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CitroŽn Xantia HDi LX saloon (90 bhp) Road test 

Earlier this year, I tested the then new 110 bhp Xantia 2.0 HDi  estate and was very impressed indeed.  I was won over by its combination of power, refinement and economy.  That car replaced the 2.1 turbo diesel. 

CitroŽn has now launched a replacement for the 1.9 turbo diesel - the car tested here.  Capacity is the same as the 110 bhp model but power is down by 20 bhp since no intercooler is fitted.  There have also been changes to the engine management program and a reduction in compression ratio.  A comparison between the technical specifications shows that this new engine develops the same power but pushes out more torque at lower engine speeds compared with the 1.9 TD:

1.9 TD 2.0 HDi (90 bhp) 2.0 HDi (110 bhp)
Displacement 1905cm3 1997cm3 1997cm3
Bore & stroke 83 x 88mm 85 x 88mm 85 x 88mm
Compression ratio 21.8:1 17.6:1 18.0:1
Max power (bhp/rpm) 90/4000 90/4000 110/4000
Max torque (lb ft/rpm) 145/2250 151/1900 184/1750

Coming to the Xantia from the Xsara estate, the first impressions are of much greater refinement in all areas - the engine is quieter and smoother, the ride is hydropneumatic smooth, the brake pedal is where it ought to be (lower than the throttle) and responds properly.  Surprisingly, the gearchange is less precise than that on my wife's 80,000 mile 1.9 TD.  Steering on the other hand is more precise than on my wife's car - it seems to be both lighter, more responsive and to have stronger self centring.  Motoring journalists have frequently levelled criticism at the "dead?" feel of the Mk1 and Mk2 Xantia.  Widening the front track coupled with minor modifications to the steering and suspension geometry seemed to have cured this - to the extent that I would venture to suggest that the current Xantia enjoys the best power steering this side of DIRAVI.

So far, so good.  But since this is a CitroŽn, how does it ride?  How does it handle.  The ride is, as stated above, hydropneumatic smooth - but far firmer than on my wife's car.  This has benefits for handling which is beyond reproach - mild understeer coupled with increasing weight on the steering gives the driver plenty of warning when things are likely to turn pear-shaped.  The downside of this is that it is difficult to brake smoothly at low speeds - as is normal with hydropneumatic suspension, rough road surfaces are transmitted into the cabin below 30 mph and one's right foot inevitably bounces on the pedal.  I remember reading precisely this criticism of the Maserati Merak which used CitroŽn brakes.  As with all these things, acclimatisation is required.

Performance is, as one would expect, down on the 110 bhp car and subjectively down on my wife's car.  This may be because the test car's engine had yet to loosen up, it may be because it has more weight to pull around or it may be the choice of gear ratios.  Certainly it was necessary on long up hill inclines to drop down to fourth gear in order to maintain dual carriageway momentum.  Provided one uses the gearbox, progress is reasonably quick - accelerating on a motorway slip road and overtaking on dual carriageways, I did not feel embarrassed by a lack of power.  First gear seemed far lower a ratio than in my wife's car - ideal for towing a caravan perhaps but too low for stop start motoring.  There was less turbo lag than in the 110 bhp model but also less grunt.  Compared to the TD, the turbo was less obvious - presumably because it kicks in at lower engine speeds.  The engine is very quiet and smooth - superior to the 110 bhp lump and way ahead of the 1.9 TD.  It is also throttle responsive in a way that few diesels manage.

Economy is either very good or the fuel gauge is defective.  I did not measure fuel consumption but in a hundred or so miles, the needle did not move at all.

I was delighted to discover that the driver's seat has an adjustable lumbar support - something that was missing from the Xantia estate which was similarly trimmed to LX level.  However, I thought the squab a little short and thigh support is poor.  Upholstery is commendably subdued - no technicolor vomit here.  Surprisingly my children complained that there was less room in the back than in this car.

This car was not fitted with the automatic windscreen wipers that so impressed me in the 110 bhp car but was fitted with TrafficmasterTM Oracle which kept telling me in heavy traffic in Basingstoke that "You are near junction 8 of the M3 and traffic is flowing smoothly" - I was actually near junctions 6 and 7.  Sod's Law dictated that temperatures were so low in mid September that I could not test the airconditioning but switching it off released a few extra horses under the bonnet.

Four airbags are fitted - including head and chest side airbags.  The front passenger airbags may be switched off - essential if you are carrying a baby in a rear facing seat.  Fleet users will appreciate the twin trip odometers - essential if you have to record business and private mileage and there is a digital maintenance indicator which counts down the mileage to the next service.  There is a separate socket for a mobile 'phone.

To sum up then, this new model is far more refined than the old 1.9 TD - indeed it is more refined than the 110 bhp car.  I would describe it as a slightly languid performer but the penalty one pays for more power is less refinement.  As a successor to the 1.9 TD, it stacks up very well indeed.  The 1.9 TD soldiers on with the automatic gearbox.

The CitroŽn Xantia 2.0 HDi (90 bhp) LX is priced, on the road at £14290 for the saloon and £15040 for the estate.



© 1999 Julian Marsh