Product Type: CitroŽn cars
Newest Review: ... of the car in my opinion. They really fit well with the styling of the wider wheel arches and body styling afforded to the VTR model; much ... more
Small, sexy and fun, but it's warm rather than hot.
CitroŽn Saxo 1.6i VTR
Member Name: spikycat
CitroŽn Saxo 1.6i VTR
Date: 28/11/10, updated on 28/11/10 (238 review reads)
Advantages: Looks great on the outside, decent performance, sticks to the road very well.
Disadvantages: Looks cheap on the inside, poor safety features, boy-racer image.
As a twenty-something at the time, buying my Saxo VTR was my first foray into the world of the 'hot hatch'. That said, by the time I reached my thirties I had graduated to 200bhp+ beasts and, in hindsight, can only truthfully describe my trusty Saxo as 'warm' rather than 'hot'. But I've got fond memories of the little Citroen, and it was probably an essential stepping stone to more powerful cars.
I decided to go for the 8 valve VTR over the 16 valve VTS, mainly to keep the insurance costs down; group 7 versus group 14. Both engines are 1.6 litres, the VTR generating 90bhp with the VTS weighing in at 120bhp. Performance figures vary depending on where you look, but the VTR is generally quoted in the region of 9.5 seconds to 60mph, in contrast to around 7.5 seconds for the VTS; so you can see how the gulf in insurance groups came about.
I kind of regret not swallowing the heftier insurance premium for the VTS, but at the end of the day the VTR was plenty quick enough for me with the level of experience I had at the time. Also, having driven much quicker cars since, I have to say my memory of the VTR is that it felt much quicker than it appeared on paper.
I opted for a car in metallic 'Poseidon Blue', which is probably the most popular colour available as the other options aren't particularly inspiring. The VTR sat on 14" concave alloys, which are a defining element of the appeal of the car in my opinion. They really fit well with the styling of the wider wheel arches and body styling afforded to the VTR model; much more so than the VTS alloys. With the exception of the wing mirrors, the car came with fully colour coded bumpers. Oddly though, I did see a few other VTRs of the same age as mine (1998, R-plate) with a black plastic trim above the rear number plate. Seems odd that this should be an additional option to have colour coded, but I'm not sure what other explanation there could be for this. The windows had a very slight tint to them, which further enhanced the look of the car. The overall effect is that the VTR really does look significantly sleeker and sportier than the standard Saxos.
On the inside the VTR is less inspiring, and you are reminded of the class and budget range of the car that you're driving. The dash is all quite solid, but has a rather cheap plastic feel to it, and doesn't fill you with a sense of anticipation. The upholstery in my car was dark grey in colour, which I was quite grateful for as some of the other options I saw displayed in other VTRs were truly horrendous and not at all in keeping with the theme of the car. The seats were comfy, but nothing close to the sports styled seats that you can expect from hot hatches these days. All in all, the interior of the car did not match the ambition exuded by the exterior.
Feature wise there wasn't much to speak of beyond a CD player, electronic keypad controlled engine immobiliser (no alarm) and front fog lights. It also came with ABS as standard; not worth mentioning these days, but in 1998 this was quite a bonus to find in a car in this class. Mine had a sunroof too, albeit manually operated (and quite an effort to open so you probably won't want to attempt it whilst driving).
The driving experience is the saving grace for the VTR, as it nearly lives up to the bold expectations set by the aggressive styling of the car's exterior. The aforementioned 90bhp is put to good use, and power is delivered nice and evenly via the 5-speed gearbox. Combine this with the responsive steering and fantastic grip levels from the low profile Michelin Pilots (not cheap!) and the result was a rewarding drive. A bit more pull in the mid range would have been nice (that's what the VTS is for), but ultimately it made a good balance as however vigorously I threw it around roundabouts and corners, it was satisfyingly and reassuringly planted. This makes is a great car for town/city driving or short commutes, but it doesn't hold up particularly well for longer journeys, particularly on motorways, as tyre/engine noise levels are a little intrusive over time and it isn't the most comfortable car over long distances.
An additional consideration that may be more of an issue if considering longer journeys is safety. The VTR comes with a driver's airbag as standard, but not much else besides the ABS already mentioned. The car only scored two Euro NCAP stars, which I guess isn't surprising given the lack of safety features coupled with its diminutive size; the likely outcome of it being in a serious collision probably doesn't bear thinking about.
Running costs are pretty good with the VTR, considering the tendency to put your foot down a little every now and then. Official figures quote somewhere in the region of 36mpg, but my experience was that this was understated and I reckon I got more like 40-42mpg. Servicing is cheap, although the suggested interval isn't that long at 9000 miles. I had no reliability issues with the car in the couple of years I owned it.
In summary, the VTR is a fun, nippy little hatchback that is great as a relatively cheap way to get from A-B reasonably quickly. It carries an unfortunate association with 'boy-racers' for very good reasons, but it isn't the worst car in the world for a hot-headed teenager to be driving, as it does look after you in the way that it sticks to the road, and doesn't offer you so much power as to become overtly dangerous. The downsides are the cheap interior and the lack of safety features. There are more modern warm/hot hatches in this class nowadays, which improve on just about everything about the VTR, except maybe its looks. But as far as bang for buck goes, and providing you don't put the thing into a wall, you might not find a cheaper way to make your first steps into performance motoring (and make the supermarket run a bit more fun!).
Summary: Iconic 'warm' hatch that looks great and nearly has the performance to match.