Used Citroen Xsara
The Citroen Xsara didn't exactly set the world on fire upon its launch at the end of 1997. The Xsara was stuck firmly in the shadow of the rival Ford Escort while actually offering superior handling and better equipment specifications. A five-door hatchback with 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 litre petrol versions, along with 1.9 litre diesels, both turbocharged and normally aspirated, the used Citroen Xsara engines came directly out of its competitor, the Peugeot 306. March 1998 saw a Coupe edition and the 306's nippy 2.0 litre engine added to the line up and an estate a month later. In August 1999 the turbo diesel was swapped out for a 90bhp Hdi. A number of special editions were available that offer good value for money in terms of equipment levels. 2000's makeover and some punchier engines perked up sales figures substantially, helped by improved equipment levels and lower prices. 2004 saw the Xsara phased out to be replaced by the C4.
Bang for your buck
The Citroen Xsara was a leader in its class in terms of cabin and luggage space, in addition to impressive standard equipment levels, such as ABS in '99 models onwards, stalk mounted stereo controls and adjustable steering column, along with the more obvious power assisted steering, front and side airbags and central locking. Higher trim levels also give you air conditioning and electric sunroof, windows and mirrors.
The second hand Xsara also displays some Citroen-centric design features, such as a neat clip to secure the parcel shelf when not in use, height-adjustable rear-view mirror, visual child-safety lock indicators and a digital warning when your next service is due. The passenger airbag can be deactivated to allow child seats in the front but, surprisingly, given such attention to detail in some areas, the rear lacks a three point seatbelt in the centre position.
Later models improved still further on safety provisions and added refinements to equipment such as parking sensors, particularly on plusher models.
What you'll pay
Entry level 1.4 litre models on an R-reg plate start at £1,200. Add £50 for the 1.6 litre and expect to pay £1,400 for the 1.8 SX. Diesels are a little more and allow an extra couple of hundred for higher trim levels, an estate or a coupe. Newer, 2002 VTRs can be had for a bargain £3,500.
What to check
No major faults reported but check the coupes weren't boy racer thrashed. As a family car, you'll want to check the trim for signs of child wear.
Clutch assembly about £90, brake pad sets about £40, radiator £150 and an alternator £250.
How it drives
Having borrowed heavily from its ZX predecessor and the Peugeot 306, the used Citroen Xsara's hardware is well proven for ride and handling. You can't help but notice its superiority over class competitors on lumpy roads but on the downside, the softness that carries you gently over speed bumps also causes you to wallow slightly on corners. Stick to the Coupe if you want to race away from the lights – particularly the 167bhp VTS. While it lacks some of Citroen's famous peccadilloes that some would argue add personality, that only helps to make the Xsara an enjoyable and sensible used purchase.