Well, at last it can be said: my Rover 75 1.8 Connoisseur never cut it as a Bangernomics chariot. Not for one moment… That’s not to say that I don’t think that these cars do make a lot of sense for those running their car on a budget – but, if you’re going to get a 75, please, please, please make sure it’s been looked after. That means far less heartache. So after a great deal of work (by Mike Humble) to get the car right and running reliably, we decided that it was time to move it on and start afresh with something completely different.
I still fundamentally believe that the 75 potentially makes a great Bangernomics mobile. Just not an abused one like mine was. Still, one thing you can say about the 75 – any 75 – is that it’s a very special place to sit. And that’s certainly brought into relief when jumping into its replacement, a 1998 Citroën Xantia 1.9TD SX. Whereas the Rover is graced with swooping internal architecture and beautifully-judged wood veneer with high quality plastics, the Xantia is a bit grey and, er, uninspiring. You sit in the Rover and feel like you’ve made it; driving the Xantia makes you feel like you’ve lots of hard work left to do.
Still, when I bought the Xantia, it was done so in order for me to get back on track with my Bangernomics life. And that means, buying cheap, spending the minimum possible on it to keep the car in tip-top condition and not caring too much about its general well-being. Doing it this way when there’s a Delta Integrale in the garage is probably quite sensible.
But I know what you’re thinking – why a Citroën Xantia? These cars are fragile and troublesome and, compared with the 75, badly built by lazy Frenchmen. Well, actually no. Back in the late 1990s, I ran Xantias as my company cars over thousands of miles and, compared with their counterparts from Ford and Vauxhall (and Rover, it has to be said), they never gave me any problem at all and would deliver 50mpg all day long, no matter how hard you drove. Not only that, the ride comfort and overall refinement were stunning, leaving me to conclude that the old ‘Relax it’s a Rover’ campaign was applied to the wrong marque.
Still, that was then and this is now. A long time later… But I have to say that the car that Mike put on to me is absolutely brilliant. You may have noticed that the steering wheel is on the wrong side. Well, that’s why the car came with a very favourable price tag – but, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just buy the Xantia because it was cheap. Oh no, it’s been superbly looked after by its one-owner and hasn’t exactly had a hard life down in the South of Spain. Actually, I’m kind of envious.
Living with the car has certainly pain-free. Once used to being on the wrong side of the car (which is great practice for driving the LHD Delta Integrale anyway) it’s been easy-peasy. The driving position is good (better than RHD, actually) and the ride just as good as I remember. Cruising on the motorway is an effortless 90mph affair, while at the pumps, it seems to be doing the all-day-long 50mpg thing that you can’t help but like. Has anything gone wrong with it so far? Not a bean. Does anything not work? Nope, it’s all good. Even the aftermarket CD multi-changer system works well while sounding punchy and crisp.
What’s the one fundamental difference between this and the 75? I trust it to get where I’m going.
I’m enjoying beating the system again. Shame it’s not in a British car, but vive la Bangernomics!