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The Citroën Xsara turns 25 and is on the verge of becoming a popular classic

Although many units are still seen on the streets, proving that it is a reliable and durable car, the Citroën Xsara is only a few years away from officially becoming a classic. For many, it is already worthy of being considered a classic car and for others, the fact that it is almost 30 years old is not enough to consider it as such. But no matter what you think, the Xsara is one of those cars that will be remembered by a huge generation of fans and drivers.

There is always talk of classic cars, mythical cars, cars to remember, but what is needed for a model to boast of any of these terms? What must a vehicle have to be considered as such? This is a subject that gives rise to an interesting debate, but in general, we can say that to be considered worth remembering, it must have been important for some reason, things like a good level of sales, having released innovations and of course, awakening some feeling among the fans.

Taking these statements as references, we can find many cars that meet them, either all at once or just one in particular. The fact is that the future generation of classic cars does not offer that aura of a "classic car", rather an "old car", a car that does not deserve or is not yet a classic. Do the test, tell a fan that the Citroën Xsara could be a classic and you will see the answer: “that is not a classic, that it is almost 30 years old is not enough to be a classic”.

Citroen Xsara 5 doors

However, at 25 years old, the Xsara ticks almost all the boxes to be considered a car worth remembering. It even raises sensations and some sympathy among fans. In addition, to add insult to injury, it was manufactured exclusively in Spain. Perhaps its design has not overcome its purgatory stage or many units may still be seen on the streets, but the Citroën Xsara is a worthy candidate to hold the title of "classic car" or even to be considered as a collector's car.

Sales figures can serve as an example. A total of 1.343.000 units were sold, distributed between the three and five-door bodies, although the classic family car was also offered. The three-door body, known as the Xsara Coupé, was very popular among young people for its more casual and sporty design. A great contrast to what happens today, when any young driver either cannot afford a car, or prefers the fashionable format: an SUV.

Replacing the Citroën ZX

Citron ZX
The Citroën ZX, although more conventional than usual, was a sales success and made things very difficult for its replacement.

Citroën, in the mid-90s, had been achieving large sales volumes with the ZX, a car that was a complete success, although the most purists criticized it because it was an improper car for the innovative French firm. Especially since the ZX had replaced in the market the Citroen BX, a car that was truly Citroën and that, today, has an enormous legion of followers. However, neither of the two, neither the BX, nor the ZX later, managed to rise as sales leaders, something that the Xsara did achieve for several years.

The Citroën Xsara was officially presented in 1997 and was the replacement for the Citron ZX. The change in design was remarkable and because of its proportions, it seemed even smaller than its predecessor, but that was because a good balance was achieved in its shapes and volumes. The ZX marked the return of the French firm to the C-segment, it had the collaboration in its design of none other than Nuccio Bertone, who had clearly focused on "copying" the concept of the successful Volkswagen Golf, with a platform that was used for the Peugeot 306. With the Xsara, on the contrary, the aim was to maintain the good level of sales of the ZX, but improving finishes, equipment and the famous electrical problems that some units of its predecessor suffered, while trying to offer a closer car to the idea that people had of a Citroën.

Citroen Xsara interior

The design of the new Xsara was commissioned by Donato Coco, who gave it a particular personality with its small third rear volume (a solution also used by the Opel Astra G, the second generation of the German compact) and its general shapes, more typical of a Citroën than those presented by the ZX, something more conventional. Under the bodywork, the Xsara hid the platform of the Peugeot 306 and some "inventions" released by the ZX, such as the self-steering rear axle. Less interesting was the placement of the horn, which, inexplicably, happened to be on the turn signal lever, which had to be pressed towards the steering column and caused, on occasion, that when activating the direction indicator it also ended up beeping. to no one in particular.

The basis for some experiments

Citroen Xsara Hybrid

While the Citroën Xsara was gaining favor with the public, something that was achieved especially between 2000 and 2003 (after the restyling, which by the way, suited it very well), the brand used the model for several experiments that, in those years They were quite conspicuous. For example, one of the most curious and currently equipped in all cars on the market was a Citroën idea that was developed with the Xsara: the start-stop system, the well-known “start & stop”. The signature of the chevrons began to experiment with this system in 1998, although it would not reach production until eight years later, with the Citroën C3.

