Citroen Saxo: The Classic Hatchback

The Citroen Saxo is a tribute to a bygone period in which simplicity and utility typified tiny cars. It is a snapshot in time.

Table of Contents

Introduction of the Saxo

Citroen Saxo in golden front

A prime embodiment of automotive brilliance, the Citroen Saxo seamlessly blended style with functionality. Its agile design danced with the wind as graceful curves and an elegant silhouette wove a tapestry of elegance on the road. In 1996, Citroen unveiled the Saxo, marking the evolution from the AXE, often criticized for its less-than-pleasing aesthetics. The Saxo offered various engine options, including five petrol and one diesel engine, mirroring the legendary Peugeot 205 series in powertrain choices. Despite the modest power outputs of the Citroen Saxo’s engines, its lightweight nature endowed even the base 1.0 and 1.1-liter engines with the necessary vitality.

Citroen Saxo in golden back

On the other hand, the sixteen-valve Citroen Saxo VTS, as showcased here, had the potential to deliver a driving experience akin to the acclaimed Peugeot 205 GTi. These whisper-quiet engines defied expectations, proving that genuine beauty extends beyond the surface. A captivating masterpiece on wheels, the Citroen Saxo left an indelible mark in compact cars by fusing aesthetics with substance, transforming the road into a canvas for its elegant artistry.

History of the Citroen Saxo

The Citroen Saxo, a supermini produced by Citroën in France from 1996 to 2004, holds a unique place in the automotive world. It was known as the Citroën Chanson in Japan due to Honda’s prior registration of the “Saxo” nameplate. The Saxo, derived from the Citroen AXE, differed primarily in its interior and body panels compared to the Peugeot 106.

Citroen Saxo first gen

Between 1996 and 2005, the Citroen Saxo played a pivotal role in introducing a generation of young drivers to the joys of automotive independence. In 1997, a significant development occurred with the introduction of the 1.6i 8V engine generating 66 kW (90 hp), paired with a three-speed automatic transmission on the Saxo SX and VSX models. In 1999, Citroën continued to offer the 1.4i engine for the revamped Saxo Automatic. The Saxo Automatic ultimately bid farewell in March 2002, making way for the C3’s 1.4i automatic transmission. However, manual variants continued to be available until the conclusion of 2003.

The Engine Symphony of Saxoness

Citroen Saxo engine

Totally! In the late ’80s, Citroen AXE and Peugeot 205 were rocking the PSA TU engine scene, a natural evolution of the PSA X engine that had already been making waves in cars like the Citroën Visa, Peugeot 104, and early Peugeot 205. We’re talking five naturally-aspirated petrol engines and a lone diesel. Even the top dog VTS, coming in at just 935 kg (2,061 lb), had a crazy-low curb weight compared to other hatchbacks of the time and even today’s small hatches. The smaller engines (minus the diesel) were about 100 kg lighter than that!

Petrol Engines for Saxo

Diesel Engines

Engine specifications

Speed timing of Citroen Saxo

Citroen Saxo on road

It was difficult to discern a real-world difference in consumption between the smaller engines and the swift 1.4i West Coast/Furio model, but the insurance costs were. The 1.1i, which was around 200cc larger and had about 30% more torque, was considered considerably superior to the early 1.0i, which was relatively underpowered. The VTS engine was rated for a maximum speed of 127 mph and a pull-away time of 7.8 seconds. It could generate 118 BHP.

The Saxo came in three different sports models:

Citroen Saxo in red on road

The transition from West Coast to Furio brought a beefier 1.4i 8V engine, pushing out 55 kW (75 hp) of power. In the blink of an eye, that puppy could zoom up to 109 mph in just 11.2 seconds – 0 to 62.5 mph!

Citroen Saxo in blue

But hold on, we’re not done yet! The 1.6-liter VTR MK1 (1997–1999) was a speed demon, hitting 116 mph and going from 0 to 62.5 mph in just 10.0 seconds, packing 66 kW (90 hp). Then came the VTR MK2 (1999–2003), boasting a 1.6i 8V engine with 72 kW (98 hp) – this lousy boy could rocket to 120 mph in 9.4 seconds flat!

Citroen Saxo on track

Now, the real showstopper, the VTS 16V, with its 1.6i engine belting out 120 horsepower. It was about reaching 127 mph in a mere 7.8 seconds, making the competition eat dust!

