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Bargain Corner#1: ’95 Citroen Xantia


With everybody being urged to eat healthily to kerb an obesity crisis, cars are currently selling markedly better than hotcakes in the UK. With credit being so readily available the dealership order-books are bulging and suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand. This is great news for the economy.

It’s great news for the used car market, too, as a lot of recent cars head for early trade-in, and a stock oversupply leads to some good deals, so people are now driving around in cars which are a lot newer than they previously expected to be able to afford. A lot of these folk aren’t desperate for new wheels, there’s nothing wrong with their existing conveyance, it might just be a little old hat.

We’re now in a situation where there are an awful lot of elderly but usable cars out there which have been rendered homeless thanks to attainability of newer, more fashionable stuff. I thought I’d begin an occasional series looking at just what there is out there at the very bottom end of the market. Setting the upper limit at £200, this was the pick of today’s crop.


My first feature car is, I think, a bit of a corker. The vendor’s description is as follows:

“Very reliable, starts first time every time. Excellent first car or station car., 4 owners, Next MOT due 11/05/2016, No service history, Electric windows, Height adjustable driver’s seat, Height adjustable passenger seat, Folding rear seats, Spare wheel (Full), Central locking, Immobiliser, Driver’s airbags, Passenger airbags. 5 seats, SILVER, £200 “

Ok, let’s approach the negatives first. There is no service history. This either means it has been lost or that it has never been properly maintained. Realistically, it’s most likely a blend of the two. Of those four owners the first couple may have been reasonably doting, and then it’s fallen into more apathetic hands later on.

But whichever way you look at it, it’s a running car with an MOT valid until the second week of May. After then it either fails or passes its road-worthiness inspection, and you either fix it or bin it.

It’s also a Citroen Xantia. These were roundly showered with plaudits on their launch and are still generally seen in a positive light (by those who still care) even now. The hydro-pneumatic suspension system, though complex, isn’t necessarily a ticking time-bomb, the engines are relatively simple (this one is the lowly 1.8 litre gas unit) and they’re not as prone to sudden and unexpected electrical apocalypse like certain more recent French cars I could mention.

Finally, in case you don’t see it as value enough already, just look at it. The Xantia was certainly the most crisply styled of the middleweight family cars of the ’90s, a Mondeo or Vectra of the same age looks blobby and unimaginative by comparison. Think of the Xantia as a more compact, less fragile XM and you wouldn’t be far wrong.

So, is this homeless French Fancy worthy of your £200 ($287.82 right this second)

(All images taken from original Autotrader.co.uk post found here. If you buy this car, please get in touch and let us know how it works out)

  • Sjalabais

    It is almost unbelievable that you can get a driving and registered car for 200£…by comparison, that is quite exactly half of my monthly car expenses for the Honda (purchase price included, depreciation 100%). It is also 20% below the permanent cash for clunkers here in Norway.

    So…yes, it definitely looks like it is worth the money. I remember when the Xantia wagon was new, what a gorgeous car!

    Ten years ago, I borrowed one of these off a friend and went to the mountains with it. Fairly capable car, easy to drive and with a good road feel. Convinced me to buy a smaller Xsara many, many years later, which was a desaster.

    • karonetwentyc

      The real culture shock came when I moved to the US and realised that in the under-$3000 category there were virtually no good cars to be had. That was in 1998; adjust upwards to $4500-$5000 now.

      • Sjalabais

        So a British LeMons would be…faster? I wonder if economists have done some calculating about how much of a wealth effect switching to LHD would represent? Cars would hold their value much better by suddenly being integrated into the European market, thus influencing household wealth. Someone should tell Osborne.

        • karonetwentyc

          It was more that a working car that could pass a smog test and came with working A/C in Los Angeles was $3K to start. The further under that number you went, the faster you got into increasingly-ropey territory.

          Joking aside, I’m not sure that there is any benefit to Ireland or the UK switching to LHD – the cost of the conversion for driver education, signage, road markings, re-engineering of exits and traffic controls, etc. would take forever to break even on. It would also spoil my enjoyment of watching my wife attempt to shift gears with her right hand despite the gear lever being to her left.

  • CruisinTime

    Does not shift to high gear,will not start when hot or cold.Brakes are grinding and the windshield is cracked. Ran when parked.

    • In that case will you take £250?

      • karonetwentyc

        Throw in a factory cassette deck that eats tapes, has one-point-three working speakers, and can only tune one station on longwave and you’ve got a deal.

