By Andy Enright
For all their history of developing cars that can drive across ploughed fields while wearing a hat, the French haven't actually achieved too much when it comes to building 4x4s. Those with long memories will remember the Citroen Mehari while in more recent years there have been cars like the Renault Scenic RX4 and Kangoo Trekka. When it came to capitalising on the phenomenal growth of lifestyle 4x4s, however, it's fair to say that the French had comprehensively missed the bateau. The Citroen C-Crosser is one example of France belatedly making good. Here's how to track down a decent used example.
Citroen's SUV blind spot came to an end in 2007 when the company teamed up with Mitsubishi and sister company Peugeot. Mitsubishi's Outlander was restyled and badged as the Peugeot 4007 and the Citroen C-Crosser. Sharing the costs of a joint venture made a lot of sense. PSA Peugeot Citroen got a cut price entry into the lucrative SUV market and Mitsubishi got access to some of the best diesel engine technology around. Although building a 4x4 with no real heritage to fall back on might have seemed something of a gamble for Citroen, the way that the company dipped its toe into the water was really very smart. And indeed the C-Crosser turned out to be a really good vehicle, although slow sales suggested that the British public didn't really twig. It was probably the best looking of the triumvirate and as a used proposition you're looking at bargain Citroen pricing with renowned Mitsubishi reliability. A 2.4-litre petrol model was introduced in summer 2008 although sales were predictably slow. Citroen also debuted a C-Crosser commercial vehicle at the 2008 London Motor Show.
At the end of 2009, Citroen introduced the DCS robotised manual gearbox for the diesel car, and also improved the interior finish. Bluetooth connectivity was now standard specification on Exclusive versions, allowing for compatible mobile phones to be connected to the integrated hands-free kit. Automatic windscreen wipers were specified as standard across the range and all versions benefited from an updated dashboard design with chrome inserts around the dials and vents, plus an improved finish on the door panels.
What You Get
There's only so much that Citroen could do with a piece of engineering with firmly established 'hard points' and the rear three quarter view looks decidedly Japanese, the tapered C-pillars and bold wheelarches betraying the car's Oriental origins.
Likewise, the interior has a distinctly Eastern feel to it as well. There's none of the trademark Citroen lateral thinking, the fascia being rather conventional. Two cowled dials house the major instruments and the centre console is sparse and rather plasticky it has to be said. Despite this, there isn't too much you can finger as being wrong with the ergonomics. The ventilation controls are easy to fathom and the multifunction controls on the steering wheel are a nice touch.
Citroen's penchant for functionality and innovation is clearly visible in the C-Crosser, with its flexible 5+2 seating configuration. For ease of use when exiting the third row seats, or when reconfiguring the boot lay-out, the second row seats can be electronically folded forwards using the buttons located internally next to the rear wheel arches. The two occasional use seats in the rear can be simply folded away under the floor, while the second row of seating also slides and reclines for greater comfort.
The C-Crosser also offers plenty of stowage space throughout, with over 20 individual storage compartments. All five rear seats can be folded away easily to provide a flat floor and vast load space of up to 1,686-litres, while the boot capacity is up to 510-litres when the second row of seats are in use. To help loading items into the huge boot space, there's a split two-piece tailgate. Folded down, the lower section drops the sill by 64mm allowing heavy goods to be easily loaded, while doubling as a handy bench, capable of supporting up to 200kg.
What to Look For
You won't find too many mega mileage C-Crossers, as they're often used as second cars. As with any all-wheel drive vehicle, listen for whining gearboxes and differentials; look for leaky power steering, engines, gearboxes and driveshaft joints, off road abuse, tailgate and underbody corrosion and theft or accident damage. Make sure it hasn't been used to tow a mobile home the length of the country. Some of the interior plastics can feel a little scratchy. They're fundamentally tough but can lose their cosmetic appeal fairly quickly. The DCS robotised manual is quite a tough unit but even in its prime it feels jerky if you don't lift the throttle to ease it through gearchanges, so if you're used to an automatic box, you might well find it rather crude.
(approx based on a 2011 C-Crosser VTR+ 2.2 HDI) A replacement exhaust (front to the catalyst) will set you back roughly £315, while a new clutch will be around £215. A replacement alternator should be around £175 and a starter motor about the same. A new wing mirror is in the region of £165, while a headlamp is a hefty £250.
On the Road
It's indicative of quite what a 'toe in the water' approach this is when you consider that the C-Crosser was launched with only one available engine. It is a very good one, but Citroen usually comes to market with a barrage of petrol and diesel powerplants in all manner of trims hoping that there will be something for everyone. The C-Crosser is different. The sole unit offered was a 2.2-litre diesel that's good for 156bhp and 280lb/ft on torque and is even capable of running on a 30 per cent mixture of diesel biofuel without resort to modification. The engine has been modified from that found in the C5 saloon range to offer additional lugging power but much of the basic architecture is the same - which is no bad thing.
Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the engine will satisfy most customers and is shared with the Peugeot 4007. To ensure an optimum blend of comfort, road holding and off-road capability, drivers have a choice of three transmission settings that can be changed depending on road conditions and driving style. Drivers can switch between two-wheel drive, electronically controlled four-wheel drive and a lock setting for low-grip conditions, all of which can be selected using a control mounted on the central console. The 2.4-litre petrol model's main draw is its automatic gearbox (unavailable in the diesel C-Crosser), but the downside is the 30.4 mpg combined economy and 222g/km CO2 emissions. On-paper performance isn't too bad, with the engine's 168bhp delivering a claimed 10.4 second 0-62mph time.
Whether or not you take to the Citroen C-Crosser will depend largely on how committed you are to the Citroen marque. The thing is with this car that brand loyalty may well be inversely significant. Dyed in the wool Citrophiles may well see this car as a sell-out, something that despite its undoubted inherent qualities rather sullies the tradition of the company. Not having any particular interest in that debate, we rather like the idea of the C-Crosser. Pragmatists will take it for what it is - a well-styled, decently built modern compact 4x4 that's offered at competitive price. As a used buy there's much to commend it, something you wouldn't normally say of a big Citroen. It's hard to go too far wrong with this one.