Blog : A year with the ‘unreliable’ Citroen C6

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Citroen C6 (1)

You have to love preconceived notions, and how so many people can be shaped by them. The car world is packed with them and many, many people who enjoy spouting off ‘wisdom’ that they’ve picked up via Top Gear or some man in the pub. We all know – we love BL, BMC and Rover products, and there’s probably nothing we’ve not heard of before. I mention this because I’ve celebrated a year’s ownership of my Citroen C6 without a single breakdown…

I bought it on 19 May 2015, a late birthday present to myself, after selling the Renault Avantime which had been delightful company for the previous six months or so. That was a car I really bonded with, and the only reason I sold it was because I’d decided that I wanted a Citroen C6 more and that the time was right to get one. I’d driven an example back at its launch in 2006 and, ever since then, I just knew I was going to have to have one. Besides, Citroen and I have form, and I’ve been a serial owner of XMs, BXs, Xantias and CXs. The C6 was an obvious evolution of my affliction.

Getting to the C6 was easier than I thought it was going to be. In 2015, buying an early one would set me back about £4000 – and that’s probably a bit cheaper now. So, the Avantime went, as did an Alfa Romeo project I had on the books and a horribly unreliable BMW 528i Touring. When combined, my target was achieved and, as luck would have it, a black (the only colour to have) 2006 C6 Exclusive popped up for sale in St. Neots, I few miles down the road.

So, I went to see it, and inevitably the deal was done. I didn’t even haggle – very unlike me. What did I get for my money? Well, it had 105,000 miles on the clock, had a full service history and was in very rude health. Aside from a few wheel scuffs, it was pretty much as it was when it popped out of the factory back in 2006. Interestingly, it’s been such a fulfilling car to own, that my habits of flipping cars in quick succession, as well as owning four, five or six at once, both seem to have died down. In fact, a year on, all I have in the ‘fleet’ is this C6 and a Range Rover P38 – even my beloved Lancia Delta Integrale is just about to be sold!

A week or so after I bought it, I headed for the Le Mans 24 Hours, and it romped there and back without missing a beat. It was a flying visit, but I had time to take some photos in a suitably French setting, while admiring the fact that so many people over there seemed to love seeing this magnificent car on their roads.

Citroen C6 (2)

Being an Exclusive, it’s what you would describe as loaded – the equipment level is impressive for a 10-year old car. Here are the highlights:

  • Active Xenon headlamps
  • Head-up display
  • Satnav and integrated ICE
  • Electric heated front seats
  • Heated rear seats
  • Climate control
  • Computer controlled active suspension
  • A V6 twin-turbo diesel, pushing out 200bhp
  • Cruise control

And so it goes on… When I tweeted about my car, the supplying dealer got in touch and told me about its history as a dealer demo, which was a nice touch, and being a C6, it does feel like I’m in an exclusive (sorry) club, as there are so few out there. When I rolled into work in it, many people told me how amazing it looked and how ‘brave’ a purchase it was – and that’s without mentioning the depreciation I was undoubtedly going to suffer. Hmm…

As the miles rolled on, I fell further for this car. It went into the local Citroen specialist (Pleaides Car Services in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire), where it received a regular service and transmission fluid change (as an insurance against future failure). From that moment on, it’s been a pleasure to rack up the miles in – and, in what has been a tumultuous year for me, it’s been a faithful companion. That means the world to me.

Citroen C6 (5)

What’s it like to drive? Well, for committed Citroenistes, it’s not the softy you might expect. Compared with its contemporaries, it suspension is supple and reasonably well-damped, but compared with, say, an XM, it’s choppy and suffers from too much fore/aft pitch. I’d also been running a Xantia Activa and, after that, driving the C6 felt like a retrograde step. New tyres would help, as I subsequently found.

As long as you don’t throw it into corners, it’s pretty planted in the twistier stuff, although you do have to understand how to get the best out of it – not bad for a 1900kg behemoth. However, in truth, this car is happiest on the motorway, chewing up and spitting out miles, and soothing the weary driver.

