In this Market Trends we look at three French saloons, the Citroën XM, Peugeot 406 and Renault 21…
We’re used to quirky French designs, even so, when the Citroën XM went on sale in 1989 the terms ‘refreshingly radical’ and ‘slightly quirky’ were still used to describe its design. It’s different, but in one of those ‘love it or hate it’ ways. We’re fond of cars that step out of the realms of ordinary and push the boundaries, which is why the XM sits here.
The first generation XM ran from ’89 to ’94 with an enormous selection of trim levels and engine sizes. The top of the range came in the form of a 3-litre V6 five-door hatchback or estate. The best feature of the big Citroën has to be the trick Hydractive suspension option that sensed how you were driving and adjusted the ride and handling to suit. Although this can be problematic today if it’s been neglected.
There’s a range of XMs on offer today ranging from around £1000 upwards; this will see you obtain a car that is in need of some work. We’d recommend spending around £3000 to get a model with good history and either the V6 under the bonnet or the popular turbodiesel.
Styled by Pininfarina, the 406 was a successful family car for Peugeot as it built on the strengths of the 405, proving roomier than rivals and offering superb levels of ride quality. With that being said, today it offers itself as a good alternative to the more expensive C-Class Mercedes and 3-Series BMW.
With its length and weight, the 1.8-litre is regarded as being a little too lacklustre in the trouser department, so opt for a 2-litre engine and you’ll be satisfied. There is a turbo variant of the 2-litre which offers more torque, but with an economy penalty. The 3-litre V6 is reserved for those that aren’t too fussed about tax costs and fuel bills; this will give much better performance and the engine is regarded as being a smooth and reliable unit. There are a handful of diesels on offer to that arguably are better suited to the big car with the welcomed addition of more torque.
Today you won’t be surprised to hear that the 406 offers itself as a good cheap purchase with examples sitting under £1000. If you fancy a bit of a project there are plenty for sale at around £250. Pay roughly £1000 and you’ll get a car with an MoT for a year and good history.
The Renault 21 is often the forgotten Frenchman; simply dismissed as a car with yesteryear’s technology and refinement. Back in the day though, that wasn’t the case and it even challenged the Sierra for market leader status.
Driving the Renault 21 today is like stepping back in time but that’s no bad thing. It drives remarkably well and the ride is superb. It’s recommended to go for a later model year car as Renault began work on its replacement, the Laguna, during the latter years bringing in updated trim and build quality as well as improving the reliability.
There are a number of 21s on the market making it a cheap option for potential buyers today. If you take the advice of looking for late models you’re looking at ’93-’95 models, which will set you back around £1500 for a good example. Lower mileage examples are available for around £2000 and are well worth seeking out in terms of future reliability. As indeed is the rare 21 Turbo which was often dubbed the French Cosworth… but you’ll need to budget on £7000 upwards if you can find one, or more for the 4×4 Quadra version.