Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016
- Very good drive and handling
- Cheap and practical
- A superb estate version, especially with the V6 engine
- Unreliable suspension
- Not as spacious as other cars in the same class
- Bertone has failed to deliver on the styling
The Xantia is a hard working and practical car. The reason why it's enjoyed such popularity in Europe is that, although it's not a brilliant car, there's also nothing too much wrong with it. Its most characteristic feature is the hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension that was first used on a 1950s Citroen DS and has remained on the French manufacturer's menu ever since. Although the Citroen's unique suspension provides superb comfort, it's not very reliable.
Exterior and Interior
It's a typical Citroen of the 90s, low and thin with a pointed front end. The styling is rather ascetic and unpretentious. The same theme continues in the cabin, and although it was styled by the famous Italian Bertone design studio, this Citroen is certainly not ground breaking. If you don't mind the unusually low seating position you will find the car rather comfortable.
Because it is so slim and low, it looks smaller than it actually is. In fact, the Xantia competes in the same sector with cars like Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra.
It's available in two body styles, a hatch-back sedan and an estate car. The latter version is very practical offering 1690litre boot space with folded seats.
The Xantia often received criticism regarding its poor list of standard equipment. In fact, in the early 90s you could get a Korean car better equipped than the standard model of the Xantia. The basic model, bearing the index X, only listed power steering and central locking as its equipment. A higher version named SX included electric windows and mirrors. Did I say mirrors, I meant mirror, as only the passenger mirror was electric-powered. The drivers mirror had to be handled manually. The top of the range VSX included a full electric assist package (even for the driver's mirror!), good sound system and wooden inlays to go with it. There was no air conditioning though. The criticism was taken in after the 1998 re-styling and the car's front end was touched-up, higher trim levels were added which now included air conditioning and a decent anti-theft system, in case a practically-inclined thief wanted to steal your Xantia.
Performance and Economy
The biggest surprise from Citroen comes when you look at the V6 petrol engine. I bet you didn't expect the placid Xantia to offer you 194bhp of raw power! It's a real rocket that is able to accelerate to 60mph in a little over 8 seconds and reach a top speed of 140mph. The V6 is also available on an estate model making the Citroen one of the cheapest 'sexy estates' that have ever been available on the market. Although they're not expensive to buy, they've got quite an appetite and all you will manage is 24mpg. That's why many people look for the 16-valve (you don't really want an 8-valve engine) petrol engines that are reasonably powered for the car this size and can still deliver around 35mpg.
The diesels are not as economical as you'd expect form the French manufacturer but they will keep you at around 40mpg.
Like to Drive
On a good day it is a joy to drive a Xantia. The car is quite lightweight, the engines are nippy and the hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension provides a smooth ride. That is when it is working. It also has a very sensitive braking system ready for you to apply and will help you to feel safe. You certainly won't have seen such an active braking system on a family car, so it may take some time to get used to. If you get lucky and the suspension doesn't die on you too often, the Xantia is a very practical and good car to own.
Faults and Repairs
The bodywork is excellent. Citroen gave a 10-year warranty on the body panels, but normally, if it doesn't get involved in accidents, the bodywork lasts much longer. You also don't have to worry about the engines - they are reliable and don't require a serious maintenance. They'll even forgive you if you forget to exchange the engine oil on time.
It's really the suspension that should be thoroughly checked for the proper functioning. A good suspension will moderate the uneven surface and provide an excellent ride. If you can feel the bumps and vibrations, it means the next big money repair is approaching as repairing a Xantia's suspension is very expensive.
Considering the short list of standard equipment, you'd expect that the Xantia is not a very sophisticated car. However, there are electrical systems that are very keen to throw surprises at you. One of these systems includes the awkward anti-theft gadget that can fail and stop you from even moving.