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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For Cheap to buy and to run, and later ones are well equipped and reliable

Against It feels old and looks shabby; it's dull to drive and not that reliable

Verdict Worth considering if you have little to spend. Otherwise, it's well past its sell-by date

Go for… 1.6i SX

Avoid… 1.9 D X

Citroën Xsara Hatchback
  • 1. When setting your budget, inlcude the cost of suspension repairs, as you're likely to have to shell out
  • 2. Pay particular attention to the clutch on a test drive, as it's a known weak point
  • 3. Check that all - and we mean all - the electrics work properly, because faults are common
  • 4. Insist on a full service history, as it's possible that previous owners may have skimped on maintenance
  • 5. Don't buy tatty cars because they're cheap. Good examples aren't much more, and will be cheaper in the long run
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Citroën Xsara Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The Xsara is an anonymous-looking small hatch with five doors, but a face-lift in 2000 tidied up its lines and brightened the cabin, losing the sludge-coloured seat fabrics used previously.

Inside, there's a fair amount of interior space, although shoulder room in the rear is tight for three and there's only a lap-belt for the centre passenger. The dash is clear but some buttons are fiddly and the driver's seat is short of support - something you'll notice on long journeys.

The boot is big and practical, with rear seats that split and fold. However, the spare wheel is slung underneath in a cradle, which makes life easy for thieves unless it's fitted with a security bolt.

The car rides softly and is OK to drive in a relaxed way, but its lifeless steering and modest grip through corners discourages you from being any more enthusiastic.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Old Xsara bargain buy, but 2000-on 1.6 SX and any HDI fine

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Big discounts kept sales of new Xsaras afloat during its later years, so many of the ones you'll be offered are low-end models, usually 1.4 LXs. However, prices are low enough to make the gap between base-spec and everything-as-standard models tiny. So it makes sense to buy the best-equipped model you can.

The 1.6 petrol and 2.0 HDi diesel are the ones to go for, and opt for the SX or Exclusive, which are the top two trims.

Avoid the 1.6 if it has an auto gearbox because they go wrong and are expensive to fix - see below.

The 1.4 is lively for its size but needs to be pushed hard if it's heavily loaded, while the 1.8 is not noticeably quicker than the 1.6, despite being thirstier and dearer to insure. The remaining choice is the 1.9 D, an old non-turbo that is gruff and not very economical.

Trim levels begin at X, moving to LX, SX and then Exclusive. X is too basic, and you'll need an LX for electric windows and remote locking, but we'd recommend SX, which comes with air-conditioning. Top-of-the-range Exclusive adds alloy wheels and a CD player.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

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

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The best thing about buying an ordinary car that's no longer current is that it's going to be cheap. First owners may have suffered savage value losses from you, but that's all past. Look after it and in a year's time it might even sell for what you gave for it.

Day to day, the Xsara is cheap to service and repair. It's not the most reliable car, though, so you'd be wise to budget for problems.

Insurance costs are average; the 1.4 models are group 6, the 1.6s and diesels are group 7 or 8, but the 1.8 is in group 10, which is dear. Fuel economy, too, is pretty reasonable: the 2.0 HDi promises up to 54mpg overall, which is exceptional, but the 1.9 D runs only 43 miles on a gallon. The 1.4 petrol returns up to 39mpg, the 1.6 manages 36mpg and the 1.8 will do 33mpg.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Old Xsara bargain buy, but 2000-on 1.6 SX and any HDI fine

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Many new Xsaras were bought cheaply by owners strapped for cash and it's quite possible that servicing has been skimped.

Patchy work early on accelerates engine wear and probably means a clogged-up radiator and worn brakes. Buy a Xsara only if there are good service records, backed by bills for work.

Don't be tempted into buying a neglected car because it's cheap. A cared-for one costs little more and promises to work out cheaper in the end.

Citroen's poor showing in JD Power Customer Satisfaction Surveys warns would-be owners to expect trouble.

Clutches are a weak point, so expect to buy a replacement if the car you're looking at has the original one. Chances are that the suspension will need repairs, too - unevenly worn tyres are a sure sign of problems. Check also that all the electrics work properly, because faults are common and repairs can be dear, even for minor jobs.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

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

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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