Rock, No Roll

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David Finlay settles in with Citroen s ground-breaking new suspension system

The Citroen Xantia Active’s principal claim to fame is a suspension system which senses when cornering forces are trying to make the car lean by more than half a degree. At this point a ram comes into play and prevents any further roll, so the Active always sits more or less square on the road.

From the inside the effect is not all that dramatic, and for that reason somebody somewhere is going to write that the Active is a boring car to drive, but personally I found its combination of almost race-car cornering with road-car comfort quite enthralling.

Of course, Citroen has a huge start in the field of active suspension in that the standard Xantia’s hydropneumatic system lends itself very well to this next stage of development. If you had a car with normal springs and dampers you would more or less have to throw the whole lot away and start again. There is a strong sense that what Citroen is doing is plonking the Active down in front of the other manufacturers and saying, “Right we can put this on sale for £18,480. Now it’s your turn. “

The quite deserved attention paid to this epoch-making system unfortunately puts into the shade the superb two-litre turbo engine under the Active’s bonnet. With only 150 bhp thanks to an itsy-bitsy little compressor, it’s a good 50bhp short of other two-litre turbos on the market, but what it gains is a tremendous spread of power. In fact it feels just like a turbo-diesel, except that it has a lot more power and produces dollops of it all the way from 2000-6000 rpm.

The only real criticism is that the minor cosmetic alterations have had entirely the wrong effect and made the Active possibly the least attractive car in the Xantia range. But you won’t be worrying too much about that when you’ve bought one.

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