Jun 10 2008 By Steve Orme
Citroen C5 Exclusive
THE National Archives Office has opened its files on reported UFO sightings from the 1980s. From memory everyone you met in the 80s looked like an alien or talked like one.
But should there be a rash of contacts and landings this year, our visitors are likely to be interstellar scrap metal merchants.
If ever a species got lumbered with unlucky physics it's the humans. Think about it. Everything we really depend on is buried in the ground, oil, iron ore, coal, potatoes. Imagine how much happier people would be if chips grew on trees.
Anyway, the thing is all this difficult to get out of the ground stuff is expensive, lately very expensive, so more and more people have resorted to just nicking it.
You might think a pile of old exhaust pipes was of little interest to anyone, unless they were refitting a church organ, or Red Dwarf. But my local scuffers have been called to a daylight robbery of old back boxes and manifolds.
It gets worse. No doubt your car has a catalytic converter. Inside it the catalyst is platinum and iridium, both somewhat more precious than kitchen foil.
Cats have become the new stolen car radios.
The most popular targets are 4x4s because it is easy to access the undersides.
Advice from the rozzers includes parking in a secure place and keeping an eye open for people lying under cars. Just remember, they could be doing legitimate repair work or may have genuinely been run over.
Given what a damn nuisance it is having to smelt rocks into metal, you might have thought by now we would be making greater use of plastics and ceramics, although admittedly this could lead to an increase in thefts of kiddies’ footballs and Cornish pottery.
Citroen did have a go at building parts of its BX model from the same composite as mine sweepers but it didn’t catch on. Mind you, there is no evidence of a BX ever being sunk in battle.
Neither is there anything but old fashioned ferrous body parts in the new C5. Beyond that it goes into techno warp drive.
Variously you can have seven-inch TV screen with built in GSM phone, radio, CD, iPod connection,10GB music store GPS with traffic alerts and a hawkeye map.
The handbrake is electronic and there’s a hill-hold function for the pediatrically unbalanced, cruise control, parking sensors, tyre pressure monitor, a whole periodic table of traction and braking assists, hazard lights that come on if you stop quickly, automatic wipers and lights.
All this, along with particularly sturdy and handsome lines, has convinced Citroen that the C5 is Germanic. Perhaps not. It features a lane wandering warning that punches you repeatedly in the bottom until the line is corrected. Of all the countries in Europe, I have always thought Germany to be the one where you were least likely to be touched on the bottom.
German cars tend to address the issue of bottoms through the firmness of their suspension. A self-levelling oleopneumatic system, on all but entry level C5s, makes for a ride no German manufacturer would recognise, a ride with very Gallic leanings.
Nothing remotely shoulder shrugging about the twin-turbo 208bhp 2.2 litre diesel engine, however. Hardly a performance unit at 10 seconds to 60mph but taut, smooth and quiet, caravanserai will choose it for towing. A combined consumption figure of 43mpg is also going to attract the family driver, as will 172g/km of carboniferousness.
The Exclusive derivative is a sweet car to be at the controls of. Central hub steering wheel, Mercedes-like instruments and a comfortable driver position suggest a Citroen determination get it right. A technically advanced, attractive saloon costing £21,395 and qualifying for £170, band E tax. Hopefully image-trashing instant discounting will be resisted. The C5 deserves to be an aspirational car. Teutonic? Er, as a fishermen's’ strike.
On a more general note, beware strangers carrying catalytic converters. Especially if they are under four-feet tall and have a faintly green complexion.