        Dear God, I just realised that that description accurately reflects the head unit that was in my 1986 Renault 5.

  • Just noticed the link above to Antti’s post from 2014. Heh!

  • Makes my $500 1996 BMW 318ti seem rather extravagant.

  • karonetwentyc

    At £200, I’d absolutely say yes if it’s as solid in the flesh as it sounds in print. My Godfather had one of these (3.0-litre V6, IIRC) as the last car he ever owned and it was an absolute stormer. Drove brilliantly and was fantastic both on back roads and motorways. Can’t recall him ever having any particular issues with it; it seemed to do well on just routine maintenance.

    If it were a 2.0 or a diesel it’d be more tempting, but wouldn’t kick it out of bed for having the 1.8. That’s a damned good car for not very much money.

    • Rover 1

      If I lived near there I would have already bought it. A Xantia is certainly in my future, the summation ‘the Xantia as a more compact, less fragile XM’ is spot on. They can also be considered as a less quirky, slightly better made BX.

      • karonetwentyc

        I’ve had a couple of BXes and while I wouldn’t call them a paragon of build quality in terms of the materials used, they were still in fairly decent condition by the time I got them (both had over 100,000 miles on the clock) and did well in service. The Xantia was definitely a major leap forward in terms of both fit & finish and spec, however.

        • Rover 1

          I’ve had a few BXs as well, and still have one, set for very long term ownership. They are quite well built, with the interiors in particular being very hardwearing, despite seeming quite plasticky. The mechanicals seem to be very robust as well as easy to work on, I think it may be easier to change the clutch on a BX than the headlight bulb on some Audi A4s. And like A4s, BXs seem to be very rustproof and as for spec, ours have been JDM imports with A/c etc. The Xantias seem a little more E36ish in a good way while retaining the Citroen strengths that the company, itself has abandoned in it’s rush to make Audi A3 clones with the DS.

          • karonetwentyc

            ‘Plasticky’ was exactly the word I had in mind when I was referring to the fit & finish on the BX, though I have to say that both of mine also had interiors that held up very well despite their age and mileage. That said, I am jealous that you’re getting the Japanese-market ones with A/C – I can’t recall ever seeing it on an Irish or UK model, but then again I wasn’t exactly looking for top-spec cars at the time, either.

            Of the entire current DS range, the only one that even remotely interests me is the DS3, but even then not by very much. It’s also surprising that there is no C6 equivalent in the lineup; to my mind, if you’re going to have a premium marque (or whatever it is that Citroën is doing with the DS name) you need to have a large, premium car in the model range.

            As an aside, it must absolutely frustrate Citroën’s marketeers to no end that a simple Google search for ‘Citroën DS’ brings up acres and acres of images for the real DS as the first result. This can’t serve to do anything but remind the buying public of how mundane the current crop have become in comparison to what came before.

            • Rover 1

              And now they’ve brought back non opening rear windows! Unbelieveable!

              If you squint carefully the ‘chrome’ grill surround looks a bit like the original DS shot with a blurry lens, meanwhile the cars neither handle well or have a good ride, and IMHO are worse cars than the current Hyundais.
              And Hyundai have a proper range of cars, not just variations on a small hatchback.

              And with the BXs, I now regret writing off my mother’s one, a19TRI Auto because a local idiot mechanic put ATF in the hydraulics. I am left with the one 19TRI manual.

  • stigshift

    Merde alors! Mais oui! I love French cars. And all the other cars too. Because car guy.

  • crank_case

    These are great as cheap comfortable transport, let down only by their inability to do handbrake turns.

    (handbrake/e-brake operates the front wheels, spoilsports)

  • Cool_Cadillac_Cat

    I plan to take my lovely wife to the UK/Ireland/Scotland for about a month, in a few years.

    When we travel, it’s very spur-of-the-moment in what we do, save for a few things. We love to travel by wheel, and having done a tour of Australia/NZ which was a group thing, and a month long, we regretted not being able to spend more time some places, less time in others.

    I really don’t want to rent a car when I could outright buy one of these, then literally give it to someone when I’m done with it. THIS is the price range I hoped to find something mobile, registered, and semi-reliable.

    Sure, I really want a RHD Jaaaaaag XJS or a Rover 3500, though I’d be tempted to ship something like that home when we’re done.

