A five-door family car that was amongst the medium range class leaders. This is mainly thanks to the unique Citroen self-levelling suspension which provides an astonishingly good ride; speed bumps just vanish. Immature drivers, I'm told, have been known to abuse the system (there's a control by the handbrake) by bouncing the car up and down while waiting at the traffic lights - to the bewilderment of other users. Tut, tut...
Citroen executives described the Xantia as 'the return of the real Citroen', though if you haven't tried one, you'll be glad to know that fortunately, that doesn't mean a return to the days of quirky brakes, cyclops-eye speedometers and hopelessly complicated mechanicals.
Instead, they said, the car was produced to stand apart from the herd. It looks different from its competitors, it drives differently and it feels different to own. Marketing flam perhaps, but at first acquaintance with the Xantia, the rhetoric doesn't seem too far off the mark.
Opt for pricier models and you'll get all the electric add-ons you'd expect. Arguably more worthwhile however, is the access that your thicker chequebook gives you to Hydractive II, Citroen's latest 'thinking' computer suspension system. Its availability on the flagship Xantia 1.9TD VSX made its handling unique in the diesel class.
The idea is that the suspension adjusts automatically to suit your style of driving. Thus it is that as soon as you corner hard or accelerate heavily, the system will change from being soft and absorbent to firm and roll-resistant. Should you then encounter a section of lumpy road, the system will flip back to the 'comfort' suspension setting in the same way. This concept was subsequently taken a step further with the 'active suspension' Activa model.
Avoid examples that do not come with a full dealer service history. The Xantia's hydropneumatic suspension system uses fluid and gas and, though reliable, does not take kindly to DIY maintenance. There were early high-profile concerns over the performance of the handbrake, but this was quickly improved.
Get the brakes checked out too. On the road, non-Citrophiles tend to find it difficult to adjust to a pedal that has very little travel. You get very little sensation through it, but tend to stop very quickly. Stamping is not recommended.
(Approx, based on a 1993 Xantia 1.9 Turbo Diesel excl VAT) Not the cheapest certainly, but not as expensive as you might expect. A clutch assembly is around £150 and a full exhaust about £225. Brake pads are close to £50 and an alternator is about £300. Starter motors retail at close to £250, a headlamp about £100 and a radiator for around £220.
Eager acceleration was always one of the more endearing qualities of the outgoing BX and it's a characteristic that was carried forward into Xantia. This is particularly evident in the 111mph turbo diesel models which feature flexible mid-range performance to equal equivalent petrol-powered competitors.
For diesel buyers, economy will of course be paramount - and here there is little disappointment. Turbo diesel variants return 56.5mpg at a constant 56mph and nearly 40mpg around town.
Xantia featured the longest wheelbase in the class, a fact which makes itself felt in the amount of interior space available. Rear seat legroom could be greater, but head and elbowroom are both impressive.
The car isn't offered as a saloon - which ought to be fine for most buyers since it could easily pass for one. Lift up the rear hatch however, and you've 17cuft of space, rising to 31cuft should you opt to fold the 60:40 split rear seats. There's also a ski flap in the rear central armrest for awkward loads.
There are some other clever detail interior touches, too. Like the silent operation of the handbrake ratchet mechanism (how long have we been waiting for that?), steering wheel-mounted stereo controls and a uniquely designed radio cassette player which is integrated into the fascia design as a deterrent to theft.
Security was been high on the designer's list - or at least for UK spec cars. This was originally the only car in its class to offer a keypad immobiliser system and the system is integrated into the key on later models. In other words, it's no good the average joy rider trying to hot-wire your car, even if he successfully manages to get around the door's deadlocks and the perimetric alarm.
A car which makes a great deal of sense second-hand, innovative without being outlandish. If you can find a good one, don't hesitate.