Citroen Xsara a

bargain family hatch

WHEN it comes to buying older cars, you have to be very canny and remember some rules.

Look for low numbers of owners, full or most service history and the lowest possible mileage.

Buy almost any car this way and there's not too much that can go wrong.

Citroen's Xsara fits the bill perfectly. Production stopped in 2004 and they are down to bargain prices, but there are still quite a few out there with the right credentials.

They are good to drive, with a very comfortable ride plus excellent handling and road holding.

Engines start with a 75bhp 1.4 and go up through a 1.6 with 110 to a 2.0-litre with 137. The range topping 2.0-litre VTS has a stonking 167 but most will have been caned by now.

Non-turbo 1.9 diesels should be avoided because they are so slow but 90 or 110bhp 2.0-litre turbos are both excellent and the choice of the bunch.

They are comfortable and refined, easy to drive and have excellent brakes and power steering.

The boot is probably the biggest in class with the seats up, thanks to its low, flat floor, lack of suspension intrusions and excellent width. There are three and five door hatches and a five door estate to choose from.

: Pay about £2,400 for an '02 02-reg LX, £3,600 for an '03 53-reg SX.

: 110bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving the front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

: 121mph

: 10 seconds

: 47

: 9

: 138g/km

: 9/10

: Ford Focus

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