In many ways, the Citroen Saxo is the archetypal Nineties supermini. It was a car that served a purpose for people of all types, from boy racers in their VTR and VTS ‘warm’ hatches to the super-frugal who fawned over the 80mpg 1.5 diesel.
Young or old, it was a car that had a lot going for it – inexpensive and fun to drive, yet comfortable and spacious, with a choice of three or five-door body styles and a typically French character – a softly sprung ride, coupled to astonishing levels of grip if you didn’t mind the body roll.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Saxo was Citroen’s best-selling model in the UK from 1997 until 2003, stirring up many a nostalgic memory today among those of a certain age. Indeed, if you’re reading those, you’re probably one of them.
For what we have here is an astonishing little Saxo – a car that is not only a bit of a sleeper thanks to its 1.6-litre fuel-injected engine (the same as that fitted to the Peugeot 205 GTi) but it’s also remarkably well-preserved, having spent most of its life in a garage.
P626 OLA was supplied new by Broads Motor Group of Chalfont St Giles to its original owner, Mrs Winifred Charles, in April 1997. Over the next 22 years, Mrs Charles put just under 29,000 miles on the clock, during which she had the car serviced religiously at least once a year and kept it in the garage of her bungalow in leafy Gerrards Cross, one of the UK’s wealthiest postcode areas.
When Mrs Charles gave up driving in 2019, the car was sold privately to a young chap in Milton Keynes who used it as a weekend car before selling it to the current owner – a collector of Eighties and Nineties vehicles – earlier this year. The current keeper is reluctant to sell it, but is forced to because of a loss of storage.
The service history that comes with this car is immense, from the original purchase invoice and pre-delivery inspection sheet through several years of main dealer bills, followed by receipts from the independent garage that looked after it since.
The service book itself is stamped up to 29,000 miles, with all repairs and servicing since then recorded on separate invoices. It has every MoT certificate with it from its first test in 2000 and a folder of other history, plus the original book pack containing an audio guide, the radio code, dealer network and warranty guide from when the car was first supplied.
The 34,900 miles is certainly genuine, as it is backed up by all the paperwork supplied with the car as well as its online VOSA history. The current MoT expires in December 2020 and was issued with no advisory items.
The Nineties excesses of the interior may make the Saxo look like a murder scene, with red splodges all over the velour fabric, but that’s just the pattern. The interior itself is absolutely perfect, with no scuffs, marks, holes or scratches anywhere. It’s almost like a new car.
The carpets have been protected from new by rubber over-mats, while all of the features inside the car work perfectly, including the original radio, electric mirrors, electric windows and an oh-so-nineties keypad immobiliser (the code is supplied in the handbook, just in case you forget). It even gets remote central locking (which works) and two keys. For a Nineties supermini, it’s exceptionally well-equipped.
The rear seats are just as good as in the front, while the boot area is also clean and well-presented.
We’ve not seen a Saxo in this kind of condition that isn’t a VTR or VTS for years – it really is that nice. The Venetian Red paint has an as-new shine despite being all original, and while you can see a couple of small areas of touch-up paint if you look closely, the car is pretty much spotless throughout, save for a couple of tiny issues.
The worst part is a tiny crease in the lower lip of the tailgate, which could probably be carefully straightened, but is barely noticeable as it is – it’s a tiny dent and wouldn’t even be worthy of note on a car that wasn’t otherwise as exceptional. Likewise, there are some surface scuffs on the black part of the offside front bumper – not something you’d be fussed about normally, but on a car that could otherwise be in showroom condition, you’ll probably want to get them sorted.
That’s the worst of it. The underside is superb as are the inner front and rear arches (a critical check area on any Saxo or Peugeot 106) with no signs of the car ever have been welded or needing it any time soon. The inner wings are equally spotless, while period OEM headlight protectors are a nice touch.
The tilt-and-slide sunroof works perfectly, while the Saxo also wears all of its original dealer numberplates and stickers from Broad’s of Chalfont.
Lift the bonnet and you’ll find a familiar sight – Peugeot/Citroen’s evergreen TU engine, as featured in almost every small Peugeot or Citroen small car since 1986.
In this case, it’s the biggest version of the powerplant – the fuel-injected 1,587cc unit which develops a peppy 90bhp. When you consider that the kerbweight of a Saxo is less than 900kg, you can imagine how lively it feels. It might not look like a GTi, but auto box aside, this car goes like one. It’s essentially the same engine as that fitted to the sports-marketed Saxo VTR.
The reason why was that in the early Nineties, PSA only produced one derivative of the TU that was compatible with its three-speed auto box (a 1.4 came along in 1999), so if you went for a self-shifter then you serendipitously bagged yourself a surprisingly rapid car – 0-60 in a shade over nine seconds is not to be sniffed at, and is twice as quick as a 1.0-litre manual model. Add into the mix the Saxo’s hugely entertaining handling and tenacious grip and what you have here is the perfect granny pants Q-Car. It’s a right hoot.
Everything seems fine and dandy under the hood, as you’d expect for a car with less than 35,000-miles beneath its wheels, while the auto box operates smoothly and kicks down as it should.
Quite apart from its Q-Car performance, this is essentially a really lovely example of one of the most popular cars of its era and it deserves to be cherished, kept and preserved as such by a Citroen enthusiast.
It’s a lovely thing and it would be an ideal first classic for a younger enthusiast, or would suit an urban-based owner who wants something a bit different to the modern masses, but with the benefits of power steering, automatic transmission and simple mechanics.
It’s an absolute honey – a beautiful, original and unmolested example that is absolutely brimming with Nineties charm.
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