Citroen Saxo 1.1 SX 

Citroen’s latest baby, the Saxo supermini, further reinforces a range revitalised in the last few years by periodic launches of stylish and attractive cars that have achieved massive sales and improved Citroen's UK fortunes dramatically. The AX, ZX and, most recently, the Xantia have all been big hits and on this first showing there’s little doubt that the Saxo - despite it’s name - will climb high in the hit parade.

The Saxo range is at present pretty small with only 3 door hatches available - other variants may follow - with 4 trim levels and 2 engine options - 1.1 or 1.4 litre petrol engines - and not all of the trims are available with a choice of engines but, it is likely that 5 doors, diesels and turbo diesels with different trims will all follow as the range takes off. Prices run from the 1.1 LX at £7,350 to the 1.4 VSX at at £9,390 and each of the models offers a  pretty  good package for the money, the Saxos are superminis that seem to include all of the best features of the competition in a better package than most.

A good looking car by any standards and strongly Citroen “family”, the Saxo seems to have captured just where it's at in small car design in the second half of the 90’s, it looks right, the “wheel at each corner” short overhangs give very good space for a small footprint - barely 3.7 metres long - and it’s height offers very impressive interior space with a well trimmed, bright and pleasant cabin, comfortable seating and a dashboard that is strikingly modern, heavily sculpted, simple and clear. There’s good knee and headroom and lots of useful cabin stowage and a substantial boot which the rear seat folds to enlarge, making the Saxo a fine, all round family car, but more than that it's actually great fun to drive.

On this acquaintance I drove the mid range £7,900 1.1 SX and found it real  treat to drive, nippy, lively and yet quiet with good acceleration at the traffic lights and quite - and quiet - at home on the motorway where it showed a fair cruising speed with little fuss or bother. Another major plus point is the fuel economy of the little 1124 cc engine, with, using the new combined Government test, a touring figure of 42 mpg, with the urban cycle at 32 mpg.

Surprisingly for an engine with just 60 bhp the Saxo is a real fun drive and, like some other of the other hot “hatchettes” currently on the market, reminds one strongly of the early days of the Mini - the Cooper versions that is - as much fun as those cars were in their day but the Saxo is far more sophisticated - and comfortable - than those early Coopers were. That 60 bhp translates to a top speed just over the ton - where legal of course - and a 14 seconds 0-60 time which feels, much, much quicker in the flesh than it looks on paper, usually a notable feature of an enjoyable drive.  
The manual gearbox is a delightful 5 speeder that flicks easily from gear to gear and is perfectly suited to the engine. For those who prefer there is as yet no autobox  option but that will soon come I’m sure for it will open up a whole new market sector for the car.

The Saxo’s ride is very comfortable, that of a much bigger car, soft enough yet not so soft that it reduces the fun quotient for the Saxo is very chuckable indeed, it is blessed with a sophisticated and agile chassis, well controlled roll, positive and direct steering and firm progressive brakes all of which make it great fun on the twisty bits where it feels very stable even when hard pushed.

The SX is pretty well equipped for the money with central locking, driver's airbag, tilt/slide sun-roof, coded immobiliser, a fully built in RDS stereo all as standard and ABS and passenger airbag as options. 

Citroen’s new Saxo is a small car of great surprises, great price to buy, great fun to drive, great quality and a great character. It - more than most - deserves to be called a super-mini.

  • PRICE   £ 10,508 as tested
  • TOP SPEED    100 MPH
  • 0-60 MPH     16 SECONDS

First Published 1997 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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