In terms of performance, it always felt okay, if not especially quick. Fuel consumption was also disappointing, at between 33-35mpg in most situations. Given it costs pushing £500 per year to tax, it’s not a car that you can run on the cheap. Early in 2016, when the emissions system started throwing up errors, I decided to turn the setback into an opportunity by getting the car looked over and remapped.

I entrusted this job to Hedaux Motor Company, which is run by Dan, the son of Les Hedaux, who’s a banger rally veteran friend, notable for buying my Rover 216 GTI, which starred in the 2004 Staples2Naples. He kept it years, too, which makes him okay in my books. The remap cost £360, and what it gained me (as well as a repair on my knackered turbo actuator) has been astonishing in terms of throttle response. It’s also improved the fuel consumption to around 38mpg, as well as giving the car significantly more mid-range punch. Excellent, I can now bully Audi A4s!

Other than that, it’s needed a new set of tyres. I went for Avon ZZ5s, which seem to be doing a sterling job of keeping it all in check. At 119,000 miles, it’s now approaching the need for another service – and that’s most evident in the braking performance, which could be enhanced massively by the fitment of a new set of front pads. And, er, that’s about it.

What about the dreadful Citroen quality, reliability and depreciation? Well, the interior is still solid and squeak-free, while the stereo still sounds good, the seats look like they’ve never been sat in and the controls all still work as they should. In terms of reliability, it’s not been trouble-free – the cruise control packed up, although I am assured it’s just an electrical connection and, as reported before, the emissions system reported an error. The active rear spoiler also had a mind of its own in the winter, but seems to have settled down again. As for the depreciation – yeah, it cost me £4000, and is probably worth £3000 now.

But, do you know what? I love it and, for the first time in a very long time, I own a car I’m proud of, and one that I walk away from after every journey and give it a long, lingering backwards glance. It has huge road presence, looks wonderful and, from what I can see, women seem to love it, too! That’s priceless in my book.

Citroen C6 (4)

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)

31 Comments

  1. It’s a striking looking thing indeed! As a long term lover of all things XM, I’m glad it worked out well for you.

    Unfortunately, my XM induced love affair with Citroen never survived 12 months with a new Citroen C5! I still shudder to every time I thing of that car.

  2. Keith, I know exactly what you mean! I ask C6 owners 3 questions. Firstly, how many times do you catch yourself looking back at ad on walk away? Second, how many times do you slow down and look in the shop window as you drive past? Third (you’re doing it now) how many times do you catch yourself smiling when you talk about it?

  3. It’s the last of it’s kind not only the last big Citroen but the last big French car as well so enjoy it for what it is. Renualt have never replaced the Vel Satis either, so that leaves the people who buy these “executive” cars with the stark choice of buying something German or a Jaguar which I think is rather sad as both Infiniti & Lexus have struggled to make much of an impression in the UK market leaving not much choice in this segment of the market. You also had an Aventime, now that truly was a work of genius,an heroic attempt to create a new category of car that was like nothing seen before

    • Yes – the Aventime. I only saw a few of those (mainly dealer show models at events). I remember how futuristic it looked back in 2001(?)

    • Well neither of those is remotely French really. Indeed Peugeot Citroen seem to be putting a lot of their effort into the Chinese marker, where both marques are doing well and of course where the locals will have little knowledge or interest in what “traditional” Citroens used to be like…

    • That C6 II is not worthy and a China-only aberration. I wish it had never seen the light …

  4. Isn’t this a joint programme with Samsung, Renualt’s Korean subsiduary, the Regie has already sold two Korean built cars the Koleus & the Latitude of which only the former was sold in Blighty

  5. The bloke round the corner who had 2 C6s in succession seems to have replaced the most recent one with a Tesla. Is that where the progressively-minded motorist will increasingly go?

  6. Pity there are only 24 RHD petrol v6 examples, I will probably never own one 🙁 thanks Gordon for that

  7. Wasn’t aware you had owned an Avantime, Keith. Just read through the articles you wrote on it. Looked like a great car.

