In these PC days young drivers and fast cars are frowned upon, so cars like the MK1 GTi or XR3 are connected to huge insurance premiums and much sucking of teeth when you ask for a quote.
But strangely or maybe not car development has stopped and newer cars are just as fast without half the fanfare.
|Witness the Citroen Saxo VTR a cleverly packaged box of nothing special, completely ordinary bits, and not even top of the range, but with a turn of speed that would compete with the old hot hatches of old.|
Well the Saxo is a cute little thing to start with much in the mould of the AX. The French really do seem to have got the super mini design off pat nowadays, the French mini horrors of old have been replaced by some of the cheekiest looking cars on the market. Granted this may age just as quick as the AX but for now it looks just fine. The colour matched wheel arches, covering the little alloy wheels really set off the body, and together with the black chin and plethora of frontal vents give the little Saxo just a hint of aggression.
Inside is all fairly standard stuff, nothing to write home about but nothing objectionable either. The full Halfords garish interior would have probably added costs, limited the market and upped the perceived sportyness and hiked insurance rates. The Nova Corsa hot rod mob will love this car and no doubt Halfords will be full of Saxo owners with a surfeit of cash and a lack of taste.
Still you can see their point; the Standard Citroen Polka dot crazy colour scheme of the seats is more Modern jazz than Touring car racer and could do with a little hop up.
The steering wheel whilst sized to perfection is a little too hard and slippy and will probably be first on the upgrade list. The dash is bog standard apart from the white painted dials, which I find a little tacky; the gear knob is just fine and dandy though.
For what it is, it is quite nicely specced out, just enough to feel comfortable, without having any superfluous noddy bits. Most of the bits are nicely chosen to up the image anti a touch. Its all colour coded and tinted just to touch the right point on the street cred scale. Fog lamps and Alloys are worth miles more on the street than 4-cup holders and 6 airbags.
I like a sunroof, this car has one, I do not care one way or the other for Air con, this car does not bother and that is fine with me.
I have already mentioned the slightly tacky Wheel and Jazzy seats, though the seats are hopped up a little. The feel firm under the butt, and have good little side bolsters. They are quite narrow though, just fitting my petite derriere. If you are on the lardy side you may find it a tight squeeze.
The 1.6 engine is nothing to write home about, just a plain old single cam two valve producing a modest sub 100bhp. Of course it has also not got much car to lug about either (less than 1000kg) so its response is fantastic. A conservative top end should also mean good mid range, and combine this with a small cars penchance for feeling like they are going somewhat faster than they are and you get some real eye opening perceived performance. The Gearbox is typically notchy Citroen but bangs through well enough. The result is a little car with plenty of umphhhhh and a barrel of laughs to chuck about. Wheelspin is easily provoked from the front wheel drive, but that only adds to the fun.
|It may be a Citroen but the suspension id defiantly Peugeot. If you come expecting the lard bucket ride of the big Citroens you are going to be very very disappointed. That is not to say the ride itself is disappointing. Considering the small wheels, fat rubber and hard suspension it rides fairly well. However, it really is tuned toward the hard sporty end of the spectrum.|
If its handling you are after then this little car will not disappoint. It can be flung around with the best of them, diving through narrow openings and blasting into small gaps like the very best mini you can think of. The Power is just nicely balanced against the chassis, enough to keep your interest, not really enough to induce terror. The power steering is weighted perfectly to give reasonable feedback to the driver and keeps you well informed of what is happening under the overstressed front rubber. It also keeps untoward feedback firmly in check. Its not quite fast enough to induce twitchiness allowing the cars to hold a easy stable line either down Motorways or carving through long sweeping bends.
Immobilisor, remote central locking and locking fuel cap help keep the little car in your possession, although frankly it does need a big loud obvious alarm too.
Air bag, side impact bars, and pre-tentioned seat belts may help if you have a crash, but please make sure its not with a Hummer or no amount of Airbags will stop what is still a tiny car being crushed to dust. Lots of Lights and loud paint might be your best bet here.
The Saxo is as practical a small car as any other mini hatch Four (small) adults can fit inside in a modicum of comfort and they can even take a little bit of luggage as well. (Not too much each though). I am not a great lover of 5 door mini class cars so the lack of rear doors is no loss to me and looks sooooo much better any a car with any sporting aspirations at all.
With a (relatively) big tourquey engine the VTR is easy to drive as a practical runabout, though the suspension may tire after a while.
On Motorways it cruises comfortably without too much fuss or wind noise though the tyres can rumble a little.
But it is wasted in these roles. Get it out onto lonely deserted country roads and it takes on a whole new persona. Out in the wilds where the road edges are marked with dry stone walls not double yellow lines and cameras are fixed around the occasional tourists neck rather than stuck on a pole, here it comes into its element. Darting down lanes so narrow that speeds are kept almost legal, and corners are so tight you have to drop into second after braking hard riding the engine flexibility out the other side.
The Saxo VTR is the kind of car that gets you cheaply to work all week (nearly 50mpg if you try) and then lets you go hunting perfect roads at weekend. If your weekends are not free, do not bother, if they are here is a cheap way to put a little fun back into motoring.
Cheap to run, cheap to service no tricky costly parts a car thats more than the sum of its parts.
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