Launched in 1982, the BX is the car that saved Citroën from certain death. With a very wide range, it was a real success which, in spite of everything, began to run out of steam at the beginning of the 90s. To replace it, Citroën designed a flowing saloon with an elegant style that would always bear the famous X: the Xantia.
In 1987, Citroën was working on replacing the BX with the X1 project, which involved three design studios, but it was the proposal from the Bertone Style Centre that was adopted. A proposal that was the perfect opposite of the BX, since the Xantia opposed the rough lines of its predecessor with a fluid style. At the front, plunging bonnet and tapered optics are part of the game and are inspired by the recent XM with a grille which, at launch, does not receive the chevrons as on the BX which will be positioned on the front bonnet of integrate the grille during a small restyling of 1994.
The rear was more massive and received lights in two parts: one on the body, the other on the tailgate. Between the two lights is a black plastic strip for the number plate. Like many estate cars at the time, the Xantia retained the practical aspects of the BX by using a tailgate instead of a boot, but Citroën wanted to give the illusion of a boot, which made the Xantia a 2.5 volume car.
With a length of 4m44, the Citroën Xantia is about twenty centimetres longer than the BX and is based on a wheelbase of 2m74, 9 centimetres longer than its predecessor, which allows it to offer excellent rear spaciousness and a luggage compartment of 480 litres compared to 440 litres for the BX.
Inside, the cabin of the Xantia surprises with lines that are much more consensual than those of the BX, especially in Phase 1, where the finish and the quality of the materials make a leap forward. The one-piece dashboard has a curious support bar that will be removed during the restyling. The Xantia is also much more modern in terms of equipment, with standard ABS, already available as an option on the BX, but now also airbags, which will arrive shortly after launch, as well as seat belts with force limiters.
From a technical point of view, the Xantia remains faithful to the hydraulic suspension, but the brand has sought to improve the car's dynamic qualities while maintaining the famous Citroën upholstered comfort. Inspired by the Hydraactive developed for the XM, the engineers have created the Hydraactive II, which combines hydropneumatics with electronics, with the use of numerous sensors to modify the damping rules according to various parameters. This major innovation would lead to the development of the famous Xantia Activa a few years later.
It was in December 1992 that the press discovered the new Xantia, a few months before its first public appearance on 4 March 1993 at the Geneva Motor Show, where Citroën's new family saloon caused a sensation with its very elegant lines, enabling it to be voted the most beautiful car of 1993.
Its career began with three versions called X, SX and VSX and four petrol engines ranging from 89 bhp to 155 bhp for the 2.0l 16-valve engine, followed a few months later by the 1.9 diesel. On the road, the new Citroën is worthy of the brand's reputation and we appreciate its royal comfort, its soft upholstery and its successful road holding, while regretting the consumption of certain blocks, the lack of pleasantness of the engines of base and above all the relatively limited equipment of the entry-level versions.
A range in constant evolution
It was in December 1994 that Citroën struck a blow with the presentation of the Xantia Activa, which benefited from a new technological advance called SC-CAR, which allowed the Xantia to turn flat. Thanks to the addition of two cylinders to the Hydractive II, the roll is no more than 0.5°, making it unique in its segment and impressive and surprisingly effective: it is not uncommon for the Xantia Activa to lift a wheel when cornering, even if comfort is noticeably compromised.
In July 1995 the engine range evolved with the appearance of a 1.8l 112 bhp petrol engine and a 2.0l 135 bhp as well as the 2.0 turbo CT 150 bhp engine from the XM which made its debut in the range but only on the VSX and Activa versions. The use of the last two engines requires a modification of the front end of the car, which is widened to accommodate a new front subframe to house the new mechanicals, which on the outside translates into a spoiler and special fog lights. Later, the V6 would also have this specific front end.
In September 1995, almost three years after the saloon, the Xantia range was further developed with the arrival of a new estate body. Longer by 20 cm than the saloon, it was considerably roomier and retained the general style of the saloon, but was much more elegant than the BX estate. It is available with all the Xantia engines, petrol and diesel, and has the enormous advantage of maintaining a constant ride height, whatever the load, thanks to the hydraulic suspension.
