Our Cars : Mike’s Citroen Xantia

Mike Humble

Basking in the Sussex sun with the South Downs behind, the Southpaw Xantia is back!
Basking in the Sussex sun with the South Downs behind, the Southpaw Xantia is back!

The bangernomic bug bites again

First things first, the Xantia is back in the fold – the car’s so good I bought it twice. Having passed it on to a work colleague, who enjoyed a few months of very happy motoring, it became surplus to requirements. Following an incident in which the Renault backfired and stopped, causing a minor gridlock in Horsham town centre after the condenser burned out, I jokingly begged the aforementioned workmate to sell me back the Citroen. To avoid digression, this is what he did and once again my title is printed on the top of the V5 document.

The Rover Coupe has a new home in North Wales and the Renault heads for Worcestershire later on next week (damn I’m gonna miss that dear little car) so the household now possesses a Golf Mk6 and a Citroen Xantia. My research for the truck book requires visiting various ex-Leyland employees who reside as close by as Guildford and as far afield as Cheshire and Lancashire, so a reliable and economical car is a must. My full attention now requires some serious writing and fact finding so the Coupe and 18 sadly became a victim of changing personal circumstances.

Whilst sorting out the paperwork for the departing cars, I noted that the Citroen’s MoT was due. Usually, I’m on the ball with vehicle admin, yet this time I had overlooked that fact that the Xantia had literally just days of test left to go and would expire while we are away on holiday. A panic call was put in to my trusted MoT station during which Steve mumbled and grumbled at me but offered to squeeze me in for a mid-afternoon slot providing I brew the tea and let him steal my fags. With no time to check the car over with the exception of emptying the clutter and tools from the boot and giving it a wash, I’m off to the test station.

Those who know me well will know my MoT preparation starts roughly a month before its due – the cars are scrubbed, cleaned, jet-washed and polished to almost showroom perfection and everything is checked – I even align the washer jets to give an even and equal distance squirt. Don’t laugh, but I have even been known to throw lamp units and other parts into the dishwasher to get rid of moss or hard to reach dead insects – just ask ‘er indoors – but, today I just threw a bucket of soapy water over it. Put a grubby unloved and battered car in for MoT and the tester will go for the kill wherever he sees the opportunity.

And up she goes - The test gets underway... but I was confident!
And up she goes – The test gets underway… but I was confident!

Yet, after the panic and emotions I always go through, my gut feeling was telling me the car would sail through with no problems. Okay, so it may be a little bumped and scraped here and there but its genuinely rock solid in every way. Irrespective of speed or road surface there is not so much as a squeak or rattle on the move. The underneath is better than some three-year old cars thanks to the Spanish terrain it lived in ’til last year – even the exhaust is all original as is the spare tyre and brake lines. All you do is follow the road, drive and add fuel when required – utterly faithful, so much so… I would trust it with my life.

Arriving at the test centre, we fall about laughing as Steve armed with a seat cover opens the door and climbs in – the wrong side. His trademark expletives echo around the workshop and just as he is about to put the car onto the brake rollers, events are paused as an ice-cream van trills its jingle jangle tune. A brace of large ’99s are purchased and wolfed down in the blistering Sussex sunshine and the test gets under way. The brakes take a pounding on the rollers and then it’s hoisted aloft for the ritual tapping and eagle-eyed scrutineering of the MoT tester.

Oddly enough, I found myself at peace enjoying the twittering of the birds and the searing sunshine – none of my usual chain smoking nail biting pacing up and down. In next to no time its all over – just like having a filling at the dentist, you wonder what all the fuss was about. The wheels are rocked, the brakes are pressed, horn tooted, then the car is brought down from the heavens and I am informed that the southpaw Xantia has passed the MoT with no influence brought on by my tea-making prowess and the purchase of ice-fceams. An opportunity was given for good gander underneath – it’s really that good.

The XUD plant with well over 100.000 miles sips fuel to the jolly tune of 50mpg and performs really well.
The XUD plant with well over 100.000 miles sips fuel to the jolly tune of 50mpg and performs strongly.