  8. What I’ve always wondered about the Citroen suspension is whether you could shoehorn it into other cars without too much hassle. Not so much the C6 type, you’d need to reprogram all the computers for the different weights and such, but the older non computerised version like C5?
    if I had the money I’d like to find a good solid classic and do a project to fit every useful bit of modern technology to it, like FSI, grade reactive cruise, modern tyres, LED lighting.
    I think we’re missing a trick junking whole cars if for example the engine has packed up. Why not build adaptor kits to replace worn out engines with modern equivalents. Like a Ka with a Kent engine being retrofitted with, dare I say the name, an eco-boom. Or kits to replace 5 speed manuals with 6 speeds or DCG or even automatics. All it’d need in most cases is a pack of parts that have been cadged from other models or made up as necessary.
    I’d give money to get a 6 speed into the Accent, it really needs it, but I don’t have the facilities or expertise or the money to pay for any necessary machining – assuming I could even find a machine shop that’s still going..

  9. I have a friend who was working in PSA HQ at the time of the Xantia Activa, he tells me that it was way ahead in capability of anything short of M3 money so enabling them to take sales from BMW and Mercedes. (In the Swedish magazine Teknikens Värld’s moose test the 1999 model of Xantia V6 Activa still holds the record speed through the maneuver – faster than the Porsche 996 GT2)

    However its active roll bars were not cheap to make and whilst reliable in service they still lost money on each one because the brand would not stand a high enough price to fund it.

    They also suffered further costs because its near zero roll rate meant that it took time for drivers to learn how to judge their speed, so the test fleet and demonstrators had a very high write off rate.

    They were also stung by demands from customers for replacement front tyres (I recall they were some high spec highly priced Michelins) as again the drivability meant they had a very short life.

    The technology was thus quietly dropped and I suspect it in part led to where we are now with hydropneumatic suspension on the extinction list.

  10. The C6 didn’t sell well in the UK but I think the bigger problem was it did not sell well in France.

    I don’t know what the sales figures were so I am only going from personal observation. On the return from one of my trips to the historic race weekend at Angouleme in south western France I was passed by a British registered C6 on the road between Caen and the ferry terminal at Quistreham. It dawned on me that it was the only C6 I remembered having seen on that trip.

    • Generally, it didn’t sell very well.

      C6 sales (global)
      2005 400
      2006 s1 3400
      2006 s2 3700
      2007 s1 4200
      2007 s2 3400
      2008 s1 1700
      2008 s2 1100
      2009 1500
      2010 1400
      2011 900
      2012 ?
      Total > 21700

      Things would have been different if it had sold better.

    • The reality is that in this age of high tax on company cars and company car taxation based on emissions the executive car market in Europe now tops out at in the 3 Series class for volume Sales.

      Citroen don’t ahve the pull as a brand in China, Russia and don’t go to the US where demand is still strong (see far more XJ in Moscow than Birmingham, and Audi A8 are two a penny)for large Execs.

  11. I think it’s a huge shame and a wasted opportunity when the Citroen DS has been widely recognised as one of the most significant cars ever built yet the Citroen brand has completely ignored (in their current range) this much loved part of their history.

  12. The last of the ‘big’ Citroens. Recently the C5 was killed off as well.

    It could be argued that DS5 is the successor, yet it was slated in initial reviews for jarring ride comfort, a mortal sin for a large car wearing the chevrons (be they in a vertical or ‘side by side’ formation as per the new DS brand).

    There is a C6 for sale not too far from me. 90k miles, 2006 – a 10 year old big French car. Yet when not wearing the sensible hat I am tempted. Nothing else for the money would provide the equipment, comfort and interior ambience while still looking so modern.

    Big French cars don’t sell well, even in France all I saw were hatchbacks, crossovers and a surprising number of German brands. Biggest domestic cars I saw were 508s on some unmarked duty (with lights in the grille) and C5 taxis.

    In the UK the C6 didn’t sell well, nor did the 607. C5 dropped off the radar and is now axed, the previous hatchback model did do a lot better though. Maybe buyers prefer their big Citroens to be practical – as per BX, XM, Xantia?

