Citroen Saxo (1997 – 2003) Review

Citroen Saxo (1997 – 2003) At A Glance


+Good value and one of Citroen's most reliable cars. VTS is quick, the 1.1 very economical.

-Offset driving position and narrow driver's footwell. Poor crash test rating. Fared badly in JD Power Customer Satisfaction surveys.

It was the darling of the Max Power generation, the must-have ride for the aspiring boy racer – but it was also a huge success for a car manufacturer that had lost its way. You might argue that Citroen had nothing to prove given its historical technological advances, but its 1990s line up of AX, BX and XM didn’t exactly capture the imagination of new car buyers.

Luckily, that was all about to change. Based on the Peugeot 106, the Citroen Saxo was unveiled in 1996 and repeated the AX’s trick of fizzy, low-power engines in a lightweight supermini that handled brilliantly. The ‘warm’ VTR and ‘hot’ VTS models arrived in late 1997…. and the company couldn't import them quickly enough.

Low running costs, sensible insurance premiums, incentivised 'cashback' finance packages and the not insignificant factor that the Saxo VTR and VTS were both fun to drive and easy on the eye added to their appeal, making the UK the model's strongest market by far - from 1999 to 2002, British buyers accounted for over 80 per cent of total VTR and VTS production.

It was a perfect case of the right car at the right time. Thanks to insurance packages sold through dealerships that allowed younger drivers to not only buy a car on finance, but insure it at a sensible price all wrapped up in one monthly payment, the Saxo VTR and VTS were difficult to argue against, especially among predominantly male buyers aged 18 to 25. Here was a car that was affordable, extremely cool, and an absolute hoot to drive.

Petrol engines included a 1.0-, 1.1-, 1.4- and 1.6-litre and there was even a 1.5-litre diesel version available. And while the 1.0-litre offered just 49bhp, the 1.6-litre VTS was good for 118bhp.

In 2000, the range was facelifted with revised headlamps, bonnets and grilles – but time wasn’t on the Saxo’s side. The car performed badly in the Euro NCAP safety crash tests and was replaced in 2003 by the C2, taking the car’s rating from two- to four-stars.

Ask Honest John

Is my father's Citroen Saxo ULEZ compliant?

"My father owns a 1996 Citroen Saxo 1.1 which he only drives occasionally. Our problem is that we live in Bexley which is going to be part of the ULEZ at the end of August and we are very confused about the constant revelations and stories in the motoring press in regard to vehicles that are exempt from the ULEZ charge. We have read articles stating that farm vehicles and military vehicles etc are exempt and that we should not regard TFL's website as 'gospel' . One story we read claimed that if your cars emission certificate proves that it meets the requirements you won't need to pay regardless of its age. Is this information correct? We are aware that our council is taking the mayor to court regarding ULEZ and that people have been taking matters into their own hands but we would like some clarification on this. "
We wish the situation could be clearer, but unfortunately some of the communication around ULEZ compliance is far from helpful. We do not have the registration of your father's Citroen, but we checked a similar example on four different websites and two of them said it was compliant while the other two said the opposite. However, the TFL website says that it is compliant, and if you attempt to pay the charge for a compliant car online it physically blocks out the button for you to do so. We would suggest checking yourself with the correct registration - if you cannot pay the charge then you don't really have any choice, but you may want to contact TFL directly to get this confirmed for peace of mind.
Answered by David Ross
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