2002 Citroen Saxo VTR
Our Rating


2002 Citroen Saxo VTR

Cramped interior, but a fine semi-hot hatch all the same.

Regardless of what happened about the famous tyre-change penalty, the Monte Carlo Rally proved that the Citroen Xsara WRC is some performer. You can't buy one, of course, and there's a considerable drop in both cost and performance to the road-going Xsara VTS. Another step down comes the Xsara VTR, and on the landing below stands the Saxo VTS, whose less highly tuned counterpart is the Saxo VTR.

By that point, four moves away from Sébastien Loeb's occasional weekend transport, you might think the appeal of Citroen's scorching-to-hot-to-warm models had more or less evaporated. But there's a financial element here, and the VTR has been playing its part in keeping the Saxo at the top of the UK hot hatch sales tables, year after year.

For one thing, it costs under £10,000, and there's often a cashback - check what's available, because these offers sometimes change from season to season.

Since it's more than £1000 cheaper than the VTS, the VTR doesn't have the same engine (it's fitted with an eight-valve rather than a 16-valve) or the same level of equipment. Anti-lock brakes are an extra-cost option, and so are split/fold rear seats, front passenger and side airbags, an anti-theft alarm and metallic paint.

Speaking of paint, it's as well to wear dark glasses when looking at a Saxo colour chart. Mango is the kind of thing you see when in the throes of a brain-pan-crushing hangover.

At absolutely no extra cost in the VTR you get the same cramped rear seat accommodation as in all models in the Saxo range, since they're built on what's now a fairly old platform, and not much room around the pedals if you're a size nine plus.

But this car has four important features for its niche in the market - good-looking road wheels. In this case, 14" nine-spoke Toulouse alloys.

A recent engine upgrade lets Citroen say the VTR has now joined the 100bhp brigade, but that's a DIN figure rather than the British power output number we prefer to quote here. By that reckoning, the VTR offers just over 98bhp.

However, the Saxo carries little in the way of excess weight, and the power available lets it zip along quite sportingly. It's lively and nimble, and it has a slick-shift gear change. On some minor roads in the Cotswolds, up on the plateau country where the views are quite long and the bumps not too upsetting, it whanged along most enjoyably, not like some Japanese Evo job, but on the other hand no bother to control.

Despite what some tearaways suggest, there's a certain charm in driving a car whose roadholding isn't compromised by a sudden whoosh of too much power for the chassis to handle. You can enjoy pushing a car like the VTR close to its limits, while knowing that the limits are not remotely close to the g-forces provoked by some skyscraper-spoilered twin-turbo four-wheel drive 250bhp World Rally replica that has to be wrestled around.

Modest price, low-ish insurance group, fair enough fuel consumption, pretty lively performance for its size and cost, chuck-about handling, and a certain amount of street cred (memo: do the youngsters still use that expression?). You can see the point.

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