hydractive Suspension system. Designed to cruise along motorways, the C5 fulfils this job with distinction - it's not an engaging steer, but you know when you get behind the wheel it isn't built for B-road shenanigans. Where the 3-series, C-class and A4 rivals fight for the most dynamic drive at the expense of comfort, the C5 sticks to its principles. A refreshing change that motorway-dwellers will no doubt appreciate.
Most buyers will go for one of the diesels, and our pick would be the 2.0-litre HDI for its torque, 50.4mpg and fancy active suspension as standard - this is the motor that best suits the characteristics of the car. Having said that, the 1.6-litre HDI is the most eco-friendly of the bunch with 130g/km of CO2 and 55mpg and well worth consideration.
It's refreshing to be able to talk about a Citroen that can compete with the Germans on merit - though perhaps the Germans themselves could pick up a little something here about style.