It’s been not uncommon for car makers to utilise other companies products in order to help penetrate a market or save on development/manufacturing costs. Peugeot and, in A Wheel Thing’s review car’s case, the Citroen C4 Aircross, use the Mitsubishi ASX.
The car is wrapped around the 2.0L petrol engine and CVT gearbox, with flappy paddle (to use a Clarksonism) changes available from the steering wheel. Internally it’s all Mitsi however there’s a distinct French flavour to the sweet and curvaceous body.
From the front there’s a familiar C4 look, with the dual horizontal bar grille and chevrons that signify it’s a Citroen. Vertical banks of LEDs frame the lower intake and lead the eye to an even lower pair of driving lights. The rounded off flanks front and rear, with a substantial redesign to the tail light cluster, a set or gorgeous alloys, plus a subtly changed roof profile (all but the doors are unique to the Aircross) provide a clear visual C4 link plus there’s a nicely styled chrome badge in the D pillar.
Being a (small, it’s just 4.4 metres long) SUV there’s a bit of extra ride height, the obligatory matt black plastics on wheel arches and front/rear chins, which would suggest a smallish inside. It’s not quite the TARDIS but Mitsubishi’s engineers managed to package the interior pretty well. Like all small vehicles, it’s a five seater if the rear seat passengers are very small, however it’s a pleasant enough workspace.
Piano black highlights on the centre dash and steering wheel contrast with the varying shades of black in the rest of the plastics and cloth seats; there’s a splash of chrome, around the gear selector and the aircon dials. It’s not oppressive however a bit of colour wouldn’t go astray. What colour there is exists thanks to the dash; a small LCD screen is bracketed by the two main dials, with red backlighting.
Ergonomically, it’s a treat, with simple and clean engineering for items such as the aircon and radio controls plus voice activated Bluetooth. The manually operated seats are comfortable enough but lack side bolster support.
The rear seats are set slightly further back than what would be the norm in a smaller SUV, providing better than standard leg room. Rear cargo space is then compromised, offering up 384L; a competitor, Volkswagen’s Tiguan, has 11 litres more, although, in a real world shopping situation, it may not be a major influence.
On the road the Aircross is a mixed bag; the engine is coarse, thrashy at the top end and mated to the CVT box it spins to around 4000rpm while speed increases, with a commensurate amount of buzzing and some vibration in the drivetrain. The powerplant has never been regarded as the last word in refinement but there’s enough torque (197Nm @ 4200rpm) to move the 1440kg mass along reasonably, although, left to its own devices it’s hardly a responsive combination.
There’s more to be had using the paddle shifts; with the six pre-programmed gear points a short and sharp change comes along for the ride. Under way the whole lot settles down, with peak power (110kW @ 6000 rpm) never under threat of being required.
The ride is choppy, with the taut suspension making some smaller bumps and potholes a minor irritation somewhat but bigger ones transmit their size through to the driver. There’s an unsettled rear end over bumps when above 30 km/h; there’s a feeling of a lack of initial compliance and the suspension laods up a touch to quick to absorb and dispatch road intrusions.
The cabin, however, is quiet, with only tyre noise and wind over the century speed mark coming through. Pushed through flat turns there’s some tyre squeal and some noticeable understeer, attributable more to the dual purpose tyres on 18 inch (and gorgeous!) wheels rather than any real suspension flaw.
For A Wheel Thing, the Aircross is an example of where model sharing falls down and especially when there’s enough home grown talent to play with. Citroen, along with stablemate Peugeot, share the platform the ASX has and it’s not the best thing for them to do.. It’s akin to meeting the Queen for the first time and seeing her with her feet up and throwing back a few scotches after the initial meeting.
From $32000 on road (at the time of writing) the Aircross is pretty on the outside and reasonable on the inside, however its soul is a fresh piece of gritty sandpaper….and more’s the pity.