    Renault didn’t fare any better, Vel Satis is a rare spot, the last Laguna unfortunately lost a lot of flair (though the coupe is a stunning proposition, and a prospect if a rare automatic can be found).

    A reflection on the car market as a whole. Perhaps on the economic market too – since 2008 private car buyers have had to become a little more sensible. For big saloons buyers look to Germany where the depreciation, tax and monthly lease hire payments are favourable. Otherwise, practical small hatchbacks and bigger crossovers.

  13. I am so glad you enjoyed your Citroen, I had my 2009 2.7 Executive for four years and loved it. I sold it 18 months ago and I stil miss driving it everyday, one of the few cars ( other than a coupl of Lancias ) I have actually loved.

    I only sold mine as it had four punctures over two years causing me to buy 8 new very expensive Michelins…..I actually began to think the car was cursed, orat least its’ wheels…Other than that, 35,000 perfect, reliable & comfortable & supremeley elegant driving, I cannot commend the car highly enough.

  14. For balance, I am the owner of a 2009 2.7HDI Exclusive, and have been for over 5 years now. I have had many a reliability mishap, that do seem to hit the car between 80k – 100k. It became too ‘inconsistent’ for me to keep using it as my main daily driver (a Mazda 3 Fastback 2.2d now performs that role – a really fun and economical car to drive/ own), but it was almost worthless and has got under my skin, so I kept it anyway.

    I do believe that there has been little like this car over the past 10 years, and I love the fact that the driving experience is so different to anything else I have owned. It also looks like nothing else – the looks are more divisive than the Brexit referendum – and in a good way to my eyes. It’s a bitter-sweet car, though, as it signed the Citroen death warrant in this class, and gave license to PSA creating the (thus far) gauche and tacky DS brand. I don’t like the way that Citroen is now going – the Cactus showed promise, but is holed beneath the water-line by penny pinching, but should not be a template for every other model in the range (see the new C3).

  15. I’ve never totally bought into the argument that big and French means bad and unreliable. Looking back in time, the Peugeot 604, which was always an interesting alternative to a Rover SD1, was quite a durable car, the Renault 30, using the same V6 engine, seemed quite good and the Citroen CX, perhaps the most distinctive large car of the seventies, had some quality issues in its early years, but became a big selling executive car and was quite reliable if maintained corectly.

  16. Hmmm, the Renault 30. My boss had one as a runaround in the mid-80s. It was a bit of a trader and got this as part payment in a deal. I

    t really wasn’t a bad car to drive and really well equiped for the time, but it had a whole repertoir of ‘entertainments’. Like doors that usually wouldn’t lock, but once locked wouldn’t re-open. How I laughed when this happened to me and had to walk home 5 miles, then found the car had unlocked itself when I came back with help sometime later.

    The best bit of that car was how good it was at J turns with all that weight slung over the front wheels !

    I can still remember the reg – MLF1V

  17. Big Citroens always faced a big dilemma. Once they were characterful, quirky cars that attracted faithful customers but lost money. When Peugeot took over the ailing company, they faced a double chevron sized hole in the pocket and to stop the money leak, they had to take away the character and quirkiness of the cars, thereby killing the very reason to buy them in the first place.
    The result was that the DS sold nearly one and a half million times whereas the bland and unimaginative, but still horribly unreliable and terrifyingly expensive to maintain XM didn’t even find a tenth of that number of customers, with the weird C6 sales success even worse.
    Citroens now are bland and anodyne cars sold in large numbers and making a solid profit. Just as they were before a certain Monsieur André Lefèbvre designed the Traction Avant and the DS.

  18. Nothing can really match the Citroen CX for large French cars, although the C6 comes close. In its 15 year career, nothing rode as well, looked as exciting or was as interesting to drive as the CX. Obviously being a Citroen, it had its faults- it was complicated to maintain and not very well rustproofed- but was a far more exciting prospect than a Granada or a Volvc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*