the XM was having its suspension sorted, I was driving a Xsara 1.9TD
estate (or Break). It was a courtesy car - in fact a demonstrator
but Southgate CitroŽn (who have just taken over 3H) had run out of
courtesy cars so they let me have the Xsara. I had rather hoped
for a Xantia Activa but... The arrival of the Xsara coincided
with the arrival of a 90 bhp Xantia HDi which means that neither my wife nor I were driving our normal cars.
I have to confess that I am underwhelmed by the Xsara hatchback and
coupť – at least as far as aesthetics are concerned. Furthermore,
the 1.6i that I drove recently suffered from a gutless engine – or to
qualify this, it felt as if it were low on torque at all engine
speeds. It was thoroughly unresponsive but performed well enough.
think the estate is the most attractive looking bodyshape in the Xsara
range. I am familiar with the 1.9TD engine since that is what
powers my wife's Xantia. Incidentally, the 1.9TD engine has been
replaced with the 90bhp HDi unit except where automatic transmission is
specified so this estate car with its manual gearbox is now a
impressions were of how noisy the engine was at idle - plus there was a
sympathetic vibration from the roof headlining. Under
acceleration, the engine was also quite loud - louder than in my wife's
Xantia - although at motorway cruising speeds, it was commendably quiet.
seemed down on the Xantia too - whether this is as a result of the
extra weight of the estate car or different gearing is not clear.
Switching off the air-conditioning improved matters a little.
felt nicely weighted - heavier than a Xantia, on a par with my XM in
fact. The interior is what you would expect from a Xsara -
complete with irritatingly located window switches and hazard warning
switch which falls just within the driver's peripheral vision.
have the traditional long travel that non-hydraulic cars have and the
pedal was commendably light, albeit located too high - higher than the
accelerator pedal. On my drive to work, as I came to the end of a dual
carriageway, I was overtaken by a woman driving a Golf GTi - over the
cross-hatched area. Having slewed in front of me, she jammed her
brakes on (hard enough to provoke smoke from her tyres) - she had
overshot a right turn which she wished to make. I stood on the
brakes, activating the ABS. I had to steer round her as without
signalling she started to turn right. The Xsara did not pull up
in a straight line - in fact it was very wayward indeed but despite
this, I was able to retain steering control. Had I been in an
hydraulic CitroŽn, I am sure that this manoeuvre would have been less
dramatic. Incidentally, the engine stalled.
one area where CitroŽns traditionally excel is the combination of ride
comfort and handling. Sad to say, the Xsara break was not up to
scratch in either area. Handling was compromised by too much
weight up front and a tendency for the rear, passive rear steering
notwithstanding, to step out of line. Initial understeer
disappeared as velocity increased and then without any warning, the
tail would slide. It was easily corrected though. All other
Xsaras that I have driven handled impeccably.
As far as ride was concerned, on smooth surfaces it was comfortable enough but on what the French call chaussťe deformťe,
it bounced all over the place. On the A303 between Andover and
Basingstoke, there are sections where the cones will undoubtedly appear
next summer and on these surfaces, it lurched and pitched from peak to
trough. I gained the impression that the rear suspension is too
stiff and underdamped. Presumably this is to allow for heavy
loads to be carried. Normal steel springs suffer too many
compromises where estate cars are concerned. If the springing is
soft enough for comfort when unladen, the tail sags when fully loaded
and handling suffers. If the car is set up to accommodate heavy
loads, then ride comfort and handling suffer when empty as was the case
here. If ever a car cried out for self-levelling suspension, it
is the Xsara estate (and possibly Synergie/Evasion). Presumably
within this highly competitive market sector, the cost of so equipping
the car (and I suspect it would only be required at the rear) would
render it uncompetitive.
Economy was good - over 55 mpg by my calculations.
admit that I am no fan of either the Saxo or Xsara. It is not
that I consider them to be bad designs, nor is it that I consider them
to be not proper CitroŽns. Rather it is a case of them not being
sufficiently different from other cars. The traditional
attributes one expects to encounter in a CitroŽn are largely
absent. Of all the recent CitroŽns I have driven, the Xsara
estate is the worst. This is not to say it is a bad car, merely
that it offers little over and above the competition. If one
factors in the highly competitive equipment levels and deals that are
available, it actually becomes quite an attractive proposition -
provided that you are not a CitroŽn enthusiast.