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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For The Saxo is cheap to buy and a blast to drive – especially the sporty VTR or VTS

Against It's cramped, and short of kit and safety gear. There are plenty of dodgy ones on sale, too

Verdict The Saxo could be good for a first-timer, but be careful when you're buying - and driving

Go for… 1.6 VTR

Avoid… Any modified cars

Citroën Saxo Hatchback
  • 1. Cars built after the face-lift in 2000 are markedly more reliable
  • 2. The suspension is prone to knocks, and the brake discs will need renewing after a few years, so insist on a good test drive to check them
  • 3. Look under the oil filler cap for thick gunk that signals head gasket failure - and a big repair bill
  • 4. Make sure the coolant system has been regularly maintained. If it hasn't, there may be leaks
  • 5. Don't for one minute the Saxo is a practical car - the boot is tiny
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Citroën Saxo Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The Saxo is small, light and basic – an old school supermini. It comes with three or five doors, but neither version offers much space inside. What's more, the wheel and seat height are fixed and the pedals are offset to the left, so making yourself comfortable can be quite tricky.

A driver's airbag comes as standard, but that's it for safety kit, though VTS models have anti-lock brakes. A 2001 model tested by Euro NCAP achieved two stars for occupant safety and two for pedestrian protection – both some distance behind more modern rivals.

The cheap-looking dash also suffers in comparison with more modern designs, but the big, pull-out centre air vent is effective.

There's adequate space up front, but it's tight in the back. Worse still, all the seats are squashy and flat, and uncomfortable over long distances, while the boot is small.

For a quick blast, though, the Saxo's great fun to drive, with direct steering and light controls. However, plenty of engine noise and wind whistle reaches the cabin.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Less clean ones around, but tidy SX, VTR and VTS will always sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The warm-hatch Saxo, the 1.6 VTR, is what everyone wants. Its chunky alloys and body kit look the part, while the buzzy 99bhp engine pulls it along quickly. Once the best-seller in its class, it's still in big demand at all ages and prices.

There's also the more powerful 120bhp VTS, which looks almost the same and has extra kit, but it's rarer.

Otherwise, the 1.5 diesel chugs along well and easily tops 50mpg so it's worth considering. There are also 1.1 and 1.4 engines - the bigger one is much better.

Trim runs from the most basic X, through LX and SX to VSX, but air-conditioning is unavailable, even as an option. Mid-trim LX or SX are best, the latter having remote locking and electric windows. There were also plenty of special editions with daft names such as Desire and Scandal, but don't pay over the odds for them.

With any car, try to buy a face-lifted, post-2000 model, as they are more reliable. And, look to buy privately or from independent dealers for the best value.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability, low bills and low failure rate, but watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Definitely not. They are very cheap to buy and have already lost so much value from new that any future drops will be tiny. And, although Saxos aren't the most reliable cars around, spares are cheap and most jobs are simple enough for any skilled mechanic to perform in his sleep.

Insurance is cheap, too, and most Saxos fit within groups 3 or 4, though the VTR is in group 9 and the VTS group 12. That's expensive by Saxo standards, but good for such warm hatches.

All except the VTR and VTS will return 40mpg, while the diesel is good for 50mpg. Consumption for the sporty versions can dip below 30mpg if they're driven hard. Servicing is every 12,500 miles for petrols and 10,000 for the diesels, and all require a cambelt change after 60,000 miles and/or five years.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Less clean ones around, but tidy SX, VTR and VTS will always sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Saxos are tough, and most problems arise from poor or skimped maintenance. However, cars built after the 2000-model face-lift are markedly more reliable.

On a test drive, check the suspension, which is prone to knocks, and the brake discs, which need renewing every few years. Likewise, check for coolant leaks, which usually happen because the system has been left too long without a fluid change, which should be carried out every three years.

Look under the oil filler cap for thick gunk that signals head gasket failure – if it's there, the bills could be serious.

Clutches are a weak point on VTRs and diesels, but parts are cheap and replacement is straightforward.

If buying a VTR or VTS, first have it inspected by a professional who can check for past crash damage. These cars' popularity with young drivers means many have had a bump or two.

Unmodified cars are by far the best: big exhausts, lowered springs and body kits hurt resale value and may lead to an MoT test failure.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability, low bills and low failure rate, but watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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