Thursday, January 28, 2010
My Cars: Citroën Saxo
There’s an old adage that they don’t make ‘em like they used to, and in this case that was probably true. The Saxo felt like a car from another era. The 1.1-litre model belonged to a time before air conditioning, electric windows or multiple airbags (it was also built with all the structural integrity of a cheese and onion crisp, hence crash regulations eventually killed it off, but that’s by-the-by). The end result was that it weighed in at a scarcely credible 790kg (less than a Series 2 Elise). To put that into perspective, many modern superminis weigh a third of a ton more.
It wasn’t just a one-trick pony either. Its brilliantly judged damping managed to combine lively handling with a surprisingly supple ride, while the Saxo consistently returned mid 40s to the gallon, seemingly irrespective of how it was driven. True, the cabin was more than a little plasticy and it did feature some rather unusual aesthetic choices, like odd-coloured seatbelts and a bright yellow gear knob, but it was a comfortable and airy place to be. What's more, folding seats and a generous hatch gave it excellent luggage capacity for a small car. It would swallow two mountain bikes (minus wheels) with ease and thought nothing of taking four people and a week’s worth of camping gear.
It wasn’t long before these exploits prompted me to invest in my own car, but that wasn’t the last I would see of the Saxo. Five years later I was looking to change cars at the same time as my mum spied a newer runaround. A deal was struck and ‘OFJ once again came to join me, this time half a decade and 200 miles away from those first steps in the West Country. By that point I’d owned and driven a far wider variety of cars and you know what? It still felt good. In fact, around that time I ended up chatting to a very well known magazine road tester who confided that one of the best drives he’d ever had was spent nipping along coastal roads in Greece behind the wheel of a hired Saxo. That was some statement from a man who drives Astons and Ferraris on a daily basis.
Alas, all good things come to an end. And in the case of ‘OFJ it was quite an abrupt end. On the way to work one morning a driver in one of those 'lardy modern hatchbacks' I spoke of earlier drove into the side of me. There was barely a scratch on the offending Vauxhall, but the twisted remains of the Saxo were about to embark on a one-way trip to the great dealership in the sky. It seems the car’s featherweight build was ultimately to prove its downfall. The fact remains, however, that I walked away unscathed and all those years of use simply wouldn’t have been as much fun in any of its contemporaries.