In January 1997, the Xantia received a new top-of-the-range version with the arrival of the famous V6, making it the first Citroën family saloon to use such an engine. The 3.0 24-valve V6 engine develops 194 bhp and is only available with manual gearbox on the Xantia Activa and with automatic gearbox on the Xantia in an even more upmarket version, aptly named Exclusive. Note that this engine is available on both the saloon and the estate, the latter not having the option of the Activa version. Engine image more than volume, the V6 will allow the Xantia to seduce a new clientele for whom the prices and/or the style of the XM put off, or simply a clientele who expected a better motorised Xantia.
A measured restyling
Launched five years ago, the style of the Xantia is beginning to show the strain of time, especially as competition has increased with the arrival of the Peugeot 406 or the Alfa Romeo 156. Citroën therefore restyled the Xantia in December 1997, modifying and lengthening the front of the car, increasing its length from 4m44 to 4m52 thanks to a more enveloping rear bumper.
At the front, only the bonnet has been retained, with a longer and more rounded appearance, while the grille has larger chevrons and the badge has been redesigned. At the rear, the changes are lighter and, in addition to a more enveloping shield, the tail lights change from black to crista for the indicators and reversing light, while a chrome strip now surrounds the entire car. Finally, the wider fenders introduced on the 2.0 Turbo CT have been generalised across the range.
Inside, the change is less significant, but the dashboard offers rounder lines as well as new materials that reposition the Xantia compared to its competitors, while the passenger side grab bar finally disappears.
It is on the technical side that the changes are the most significant... and the least visible, as Citroën took advantage of the restyling to review the Xantia's structure in order to improve its Euro NCAP crash test score. Equipment took another leap forward with the integration of side airbags, while the 1.6 of 89 hp was replaced by a 2.0l of 90 hp with more torque.
A few months later, in November 1998, the Xantia became the first Citroën family to be fitted with the famous 110 bhp HDI diesel engine. More advanced than any other diesel engine in the group, this engine features a high-pressure common-rail injection system and a turbocharger, which improves the engine's overall flexibility, increases driving pleasure and reduces noise and fuel consumption. This 2.0-litre engine replaces the 2.1 TD. Citroën took advantage of this to generalise front and side airbags across the range.
In July 1999, the 2.0 HDI became available in a 90 hp version and replaced the 1.9 TD, while the 2.1 TD engine was discontinued. A new option appeared: the athermic windscreen.
Despite these developments, the Xantia lost ground because a new generation of competitors had arrived in the meantime, while the national competition was about to be redesigned or renewed, with the Laguna II planned for 2001.
In the light of this observation, Citroën began to design the successor to the Xantia, a model that would bear the same name. The studies for a second generation Xantia were well advanced when the project was abruptly halted. Another project was frozen: the one that would lead to the Citroën C6 in 2005. It was therefore decided to change the positioning of the future car so that it would replace both the Xantia and the XM, so as not to leave the brand without a top model for too long. The engineers then studied the disaster that would become the C5.
In March 2001, the range was refined with the arrival of the Xantia Tendance, a well-equipped model that marked the swan song of the Xantia. It is available with only three engines: the 1.8 16V with 112 hp in petrol and the 2.0 HDI with 90 and 110 hp in diesel. March also saw the arrival of its replacement, the C5. With very classic lines, it would not be able to reproduce the success of its predecessor.
In any case, with the introduction of the C5, the Xantia's presence in the catalogue was no longer justified. Citroën kept it for the duration of the passing of the torch between the two models and in October 2002 the Xantia saloon disappeared from the scene, followed a few weeks later by its estate version. Around 1,528,800 Xantias were built during its 9-year career, which is a respectable total, even if its Peugeot 406 cousin did better.
Although its European career ended in 2002, the Xantia continues to be sold abroad! In particular in Iran, where the Xantia was assembled from 2000 to 2009.