The Xantia lives for another year, then, and I’m chuffed to have it back. The commute to work sees a genuine 50mpg all day, every day with very little oil consumption and it floats over the ruts and potholes with near hovercraft ability. Only a slight water leak blots a deeply impressive school report and my money is on the water pump. Not that I am complaining however, it’s a perfect opportunity to replace the timing belt during the same sitting – playing on the side of caution as usual. Since my repatriation, the interior has been scrubbed and I will do my best to give it the love I failed to offer during my last stewardship.

One other thing bothers me. The Michelin Energy tyres have as much grip in the wet as an exited puppy on a laminate floor and, being skinny 185 profile, I’ve seen vintage prams with wider treads – oh… and a set of RHD headlamps are going down on ze list too. Once again, I hammer home the message that bangernomics is great fun, it’s depreciation free too with an old usable clunker always holding a residual value – often double the initial purchase price. So watch out for a battered green left-hook Citroen flying here there and everywhere on nationwide research missions!

Mike Humble


  1. Great cars, I still have fond memories of mine. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has owned one has nothing but compliments towards them.

    Rare to see a facelift XUD, I thought the diesels were all HDi from this point?

    After mine got shook on the MOT ramp, it hunkered down on its suspension and took a couple of minutes to rise again.

    (Bangernomics fans – I’m selling a Honda that needs very little for MOT…)

  2. Mike

    Does your car have working aircon

    You would have your arm ripped off if it did from the French expat community.

    This is a nice “modern” car….lots of these still in France, and driven with French gusto

  3. The Activa was the most interesting and almost strange cornering flat. Why did Citroen give up with fluid suspension?

  4. My Citroen collecting friend (Mr Smart) took me a spin in his Activa. It had uncanny handling, not rolling in high speed corners, while still being compliant in terms of ride quality.

    I know people who say they wouldn’t touch a Citroen with a bargepole, due to the ‘complex’ suspension. We renewed the 4 spheres in a matter of 10 minutes, like 4 oil filters.

    The Xantia was an absolute peak in terms of big Citroens.
    Comfortable and French, yet it looked conventionally handsome with the saloon-like fastback shape and E36-style kamm tail.

    Quality was top notch, reliability – from my own and other Xantia owner’s experiences – was great. Proven Peugeot engines in the TU petrols and XUDs. (Later HDis got a little complex).

    The D segment was still relevant (the Germans were just getting into the cheap HP quotients), although Xantias were more likely to sell to lecturers and architects than pushy middle management types. Almost poaching the old Saab market.

    The C5 that replaced it lost the looks, looking like the offspring of a Vectra and a Scorpio. Got overly complex – I’ve yet to test drive one that doesn’t display warning lights of some description. Interiors felt a little more plasticy. (Yes the Xantia had a big plastic dash, but it never seemed to look like a costcutting effort).

    C5 after that (The ‘unmistakeably German’ version) for the most part lost the hydropneumatic suspension. Tried to sell to fleets with the 1.6HDi with a long service interval. This led to reliability issues, and the gutless post-60mph performance, didn’t endear it to fleet managers.

    Will it be replaced? The 508 seems to be selling a bit better (maybe they’ve worked out the fleet engine vs. service interval niggles) and is flying the flag for the French D segment contender. However, with Citroen concentrating on the DS range (of which the Picasso-style DS5 is the C6 replacement) and PSA looking to tie up with GM and possibly platform share on the 508 and Insignia replacements, it is looking likely that it’ll be led out to pasteur…

  5. Is the GM/PSA tie up a cert? What does PSA have to offer GM? i think the time has passed for mergers and tie-ups. Daimler got burned just as worldwide recession came about so surely its dog eat dog.

    GM is now out of bankruptcy it dont need to go there again.

  6. I think those that merge at this level of car production may well suffer (despite a different time, culture and economy) from the dreaded BL disease – just too big and unwieldy to manage. The natural process might end up with the word Nissan in the dictionary described as ‘the current world motor car’.
    Then what happens is that little fellers start smaller companies and grow bigger all over again. Funny old world.

  7. I’ve never had any doubts as to the quality and reliability of Citroen’s hydropneumatic suspension- mechanics who pour scorn on it should be avoided with a very wide berth in my opinion.

    Frankly, if they can’t grasp the essentials of said system, then I wouldn’t want them even putting air in my tyres, let alone servicing any car of mine that might throw up ‘anomalies in their mental programming’.

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