Last Chance To Buy: Citroen Xsara

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The Independent Online

When's it going?

There's an all-new C4 Picasso available pretty much now, which means that the lovable old one is on its way out. Except that it isn't. Apparently, Citroën is "streamlining" the range, paring it down to the VTX and Desire with uprated equipment and good-value option packs.

What's good about it?

This is the cheapest way to buy space for the family, a comfy ride, decent engines, a big boot and a roomy interior. There are more versatile MPVs, but few offer similar space or value. The ride is supple, all the engines are good (the turbodiesels excellent) and it corners tidily. You get five individual seats. They fold, and are light enough to remove altogether without too much sweat.

The 90bhp 2.0 HDI is a strong puller, and there are two even better 1.6 HDI diesels – a 92bhp version, and a 110bhp. They return brilliant mpg figures. Trim levels start with the LX, but step up to the Desire for its air-con. Top-spec Exclusive adds cruise control, electric rear windows, electric sunroof and alloy wheels. All models have a CD player, remote locking, twin front and side airbags, ABS brakes and electric front windows.

What's bad about it?

Not much, hence the fact that Citroën is keeping it in circulation. Compact people-carriers are now expected to do so much more, and seat more than five. Kids will like the view out, but the driver's vision is obstructed by the screen pillars, and it isn't that good in the mirror or over the shoulder. The driving position is a bit van-like. Some will find the instruments confusing and the seats lacking support.

The 1.6 petrol can feel sluggish when you're loaded. The 1.8 is also much quieter. There's a 2.0 petrol with a four-speed auto gearbox – not the best combination.

How much?

The Picasso has always been heavily discounted. If you buy before the end of this month, dealers are offering up to £4,855 off on a Xsara Picasso 1.6i 16V 110bhp Desire (£3,655 cashback, £1,200 part-exchange cashback), so it's yours for £9,995. A broker like can get you a 1.6 HDi Desire for £10,470, down from a retail £15,865.

Any snags?

Owners talk of instrument failures and noisy suspension. The Picasso is based on the Xsara's proven chassis and mechanicals, so there should be little worry over major components, but suspension and axles can give trouble. Check the electrics thoroughly; warning lights can come on for no reason, but if your intended purchase flashes up lights on the dash, assume the worst and look for another. There are so many used Picassos around that you don't need to take the risk.


Launched: 2000
Engine sizes: 1.6-litre, 1.8, 2.0, 1.6 HDi, 2.0 HDi
Performance: (1.6 HDi) top speed 109mph, 0-60mph 13.8 seconds
Economy: 55.4mpg
Safety: NCAP, 4 stars