First brought to market in 1997, the Citroen Xsara was discontinued in 2006 having been already been superseded as Citroen’s flagship in the compact car class by the newer Citroen C4.
Three body styles of the Xsara have been produced, in the shape of a five-door hatchback, a three-door hatchback known as the Coupé, and a five-door sedan available with 1.6L, 1.8L, and 2.0L petrol engines. No diesel variants were produced. The five-door hatchback and the sedan are both available with 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual gearboxes.
While the Coupé had a sporty look, overall the Xsara generally lacked the distinctive appearance that its Citroen forebears – such as the 2CV – had been known for. Even after the 2002 facelift the model received, the new front and rear bumpers, new nose, and more prominent grille did little to separate its appearance from many other similar cars on the market.
This is not to say that the Xsara does not have any appeal – far from it. Most of these variants are economical, equipped with sizeable kit, have plenty of legroom, and feature a large amount of storage space for a car of its size. As a result, they serve as great small family cars.
The original 1.6L hatchback, released in 1997, is perhaps correctly not well known for its speed. Indeed, with an output of 67kW and a torque of 134Nm at 4000rpm, it could reach 0-100km/h in a sluggish 12.6 seconds, but nonetheless had a reasonable top speed of 171km/h.
The above 1.6L engine was replaced by a new quicker, more powerful 1.6L 16V engine in 2001. This engine could be found in the Xsara Coupé VTR, which could reach a top speed of 194km/h with an increased output of 83kW and torque of 146Nm at 5750rpm. The 2.0L 16V Coupé VTR is even faster, reaching a maximum speed of 220km/h and an acceleration of 0-100km/h in 8.75 seconds. The maximum output of this 2Lengine is 193Nm.
In terms of fuel economy, the Xsara 1.6L 16V engine is impressive, using 6.91L/100km, whereas the 2.0L 16V engine is much less so, using 9.29L/100km.
Ride and handling are very smooth and arguably the Xsara’s strongest assets. Although steering on the hatchback and sedan can be a little unresponsive at slower speeds, it thankfully picks up again at higher speeds. The steering on the Coupé models is razor sharp, which is a very good thing considering the increased power and acceleration of these models.
Suspension is generally good on all models and the coupled rollbar at the front of the Xsara improves noise levels noticeably over its ZX predecessor. As one might expect, suspension on the Coupé is designed for what Citroen refers to as ‘sports-tuned performance’ and is noticeably sturdier as a result, yet not as sturdy as a VW Golf GTI, for example.
Standard kit on all models is more than adequate, with earlier models offering remote central locking, climate control, and driver’s airbag, as well as a CD player and 6-speaker audio system. ABS and alloy wheels could be added as options.
The Coupé models made from 2001 on added alloy wheels, automatic windscreen wipers with rain sensors, a trip computer, ABS brakes, and a leather steering wheel as standard additions.
For that extra sporty look, Citroen also made a body kit available for the Coupé, which featured a deep front air dam complete with a deeper rear/side body skirts. Front-end passenger airbags were added as standard in 2001.
The Xsara shared its chassis with the popular and acclaimed Peugeot 306, which sold 2,846,000 units worldwide. The Peugeot 306 received more acclaim than the Citroen, and rightly so in terms of performance – the Peugeot GTi can reach 100km/h in only 8 seconds. The rear of the Xsara also moves quite a bit more than the Peugeot during wet weather, with the latter holding onto the road remarkably well.
Whatever the Xsara lacks in speed, it makes up for in the interior space, which offers ample legroom and headroom, as well as plenty of storage space. The Xsara was marketed as a small family car, and it boasts the space to make it one. The Xsara does stand tall over the Peugeot in most – if not all – family-oriented areas.