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Car reviews - Citroen - Xsara - 1.8 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Interior space, on-road competence, build quality
Room for improvement
Choppy low-speed ride, average performance of 1.6-litre version

Citroen logo7 May 2001

UNDER the skin, the Xsara is a modified, updated Peugeot 306. Xsara is more fortunate than most in this regard. We still find the 306 to be one of the sweetest driving cars around, especially dominant in the under $40,000 class.

The Citroen benefits from a supple, cosseting ride, ideal for the urban elite at whom it is aimed.

Steering response is not dull, although the car never feels as agile as the 306.

The 1.8-litre, 16-valve engine lacks sparkle at low revs although with more than 3000rpm on the clock the engine does gain some added urge.

Frugal, relaxed driving ensures the engine remains all but inaudible. On test, an intriguing harmonic at cruising speed droned its way through the interior - a characteristic we hope was confined to our manual review car.

The Xsara's interior ambience sets it apart from most contenders in this market.

The seats are large, comfortable adjustable items with a well- judged driving position.

The nicely laid-out dash has more than a suggestion of BMW's E36 3 Series about it, especially around the driver's ventilation outlets.

The tail is truncated but the notchback shape (with more than a nod to its bigger Xantia sister) hides a large boot for the class.

Handy bungee chords inside secure small parcels while a lightly sprung hatch has a useful handle that is easy to grip even with snow gloves on.

Remote central locking, climate control air-conditioning and a driver airbag as standard ensure the equipment list is not too meagre. The electric-adjust passenger door mirror matched with a manually adjustable one for the driver, a sensible cost-saving move.

In the rear, largish passengers sit in comfort although those with more than 1.8-metres of body to stow may brush their hair against the dipping roofline.

Priced and equipped attractively, the Xsara makes an appealing proposition in its segment.

The big problem is that the Australian importer, Ateco, is trading punches with some of the most powerful operators in the market including Holden, Toyota and Volkswagen.

This market is a tinderbox and all Xsara's rivals come brandishing a box of matches.

- Automotive NetWorks 05/07/1999

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