Beaterland, as I call it, is not a country but the used car price range under 2000 euros. Most used cars will descend there, and it is especially treacherous to shop there as you might land a bargain or end up fixing things every month due to deferred maintenance. But by buying daily drivers cheaper than two grand, I attempt to get around without monthly car payments and still attain a certain amount of style and comfort that 15-20-year-old cars can easily offer if kept well.
In case you familiarized yourselves with the previous articles detailing the 1,5-year ownership of a white BMW E34 5-series bought for 1600 euros, you might be interested in hearing there’s a new contender I will write about. Here it is, freshly polished for you to see: a 1997 Citroën Xantia wagon. I bought it this Monday to replace the BMW, and so far it is doing that quite well.
After the BMW was sold, I didn’t really have anything useful to drive for a while. Then the 205 returned from a lengthy visit to the school auto shop, and with a fresh head gasket it’s been serving me very well. But, it soon became apparent I needed a hauler that could do longer journeys with comfort unattainable for the 205, transporting longer objects than could fit in the Peugeot and possibly to tow a trailer sometimes. The Saab 900S is too good to be beat on, too thirsty to be a town runabout, and too nice to bear the end-of-winter road salt in its door bottoms and CV tunnels. I needed to buy something – again.
So, I went through the motions and sampled a few cars within my reasonably low budget. The Felicia was too slight to do long drives, the Accord not fit for salty roads, and the Tempra too expensive for what it was. I again considered a Saab 9000, but the other one was blinged beyond recognition and the other was just too expensive for my taste. Originally, before buying the E34 I had thought of Xantias and seen some, but the rear flank rust had driven me away. And that was the case again – a white wagon I went to see looked horrible, with the acne really badly spread. Another, blue car had a bunch of electrical issues and a higher odo reading, along with a history of a small fire in the trunk. Those were cheap, but too beat.
Then this one came along, a one-owner car from Oulu. It had been traded in recently, in mid-December, and passed along to a Citroën guy in this town to sell on for a small profit. The car had an enormous stack of official dealer receipts depicting the work done in the last two years: new hydropneumatic suspension spheres, suspension central unit, cam belt, clutch, exhaust, brakes, ignition, hand brake cable… the list goes on and on for about 3000 euros. No-one is paying 3000 for a Xantia these days.
I didn’t either. I got it for 800, with an intact fog light thrown in. The car has two sets of tires and valid inspection until July, and only minor cracks in the bumper along with some small dents show its 212 000 km. There’s some wear in the Athena trim level Alcantara on the driver’s seat bolster, but the seat is still supportive. The windshield is cracked, but that won’t affect the yearly inspection as it’s not in direct line of sight.
When I got the car on Monday, it was quite dirty inside out. The paint was dull and super-swirly, the interior grubby and yucky with dog hair in the trunk. The car was originally a non-smoker vehicle, but the reseller had taken the liberty to smoke in it. I spent four-five hours washing it, claybaring and buffing the paint, hoovering the interior and treating the dashboard plastics so it would reach the photographed condition. The engine bay is still dirty, but powerwashing the engine and electronics of a relatively quirky French car is not something I’m keen to do, especially with the temperatures just about freezing.
This is what the hood looked like without a drop of wax in it. A buffing was sorely needed.
Engine bay still dirty.
Rear quarter displaying flawless paint. It’s healthy on the inside, as much as my fingers could tell.
Tow hitch is technically detachable.
So, what did I get for 800 euros, or half what I paid for the BMW? A comfortable, roomy, almost squeak-free and surprisingly solid wagon that will happily negotiate our rutted, cambery roads. The engine isn’t a ball of fire, as it’s not a V6 or a turbo, but just the slightly mediocre 112-hp 1.8-litre 16v gasoline four, and still with the manual gearshift it’ll move somewhat more eagerly than the heavier BMW did with its similar but 8-valve unit. Most importantly, the car is 99% rust free, with the rear flank malady not bothering it. The rockers are fine, the underbody too, and only some minor surface rust on a rear wheel arch lip and the rear axle can be seen. And yes, the trademark hydropneumatic suspension works, lifting the car sky high and dropping it down low on command. On daily driving, it disregards road imperfections without being overly floaty.
With the car at least semi-decently detailed and the engine oil and filter changed, I’m extremely happy to take it for a long road trip east this weekend. You’ll get regular reports this year on how the Xantia will be doing, just like with the BMW. Yesterday, I plugged the iPhone in the AUX jack provided by the car’s original stereo, put on some Grace Jones and accelerated the car to a comfortable 100 km/h. At last, for the first time I had a Citroën of my own. Granted, not a CX, but I had been wanting a Citroën all my life. And here, in a Rouge Pivoire wagon I found mine.
[Images: Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]