Today is a historic occasion. It is 12 months since I drove home in my new Citroen XM. The strange bit is that I still own it! Happy anniversary!
I’ve spent a fair chunk of the past 12 months wondering what’s happened to me. A few weeks after getting the XM home, I realised that I wasn’t frantically scouring the classifieds anymore. I’d barely been anywhere near Ebay. I came out of the house to go for a drive, and smiled as I jumped behind the wheel. A few months later, this was still happening! The absolute constant in my life – the search for the Goldilocks car – seemed to have come to an end.
Some cars have got very close to this, and most have been PSA diesels. The first was a Peugeot 306 DTurbo that I owned for more than two years, and in which I clocked up over 40,000 miles. That remains an all-time record – bar my 2CV (15 years and over 110,000 miles). A Daewoo Matiz, the only car I ever bought brand new, managed 18 months and 18,000 miles. A BX non-turbo diesel estate managed two bursts of my ownership and I’ve therefore lost count of how many months and miles I clocked up in it – a significant amount, but it managed 30,000 miles while it was away from me.
Aside from an Acadiane that spend most of its time with me off the road, that’s it. Over 60 vehicles owned, and only three have endured until now. So, have I changed or is the XM actually that remarkable that I don’t want to replace it?
I’m not entirely sure myself. Certainly, I was getting increasingly fed up with the sheer ballache of changing cars. Buying and collecting is huge fun – I love it – but then there’s the increasing despondency that it isn’t quite right, and the utter pain of trying to sell it. Then my insurance company charges me £15.75 every time I change cars. That was a lot in 2014. It cost me a fortune.
Certainly, it’s true that every time I clap eyes on the XM, it fills me with joy. I love the concept-car-style looks, especially the tail end. I love the driving position too. It feels just right. The Citroen BX got very close to being the perfect car for me, but was let down by two surprisingly minor problems. Not enough wipers (I hate single wipers) and no flick-wipe. Doesn’t sound like a big thing, but I live in Wales. I find a flick-wipe very, very useful. And that’s another point. The column stalks in the XM feel much nicer than the horrible Peugeot items in the BX – and the earlier Mk1 dashboard is no better, despite its wackiness. The actual feel of the switches is properly grim. Nothing like a CX.
The engine is a major plus too. My conclusion with BXs is that the petrol carb engines are a faff, while the non-turbo diesel is too sluggish, and the turbo diesel too peaky. The 12v, 2.1-litre XM turbo diesel, with its Mitsubishi turbocharger, is a delight. It pulls strongly from 1500rpm. In many ways, it behaves like a BX non-turbo diesel, but goes much more quickly! Not all that sprightly by the standards of today, but more than enough for me.
Of course, it’s also hugely practical. The boot is enormous and on our recent trip to France, it swallowed up most (but not quite all) of our belongings, including a bass guitar in a case, an amplifier and two ukuleles. I did have to concede defeat and park our suitcase on the backseat.
I love how it corners too. The steering is assisted, but not too assisted. It turns in with relish and then doesn’t wobble around when you crank up the G-force. It still then rides very well, albeit not as well as my Dyane. I reckon it still needs those centre spheres changing. I’ve been saying that for 11,000 miles now.
So, are there any downsides to this £375 wonder car? Well, yes. The clutch is heavy and the gearchange is horrible – sadly all too common on PSA diesels. I had the same issue with my Peugeot 306. There are a few interior rattles that I just can’t banish either. Also, the nose is a bit too long and a bit too low. It’s very hard to place. And rear visibility is appalling. And the tiny door mirrors hardly help. And the foot-operated handbrake is bloody awful to use. But I don’t care. As I well know, no car is perfect. Yet, it seems the XM is closer than most. It seems I really did manage to buy a good car for once. I think it probably deserves a wash.