Our Cars : Keith’s Xantia – absence makes…

Words and Photographs: Mike Humble Workshop Supervision: Stella the Cat

Requiring a bloody good scrub – the alarmingly cheap left-hooker Xantia came up remarkably well.

Well, as Keith’s previous mutterings mentioned, last weekend’s battle plan would be for him to collect the newly acquired south paw Citroen Xantia from Leafy Sussex and be gone. Rewind another seven days when I had to deal with a cooling leak on his 75 that turned out to be a mini-nightmare, followed by a simple brake bleed on the Lancia Integrale which went on to cripple the car thanks to a dangerously corroded brake pipe – I remarked that one day an AROnline job would be a simple no messing affair. Unlike my Murphy’s – I’m not bitter, after all this is what Bangernomics is all about – scratching around looking for a solution or lash up in fading light the day before you go back to work.

I should be used to all this grief and anguish after well over 20 years of driving, even when piloting company cars I have often as not had a reserve smoker parked up purely for medicinal tinkering purposes – I just cant help myself as I’m never happier when I have a car in pieces on the driveway. But getting back to the point, this Citroen Xantia I sourced for Keith is a true Bangernomics bargain in every sense of the word, we won’t go into into details about price, but to describe it as a steal could be the understatement of the week. Now… I love Citroens, not in the same vain as a Rover or Saab 9000, but as far as the engineering accents and the way they drive, I dig that scene, to kind of quote the Blow Monkeys 1986 hit song.

Stella the AROnline cat decrees the turbo XUD lump to be in purrfect tune!

The motor in question is the right model to have – a 1905cc XU turbo D – none of your HDi nonsense, just a nice old-school diesel with a proper Bosch DVPE fuel pump operated by a cable from your right foot. Arguably one of the finest heavy oil engines of the last century, the XUD was also found in our own Rover R8 range and, of course, the LDV Pilot van.

The XUD was such a regarded engine, even FSO saw fit to use it in the restyled Polonez -Caro hatchback back in the mid 1990s. Driving around in the Xantia does nothing more than confirm that what turns so many people off Citroen actually makes the car a 100% driving machine of excellence – if you have never experienced Hydropneumatics, before you die – make sure you do!

Okay, the styling is a bit angular and clumsy, but think of it 1:18 scale XM and it kind of grows on you, but slip behind the wheel, buckle up, poke the key into the barrel and let the magic begin. One thing that does impress, is the feeling that Citroen really tried to build these things right. The dashboard won’t pull apart in your hands like stickle bricks as they did in a Visa or BX and the clocks are nicely displayed in the traditional manner unlike early CX variants that resembled something akin to an early Flash Gordon programme.

The seat fabric feels hard wearing as does the carpet, the BX was a good car that felt a touch gimcrack but the Xantia was a determined effort to make Citroen appeal to the masses and not only brand loyalists.

Keith’s motor was registered in Spain by a UK ex-pat owner from new. Mr J Frost had since moved back to the UK and following the sudden and tragic loss of his son-in-law who lived opposite my house, he purchased their much newer Vectra diesel and with some reluctance, decided to move on from his Xantia.

I have got to know John and his car quite well over the years and subsequently undertaken a few fettling jobs while he has been here visiting family, so when he mentioned the other week that he was looking to sell it I knew it was too good a car to pass on. Left hand drive aside, the Xantia has turned out to be a cracking purchase, 99% FSH heaps of MoT and taxed ’til well into last year – if Keith had not bought it, I would have – it’s that good!

So where are we at now? Oddly enough, a car at this money usually requires more than the sum of its parts in re-commissioning, but I’m pleased to report it’s looking very promising indeed. Upon delivery the rev counter was jammed at 6000rpm – a friend in the know and fellow Citroephile explained that this happens when the battery goes flat.

Sure as damn it, there is a bill for a new battery in the expansive service history, as the battery sighs its last breath, the instruments goes haywire and the rev counter flies round the dial and gets jammed. Removing the instrument cluster, I removed the dash lens and simply poked the needle back to the stop pin – hey presto, a working tacho!

A flat battery caused the tacho to go wild causing the needle to jam solid

Routine tinkering repaired the inoperative cigar lighter and interior lights (the latter cured with some old Sierra dash illumination bulb holders) and some insecure wiring had the period Pioneer boot-mounted autochanger working once again. Once the disc changer was loaded with some Vanessa Paradis and Plastic Bertrand (readers under the age of 40 ask your parents) the ‘Zant’ was pressed into full commuter service.

Once the initial scary feeling of sitting on the wrong side of the car was overcome, the car is absolute dream to smoke around in, but left hand drive is not for the faint-hearted. After a few miles of bump thump bump thump as your offside wheels rattle over the cats eyes, it all falls into place very quickly.

Showing 182,000 clicks on clock (109,638.5542 miles in old money) the Xantia wafts along like a car half its mileage, no squeaks and no clonks either – testimony to a car that’s been well looked after and also Citroen’s vastly improved integrity of later generation cars. Having spent all of its life on mainland Spain, there is not one iota of rust either and the underside is, quite honestly, like peering under a UK motor at its first MoT.

