3.5 out of 5 3.5
Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

Citroen's once-popular Happy Deals hatch is still a great young driver's car

Citroën Saxo (96-03) - rated 3.5 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £5,855 - £12,045
Used price £290 - £1,750
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Road tax cost £155 - £340
Insurance group 7 - 27 How much is it to insure?

PROS

  • Smooth ride
  • Economical petrols and diesels
  • Fun to drive, especially the VTS

CONS

  • Lack of safety features
  • Feels very small in modern traffic
  • Styling lacks Citroen originality

Citroën Saxo rivals

Peugeot
106
4 out of 5 4.0

Written by Keith Adams on

Close relative of the Peugeot 106 with a cult following thanks to what were once cheap-to-buy-and-run hot VTR and VTS versions. These days, they're getting rare thanks to age, scrappage schemes and general attrition, but good examples of the non-sporting models are still relatively easy to find.

The Saxo lacks traditional Citroën quirkiness but it's just as nice to drive as the Peugeot 106, once you get used to the offset foot pedals (which is shared with both models). Economical and willing engines, a spacious interior, and above-average ride comfort for a supermini.

The two hot hatch versions - 1.6 VTR and VTS 16-valve are brilliant, and are already appreciating modern classics. If you want a good one these days, then grab it. You'll be bagging a prime slice of late-1990s popular culture.

The range received a make over in late 1999 with facelifted Saxo 2 versions.

Citroen Saxo known faults and common problems

The Citroen Saxo had a reputation for being a Happy Deals proposition that was cheap and cheerful – but it is better-made than you might think. There's a wide range of models, but few issues to report upon. Which is a very good thing in a budget car that's perfect for first-time buyers.

Top 10 problems

Buying guide – common issues, and what to look for if you're looking at getting a Citroen Saxo. Needless to say that it's a similar set of issues to its Peugeot 106 cousin:

1. Engines

The TU-series engines are very tough, but they do suffer from some issues. Check for top-end engine rattles (tappets and camshaft) and oil leaks. They are also known for suffering from headgasket failure.

2. Gearboxes

These are tough and you'd be unlucky to find a standard Citroen Saxo with a tired or whining gearobx. However slipping clutches are a problem and more often than not if you end up replacing a clutch, you'll need to do the release bearing and cable as well.

3. Diesels

Another tough PSA-era engine which can really rack up the miles effortlessly. However, check for cold starting as glowplugs can fail, and can also be difficult to change if they have been in too long. Cylinder bores can wear poorly maintained 1.5-litre engines, and the giveaway is blue smoke from the exhaust on acceleration.

4. Interior

Generally pretty rugged and nowhere near as flimsy as a similarly-aged Renault Clio or Ford Ka. But some of the trim materials can feel pretty cheap and look lurid, and a rattly interior can be very annoying.

5. Brakes

The brake linings are glued in place and can fall apart, locking the rear drums in the process. Pedal feel is good but be warned that you have to push the pedal quite hard to get proper stopping power out of them.

6. Electrics

Surprisingly good with few known issues. The seat can wear through wiring for seatbelt pretensioners and airbags, which will throw up a dashboard warning. The only other issues seem to come up as a result of poorly-fitted stereos and other sound equipment.

7. Bodywork

The Citroen Saxo might not look rusty on the outside, but it is common for them to corrode in hidden place, and we're in the era of VTSs now getting full restorations.  So you need to check inside the wheelarches, the inner wings, suspension wishbone mounts and especially the fuel tank. Sporting models can also hide corrosion under their bodykits.

8. Spare wheel

These can be missing from the cradle underneath the car, not least because it's either been stolen or the cradle mounts have rotted away.

9. Saxo VTR models

These pocket rockets are a steal compared their 1980s cousins such as the AX GT, although there aren't many examples left. The 1.6-litre engine is economical and can take lots of abuse, but hard-worked examples can hide some horror stories as well as showing signs of bodywork rust.

10. Saxo VTS models

There's not much to worry about over and above the VTR, but as they were (and are) popular trackday cars, and ripe for modding, so make sure there's no crash damage, and that all the interior is there (some replacement parts are near impossible to find these days).

Citroën Saxo rivals

Peugeot
106
4 out of 5 4.0