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Citroen's boost for coupe fans

Citroen Xsara VTS Coupe: A sporty 2.0-litre engine gives the VTS plenty of get up and go.

Coupe fans now have another affordable choice thanks to Citroen's new Xsara Coupe

26 Jan 2001

COUPE fans on a budget have had their scant offerings boosted with Citroen's launch of a two-door version of its small-medium Xsara.

It's been a long wait for a car initially promised to arrive just months after the five-door went on sale back in mid-1998.

It's been delayed several times since, and will finally go on sale late February. At the same time the five-door gets a facelift dominated by new teardrop headlamps reminiscent of its new big brother, the C5, which goes on sale here mid-year.

But there are more than new looks coming. The Xsara range boasts three engines new to Australia, a new automatic gearbox and equipment and pricing adjustments.

The entry level car in the entire range is the VTR Coupe, priced at $23,990, and powered by a new 1.6-litre 16-valve engine which produces 83kW at 5750rpm and 150Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

The more upmarket VTS Coupe is $32,990 and it's powered by a high-performance 2.0-litre engine which produces 124kW at 6500rpm and 196Nm at 5500rpm.

Citroen claims the VTR will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 10.9 seconds and 0-400m in 17.8 seconds. Top speed is said to be 197km/h. For the VTS version, 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds, 0-400m in 16.3 seconds and a top speed of 220km/h is claimed.

Both Coupes have suspension and steering tuned for sporting performance, while the intent is signalled inside by the white instrumentation, carbon-fibre trimmed dashboard and gearstick topped with burnished aluminium and wrapped in carbon-fibre. Both cars only come as five-speed manuals.

They are both fitted with twin front airbags, climate control air-conditioning, variable assistance power steering, disc brakes all-round, central locking with remote control and remote boot opening, power front windows, a six-speaker CD audio system and split-fold rear seat.

The VTS adds ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, alloy wheels, automatic windscreen wipers with a rain sensor, rear armrest, velour and Alcantara upholstery, trip computer, front side airbags, leather steering wheel and heated exterior mirrors.

The Xsara five-door is now available as a manual or automatic 1.6, or with a 102kW version of the 2.0-litre fitted with a new fuzzy logic four-speed automatic gearbox.

Pricing starts at $25,490 for the 1.6 manual, with an extra $1500 for the auto. The 2.0-litre is $31,490. The new engines replace an eight-valve 1.6 and a 16-valve 1.8.

Claimed fuel economy is identical for the 1.6-litre manual Coupe and 5-door Xsara, at 9.3 L/100km in city driving and 5.5 L/100km on the highway. The automatic 5-door is said to deliver 10.9 L/100km and 5.6 L/100km respectively.

The 2.0-litre VTS Coupe is said to deliver 13.6 L/100km in urban driving and 6.8 L/100km on the highway. Fuel economy for the 2.0-litre 5-door car is yet to be announced.

The five-door Xsara has been boosted in a number of significant ways: computer-based multiplex electronics replace the conventional electric system the front and rear tracks have been widened and 15-inch wheels replace the old 14-inch items the new headlights offer 20 per cent more light than their predecessors and the seats have been redesigned.

Citroen has high hopes for its expanded Xsara range, planning to boost sales from 2000's 298 to 425 in 2001. And the new Coupe is the car which is expected to be the biggest seller, accounting for 225 of those sales.

Overall, Citroen is looking to boost sales from 652 in 2000, to 1000 in 2001.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS THERE is no doubt the Xsara Coupes add an intriguing Gallic choice to the cheap end of the coupe market, which at the moment is the domain of uninspired offerings from Mitsubishi and Hyundai.

But if you're expecting these Citroens to be something truly different and quirky then you will be disappointed. The Xsara Coupes are thoroughly orthodox and competent vehicles.

Like the Xsara five-door, they share their underpinnings and engines with the excellent Peugeot 306. The MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension and transverse front-wheel drive engine layout are standard stuff. No groundbreaking hydractive suspension here.

That's no problem because the fundamental design is good, as anyone who has driven the 306 or original Xsara would know. The VTR simply rides a little firmer, sits a little flatter and the new variable-speed power steering is a little heavier.

But it isn't the sporting machine painted by Citroen, because the engine simply lacks the true spirit and guts to really get up and going. Its sports pretensions are also hindered by tall gearing and a quite long throw gearchange.

No, if you want a thrill then the VTS is closer to the mark. Its ride is reminiscent of the Honda Integra Type R - bumping and jostling along rutted Aussie bitumen. It's a real contrast to the quite well appointed and luxurious interior - the heavily bolstered seats in particular are a highlight.

The firmness of the VTS suspension set-up rewards the sporting driver with high levels of grip and neutrality, complementing an engine which demands hard revving to give its best.

The VTS we sampled was a pre-production car, which no doubt added to the rawness, thanks to some squeaks, rattles, and vibrations.

Inside, both cars are quite straightforward in their presentation, if plain and - as is normal for European product - quite dark. There are Citroen curiousities to the ergonomics though - like the horn button on the end of the indicator stalk and the power window buttons mounted on the centre console.

The day we drove these cars the ambient temperature reached a scorching 42-degrees C, and the climate control simply could not cope. To be fair, the Xsaras are hardly alone among European cars in struggling with Australian summers.

While passenger space up-front is fine, adults should forget about travelling in the rear for all but the shortest journeys. Rear entry and exit is quite easy, however, and boot space is a quite adequate for this style of car.

Overall, the VTR is a tempting little package for the money with more show than real go. The VTS is a different more aggressive prospect. While not up to the standards of the Type R, Nissan 200SX or Subaru Impreza WRX, it is still a stylish little performer - and not bad value either.

GoAuto can help you buy a new Xsara

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