What a car to cruise in also, high speed motoring is quite like nothing else this side of a Jaguar. Regardless of speed, the ride comfort is just sublime but the faster your go, the more compliant the ride becomes. Body roll is pronounced and the lifeless steering is akin to playing an arcade game, but for touring? Impressive…

The car could do with a service including all the filters and the paint could do with a good cutting, but besides that, it’s ready to plug in and play. Yeah yeah, it’s not a Rover – but this IS pure Bangernomics motoring and we have saved yet another perfectly usable old clunker from the jaws of the Chinese economy in the form of recycled steel. But this has left me with one slight dilemma, I love this car so much that, if it wasn’t for the fact that there has been so much blood, sweat and late night floodlamp spannering on my 75, I would, without a doubt, seriously consider a Xantia Turbo diesel.

The best engine, the best suspension and a healthy mix of  rock bottom values, economy and performance – a hard to beat combination!

Mike Humble


  1. “The best engine, the best suspension and a healthy mix of rock bottom values, economy and performance – a hard to beat combination!” – I see the logic in this statement.

    However, I don’t think I would ever consider a Xantia as a 75 alternative. One has soul, classic appeal and one does not. No prizes for guessing which is which!!

  2. @2 in complete agreement david,so much so i bought a 53 plate 1.8T off a old man yesterday-47K miles he even threw a snooper radar detector in the little scamp!

  3. Always a fan of the Xantia, I reckon they were the peak of Citroen quality and reliability, before it all went downhill with the HDi…

    XUDs great engines, even Toyota fitted them to 90s Corollas!

    Liked the look of the Xantia too, thought it was a handsome car especially in the right colour – phase 1/1.5s in green and phase 2s look good in your dark colour. The chrome highlights are Merc-like and mine sat proudly in the company car park surrounded by germanic boxes.

    IIRC replacing the battery required a BSI reset which involved putting down windows, turning ignition on and off etc.

    Here’s my old one inspecting the QE2. “Wot – no spheres?”

  4. Yes,
    The 1.9 diesel is far superior to the Hdi.
    I wish they still made them. Covered 441,000k in my 406 variant and still burning no oil or water and smooth as the day it was made.

  5. Having owned both Xantias and 75s I can assure you BOTH have character. The Xantia simply because it has THAT suspension and its links to absolute greatness.

    I used to love the way it used to sigh to me when I was stuck in a traffic jam.

  6. My friend John had a green estate which he loved. It was certainly a comfortable car, and better than his old rust bucket of a 405. However it was written off when he was visiting his family, and he replaced it with an Xsara coupe which he still has (and swears by).

  7. I absolutely loved my n/a XUD BX… It was slow, most of the interior was held together with superglue but nothing has felt so comfy, so full of character since.

    To this day, the only car I regret scrapping…

    The Xantia – on a good day (there were about a handful) the 2.1 TD was the fastest thing I’ve ever driven. It was comfy and the S1.5 SX always looked good – smoked rear lights, spoiler and smart alloys (missing oddly from the S2).

    That was a car that frustrated me more than anything. I think a 1.9 would have done me better… Is the 2.0 HDi unit unreliable?

    I may also be the only person who loves the Vectra B. It’s lines still please me, especially those wing mirrors…

  8. @Mike Humble

    Well, as my work colleagues (with their overly stiff “sporty” suspension) would’ve said, from one boat to another! 🙂


    I had a 2.0 HDi in a 406 – same floorplan as the Xantia. Nice enough car, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the HDi. Had a test drive in a C5 HDi before going Honda, but the MFD lit up like the starship enterprise under attack from a fleet of Cardassian warships having lost shields and warp drive.

  9. Will M

    Thanks for making me laugh out loud at the last paragraph. Funny you mention Honda, as I was convinced that my 2.2 Civic iCDTi company motor was fitted with a Warp drive containing regenerative dilithium crystal

    (Christ! I really ought to get out more)

  10. I hope the car has less mechanical issues than Keith has had recently!

    No one should be more accident prone than I am!!!!

  11. The Xantia is a superb car, well screwed together, long lasting and reliable if maintained and they ride much nicer than the C5 which replaced them. The facelift C5s had modified damping but the Xantia still had the edge and it’s the much better looking car – I still think it looks good today.

  12. sorry but its just a supermarket car park 2 a penny kinda car at the moment, just no age to it. not interesting, now if it were a stag or p6 now your talkin. having said all that it has to start somewhere. i always thought BL austin rover gave there cars a soul they are interesting what ever the build quality…

  13. There’s a nice little trick the Xantia pulls when you fill up the tank.

    Make sure it’s nearly empty before going to the pumps. Lean your body gently against the rear wing as you’re filling it up. After a while you’ll feel it lift slightly as the hydraulic suspension takes up the extra weight of the fuel.

    Just like a living thing making itself comfortable with the added load.

  14. I remember mine when it had it’s MOT – they drive it onto a lifter which shakes it about to see if anything falls off.


    The Xantia survived the test, but on the way down decided to rest on it’s belly and stay there for a good minute before coming back up, like a cat that is in a huff, while a couple of cars to test were queueing up behind it.

  15. I had a BX 19TRI auto estate and then a BX 19GTI, absolutely great cars to drive – parts of the trim like the interior door handles and switchgear always felt like they were about ot break but never did.

  16. Why is the HDi weaker?
    I have one with 185.000km, for now, zero problems. A friend of mine has one too… with 450.000km, zero problems too.

    I like 1.9TD, but HDi is not a bad engine at all!
    I don’t actually know really defects … Maybe there are, but HDi are still out today.

    I know 2.1 TD had the evil Lucas Epic (ohh boy, that was a EPIC bomb… epic failure).

    I liked your post! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.