    The US used to have a not totally horrible $500 car market, but that idiotic Cash for Clunkers bit took a huge number of useable, really inexpensive vehicles off the market. Now it’s more like $3K might get you something ‘okay’. I mean, the sub-$1,000 car market still exists, but finding something like this Citroen is quite rare (running, driving, not missing windows/doors, registered).

    • crank_case

      I would advise purchasing in the UK rather than Republic of Ireland if getting a car newer than 30 years of age. You won’t necessarily get a better car, but it will be easier/cheaper to put some tax on it and get insurance, and the UK will let you tax for a month at a time. On the other hand, if you want something older than 30 years, Ireland still has rolling 30 year “classic tax” at only €56 a year and you can get insurance via the likes of Autoline (Nothern Ireland based but cover the republic too), AXA, Allianz or Campions or even via the IVS (Irish vintage society) scheme. Anything before 1980 won’t even need a roadworthiness cert in Ireland. Donedeals (our craigslist) as good a place as any to look for low rent classics, but finding something that you can just drive away is challenging. It’s a damp climate and everything rusts.

      • karonetwentyc

        For Cool_Cadillac_Cat’s benefit: I would strongly recommend following crank_case’s advice and buying in the UK rather than Ireland unless you’re familiar with the nuances of the Irish car market.

        the NCT is Ireland’s biannual roadworthiness test, similar to the annual MoT in the UK. It wasn’t introduced until 2005 (IIRC), so be wary of cars being sold without one – you could be buying something that’s been sitting for a dozen or more years, has no hope of passing the test (which is required to put the car on the road), and is effectively a rotbox at best or completely unsafe at worst.

        Road tax – which you will have to purchase – is calculated in one of two ways for passenger vehicles (I won’t get into commercial vehicles, which may include certain variants of passenger cars) depending on year of manufacture: pre-2008, it’s based on engine displacement and becomes incredibly punitive when you go over 2.0 litres; post-2008 it’s based on emissions in grammes of CO2 per km. The 2016 rates can be found . Summary: unless the car is eligible for classic road tax or has a very small engine, expect it to not be cheap to register.

        Let’s just say that insurance in Ireland is incredibly expensive, particularly if you have a non-EU licence, and leave it at that.

        Irish-market cars have tended to be lower-spec than their UK equivalents. There are a number of reasons for this, mostly to do with VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax), which was the Irish government’s way of getting around import duties being abolished between EU member states: it might not be possible to charge an import duty on cars, but you can certainly charge one for its initial registration in the State. This is partly how we ended up with things like BMW 518s and 1.8-litre carburetted Mercedes 190s which had spec levels on par with 1.0-litre hatchbacks of the time; punitive road tax on vehicles over 2.0 litres was the other factor.

        One word regarding the Xantia: hold out until 2020. The Series 2 cars will be eligible for US import and had some significant improvements over the Series 1 cars in terms of spec and drivetrains.

        • crank_case

          That’s a pretty spot-on assessment of things

      • Cool_Cadillac_Cat

        Thanks, absolutely!

        The plan was to get papers/adverts leaving Heathrow, and find something later that day/early the next day.

    • karonetwentyc

      Before you go, be sure to get an from the AAA. Without it, insuring a vehicle on a non-EU licence in an EU country will either be incredibly expensive or impossible.

      Also, see crank_case’s reply and mine that follows below for more info.

    • Unfortunately, foreigners can’t register a vehicle in the UK. You must be able to claim a UK address of residence. (Paging Mr. Haining…)

      • We do have a spare room here you know….

        • Rover 1

          It might be time for you to open a B&B ?

      • Cool_Cadillac_Cat

        Not a problem, I’ve done this before, but with South Dakota. Spent one night in an RV park…done.

  • duurtlang

    These are very underrated cars. I own a Peugeot 406 coupe, which is a mechanically identical car, other than the suspension. Very reliable, stout, comfortable, good road feel, cheap plentiful parts, easy to work on, not bad on gas, and on and on. Used cars are a steal in the UK to begin with, but 200 pounds for this is almost absurd to me. The 2.0 lump in mine is a bit on the underpowered side, so the 1.8 in the Xantia might not be the best for those who feel they’re in a hurry at all times.

    • karonetwentyc

      The 406 Coupé was an excellent high note for Peugeot’s ’80s and ’90s successes to have ended on. Attractive styling, good to drive, and well-built. Shame the trend didn’t continue.

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