Citroen Saxo mk1 and mk2

The MK1 (1997–1999) and MK2 (1999–2003) VTS models performed like champs, although the MK2 had a teensy weight gain. But even with that, it still knew how to impress on the road!

Drive of Citroen Saxo

Citroen Saxo on road

A symphony of feelings opens in the Citroen Saxo’s driver’s seat. The steering wheel? It’s like an extension of your dreams, guiding you with finesse through twists and straightaways. When you tap that pedal, the engine roars to life, leaving its mark on the road with a symphony of power and elegance.

Citroen Saxo tuned up

Yeah, it might be a tad obvious, but let’s dive in, shall we? What secret sauce makes a motor the ultimate pick for the starter-kit mod scene? First off, the price tag should be budget-friendly no-brainer. It has to be straightforward, think hatchback vibes, and deliver mechanical clarity that even your school buddy could grasp. Now, we’re talking options. With engine choices from the feisty 1.6-liter to the efficient 1.0-liter, this heart comes alive with a power range of 45 to 120 horsepower. Every drive becomes a canvas for your customization desires.


Citroen Saxo steering

The equipment offerings were somewhat modest in the early days of the Mark One models. You’d find keypad immobilizers to keep your ride safe and a clock instead of a tachometer to tell the time. The wheels sported three studs, much like the AXE.

Citroen Saxo interior

For those looking for more, the economy variants stepped it up with features like drivers’ airbags, seat belt pre-tensioners, cassette players for your tunes, heated rear screens, and tinted windows to keep things cool.

Citroen Saxo sunroof

As time rolled on, the list of goodies grew longer, giving you options like alloy wheels, sunroofs to let the sunshine in, power-assisted steering for effortless handling, electric windows for convenience, ultrasonic alarms for added security, passenger airbags for peace of mind, CD players to enjoy your music, tachometers to keep an eye on your revs, front fog lights for enhanced visibility, sleek body kits to up the style factor, and color-coded mirror caps for that extra touch of personalization.

Citroen Saxo speed o meter

The interiors of MK2 Saxo’s were outdated compared to other compact hatchbacks of the day, including the Vauxhall Corsa, even though they were generally better equipped than their earlier counterparts.


Citroen Saxo side look

The exterior design of the Citroen Saxo effortlessly blends practicality with a touch of youthful exuberance, perfectly capturing the spirit of its era.

Citroen Saxo back

Its compact dimensions contribute to its sleek and aerodynamic profile, radiating an air of agility that matches its nimble handling. The car’s fluid lines and curved contours serve a practical and aesthetic purpose, playing a pivotal role in its commendably low drag coefficient. It’s a testament to how form and function coexist harmoniously, creating an icon of its time.


Saxo written on carpets

They may be popular with boy racers, but the VTR and VTS are our favorite Saxons. While they may not offer as much fun as their Peugeot 106 GTi cousins, they’re cheaper, great value and still an absolute hoot to drive. Some purchasers were more drawn to the roomy and functional five-door C3. The 1.6 VTR and VTS models, however, continued to be well-liked. With the launch of the three-door C2 in September 2003, the Saxo’s production was eventually ended.

A review by an expert:

“For my daily travel, I can say that it’s been a reliable and affordable option.”


Citroen logo

The Citroen Saxo is a tribute to a bygone period in which simplicity and utility typified tiny cars. It is a snapshot in time. Its economical maintenance expenses are a blessing for frugal drivers, and its agile handling and efficient engine options make it a versatile alternative for city driving. But as time passes, the Saxo’s cramped cabin and lack of contemporary safety measures highlight how outdated it is.




Is the Citroen Saxo a practical choice for daily commuting?

Absolutely, the Citroen Saxo’s compact size, fuel efficiency, and affordable maintenance make it an excellent option for daily commuting. Its nimble handling and various engine options cater to different driving needs.

What should I consider when buying a used Citroen Saxo for daily use?

When opting for a used Citroen Saxo, focus on factors like maintenance history, engine condition, and overall wear. Check for features that enhance daily driving comfort, such as power-assisted steering, electric windows, and reliable safety features.

How does the Citroen Saxo hold up as a second-hand car for daily urban driving?

As a second-hand car, the Citroen Saxo remains a practical choice for daily urban driving. Evaluate its affordability, fuel efficiency, and available features. Keep in mind potential issues like limited space and higher noise levels associated with older models.

Written by: Motorcardata

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