The appearance of the Toyota Prius in 1997, at first, was taken with some sarcasm by some, but inside doors, all, or almost all, began to test this technology. And yes, the Citroën Xsara was chosen to mount the first PSA hybrid powertrain. Said propulsion group was made up of a 1.4 petrol combustion engine (TU3JP) that produced 75 hp, together with a 34 hp electric motor, together reaching 109 hp. The transmission was automatic, created specifically for the prototype and called Autoactive. According to the data of the time, it could reach a range of 1.000 kilometers, clearly, a most striking and difficult to believe data, since the current hybrids, much more advanced and efficient, do not reach that figure of autonomy. The range in pure electric mode was announced at 20 kilometers and it already had several operating modes and even energy recovery.

Curiously, Citroën did not launch a hybrid until 2012 and, furthermore, it did not even bear the brand's seal, it was a DS, specifically, the DS5 Hybrid4, which did not even use a gasoline engine, but a diesel block announcing 200 hp. and an average consumption of 3,8 liters in the NEDC cycle, an approval regulation that proved disastrous and very unrealistic. As if that were not enough, it had a price of almost 40.000 euros...

One of the safest cars in its segment

Citroen Xsara 2003

With the Xsara, Citroën began to work on its brand image much harder than ever. Thus, the Xsara stood out for its interior space, equipment, finishes, comfort and above all, perhaps the most important, safety. Citroën products have a good image in terms of safety levels and the Xsara was the model with which it began to work. Moreover, the Citroën Xsara was the safest car in its segment, or at least one of the safest: ABS as standard, optional stability control, emergency braking assistance, cruise control, light sensor, airbags of roof or even the system that connects the emergency lights in case of sudden and strong braking. As if that were not enough, it had a reinforced passenger compartment structure equipped with "programmed" impact absorption zones, pyrotechnic pretensioners for the front belts... today these things are not even paid attention to because we have been seeing cars with all of them equipped for years, but in the late 90s it was not the most common among compacts.

Beyond its security systems or its gadgets such as the steering rear axle, the Xsara stood out for its range of engines; no less than a total of five gasoline and four diesel options. Among the gasoline there were options that even then seemed out of place, such as the 1.4 hp 75, the most popular being the 1.6 hp 90 and the 1.8 hp 109 (later it became 112 hp). The most desired was, logically, the 2.0 16-valve with 167 hp. With the restyling came the 1.6 with 110 hp replacing the 90 hp and a 2.0 with 137 hp that took the place of the 1.8 hp 112.

Resounding success were the diesels, especially the HDi. At first, naturally aspirated diesels were offered with 70 and 71 hp (Yes, non-turbo diesel engines were still marketed), but the arrival of the 1.9 HDi with 90 hp and later, the 2.0 HDi with 90 and 110 hp, which led to its enormous success almost unstoppable sales for four years.

Worthy of the nickname "classic"?

The Citroën Xsara was much more than a best-selling car, it was the first "new" car for hundreds of thousands of drivers, it swept the competition (especially in rallies) and made available to many users a safety equipment unmatched by its rivals. Does it deserve to be remembered? For many, like those who were able to live great moments with one of them, surely yes. For others, who enjoyed a time full of great cars and dreamed of being able to own one in their garage, of course, too. There will be those who think that the Xsara is not and will never be a classic, but as always happens, it never rains to everyone's liking.

What is clear is that for a huge generation of fans, the Citroën Xsara will undoubtedly be one of those popular classics that will make them smile just by remembering the model, now, 25 years after its launch.

Written by Javi Martin

If you ask me where my love for motoring comes from, I wouldn't know how to answer. It has always been there, although I am the only one in the family who likes this world. My father worked as a draftsman in a metallurgical company with a lot of auto parts production, but there was never a passion like I can have.

I really like automobile history and I am currently creating a personal library dedicated exclusively to motor history in Spain. I also have a huge collection of scanned material and have written the book "The 600, a dream on wheels" (Larousse publishing house).

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