Here’s an outtake from a recent photoshoot we did with my Xantia Activa for Classic Car Weekly. The picture, taken by Richard Gunn, with Murray Scullion driving shows the boy wonder going for it in a corner to try and get some action for an upcoming piece in the ‘paper. Before he disappeared on the shoot, I did warn him that taking cornering shots might be futile, but I guess he needed to see that for himself.
As you can see, the no-roll Citroen is doing what it does best – sitting level and utterly composed, making a mockery of the road beneath it. In this shot, the car may as well be parked, and if it weren’t for the blurred background, you’d be forgiven for thinking that.
And for the past few days, I’ve finally been able to experience this myself at first hand on a daily basis, after taking the decision to remove the Avantime from the road until I’ve serviced the thing. Okay, so plodding up the A14 and then grinding (at 35-45mph) on the A605 (thanks, HGVs) isn’t exactly rewarding for anyone, there are one or two times when the Activa does come into its own – and impress me profoundly.
We have a lovely stretch of B-road on the usual commute, that I am sure is intimately familiar to all Bauer employees heading in from the south. It’s called the Elton Road, and contains some delicious corners, interesting inclines, and inconsistent cambers. It’s riddled with hazards, so anyone who really commits to it is taking a pretty big risk – but for those who like to crack along, well within the limits of their car, it can present a fascinating challenge, come home time.
And that’s where this modestly quick hatchback really comes into its own. Because you basically dial-in a speed, relax in your seat, and come every turn, swivel the wheel, and enjoy as the car tracks precisely where you want it. There’s no slop, no play, and no lost movement. You want to turn, it turns. And does so at whatever speed you choose to do it at.
When I had my first Activa back in 2006, it turned me into a bit of a nutter, thanks to the sheer speed it could carry through corners, but today, I’m older and a little wiser, and try to use the car’s sheer ability wisely. But it does have this unnerving ability to instill you with such confidence, that your speed subconsciously increases bend after bend. And it’s only when you catch another car – quickly – that you realise how fast you were actually going.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is down to your personal preferences. Personally I love it, and cry bitter tears of regret when I remember that Citroen didn’t bother to continue with the system, but I guess it was a pragmatic one based on cost. Shame is that the French manufacturer – a true suspension pioneer – could have popularised active roll elimination, but instead has left it to the Germans to do so instead, with their increasing use of air suspension systems.
What a shame.