Right, stop it. Stop what you’re thinking. We know you think we’ve gone mad. How could we possibly be telling you to spend your hard-earned dosh on a car popularised by people called Darren who are on first-name terms with the staff at their local McDonald’s and also several of their town’s Police officers? Well, quite easily as it happens.
You see, the Saxo – if you’re willing to go full Morpheus and expand your mind – is actually a brilliant little car. It’s cheap, it’s fun and there is a staggering world of aftermarket parts available. But not licky-sticky parts from Halfords. No, proper stuff that makes the Saxo even better. So ignore your preconceptions. Take the red pill. Join us in Wonderland.
That mechanical abortion up there is what people think of when they hear the word Saxo. Or, if you’re us, you think of Kings of Leon and Sex on Fire. Woah-oh, my Saxo’s on fireeeeeee. We love a good mondegreen. But we digress.
For a time, and because Citroen foolishly offered free insurance on the VTR and VTS models FOR EIGHTEEN YEAR-OLDS, the Saxo was the chariot of choice for the chav. As such, VTR and VTS Saxos (the models we’re focusing on here) up and down the country were subjected, unwillingly, to ‘funny’ stickers, crap aftermarket wheels, more bass speakers than a Prodigy concert and also a faint whiff of weed. And that made the rest of us look down our nose at the VTR and the VTS.
In hindsight, Darren and his ankle-tagged friends were good for the Saxo. Their refusal to pay child maintenance and instead buy car parts brought about a boom in the aftermarket parts, um, market. And we’re not just talking body-kits and Alpine head units here. There was, and sill is, a vast array of parts available to make the VTR and the VTS even better. Suspension, sticky rubber, better brakes, roll cages, strut braces, throttle bodies, induction kits, cam kits, the list goes on and on.
Plus, and this is the important bit, Darren has moved onto the Fiesta ST now. The Saxo is no longer the reserve of the soon-to-be-seen-on-Police-Interceptors. It’s an appreciating car. One we can buy in 2018 without fear of ridicule. One that those of use who missed out on it first time around can now enjoy.
The Saxo came to us in 1996 and was basically a Peugeot 106 in a Citroen t-shirt. That was no bad thing. Small French cars are often basic in construction while still being immense fun to drive. The Saxo was no exception to the rule. Even in 1.1i guise it was a hoot, but when Citroen rolled out the VTR (which has the 1.6 fuel-injected eight-valve engine with 90 or, post 1999, 100bhp) and the VTS (same engine, but with a sixteen-valve cylinder head and 120bhp) it turned the Saxo up to eleven.
The VTR and VTS had the power, but they also had stiffer suspension, sportier seats and what has to be one of the best factory body-kit/wheel combinations in the history of hot hatches. It’s very Mk2 XR2 in that it makes the once little and delicate Saxo look wide and muscular. It’s brilliant. In standard trim it is a good-looking car.
So what are you going to get for your money? Quite a lot, actually. You’re more than likely going to end up with a face-lift – so post ’99 – model VTR or VTS. The VTRs can still be had, in good condition, for three figures. The VTS models tend to be a bit more, say £1,500. Pre-face-lift models are getting hard to find. Mainly because most were crashed. But if you can find one, buy it. It’s a slightly better-looking car than the face-lift. Not that the face-lift is Quasimodo or anything.
Both represent astounding value. If you’re not convinced, look at the prices of Peugeot 106 GTis. You won’t find one for under £2,500 (at least one that’s worth having) and that’s mental – they’re basically the same as a VTS.
In terms of what to look for when buying, the obvious one is abuse. So check the front tyres for excessive wear. Make sure the gear-change is still crisp and direct and also make sure the steering feels tight. Have a look at the power steering pump, as it was prone to springing leaks. The rear beam can rust catastrophically, so get underneath it. And just give it a good look over for signs of Darren’s handy-work. This especially includes the stereo. It might sound daft, but so many were bodged. Make sure the wiring is safe.
After that, just enjoy it. If it were us, we’d fit some decent discs and pads, sticky tyres, some lower suspension, a quick-shift kit, a better steering wheel, better breathing via an induction kit and a stage-one cam. You could do all this, car included, with a VTR and still have money to spare. And you’ll have a car that makes you giggle like a girl at a One Direction concert. Perfect.