No other car looks like the Citroen C5. And no other car in its class is quite as comfortable
C is for C5 comfort The C5 is a stunning car with great presence -- PHOTO: CITROEN

Citroen, the enigmatic French manufacturer, has a history of innovation in both styling and engineering. Its ID and DS saloons of the 1960s and 1970s were the first with swivelling headlamps and hydropneumatic suspension.

Their cabins had trim which owed nothing to convention.

And their turn indicators did not have automatic cancelling. The Citroen philosophy was good drivers cancel their indicators only when they want to. It was only in the 1980s that the firm relented.

Citroen is regarded as a style-setter and the new C5 is an excellent example.

It is a stunningly beautiful car with great presence. A high waistline and prominent wheel arches gel perfectly with the sleek headlights and trademark grill. Concave rear window, two-part boomerang rear lights and a raised tail give the rump both grace and character.

The cabin is also a work of art. Quality is first class, with soft textured plastics and brushed aluminium inserts for the fascia and steering wheel. Unique to Citroen is the fixed boss for the steering. The left side of the boss caters for the cruise control, trip computer and other drive-related functions. Controls for the stereo are clustered on the right.

My only criticism is that the two buttons to activate the horn are too small, each barely the size of an AA battery. Finding them in an emergency could be challenging. It is much easier (and safer) to just press on the steering boss as in conventional cars.

The dials are watch-like, with floating red annular needles instead of fixed pivot needles. The spaceship-like effect is interesting and unique without being overly showy. Oddments are well catered for by multiple slots and compartments.

What is glaringly absent are proper cup holders. Perhaps this is because the beverage of choice for the French is wine.

Comfort is a Citroen speciality and the C5 certainly delivers. The front seats are supremely comfortable and are the first to offer adjustable rake for the top of the seat back. Rear passengers too have decent accommodation.

This obsession with comfort extends to the ride. Hydractive III+ is the latest development of the hydraulic suspension pioneered by Citroen. In normal setting, the C5 literally floats over surface irregularities and bumps. A sports mode, which I prefer, stiffens the suspension for better handling. It makes the C5 less prone to body roll and more responsive to turning inputs. But the C5 is no sports car even when in sports mode. It is all about comfort and poise.

For sheer quiet and refinement, the C5 matches cars at least one class up. Special seals for the doors and windows, acoustic laminated glazing for the windscreen and acoustic mudguards are some of the measures taken to ensure refinement.

The engine for the top-of-the-line variant is a 3-litre V6 found in the previous C5 but with 2 per cent more power and torque. While 215bhp and 290Nm are not mind-blowing figures, they do endow the C5 with decent pace.

The latest C5 proves yet again that Citroen still has the ability to churn out everyday cars which stand out from the crowd.