Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

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Rufus Baggsby
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Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Rufus Baggsby »

OK, so I’m almost at retirement age and living in an area where the roads are really awful, in fact in my immediate neighbourhood there aren’t any roads, just dirt tracks. I’ve been driving an ‘04 Nissan Pathfinder for the last 10 years which is great - reliable, capable, but thirsty which is why it’s on LPG now. The biggest problem though is that it’s uncomfortable, you feel every bump. The suspension is a compromise between off-road capability and on-road driveability, like all 4x4s I suppose unless you can afford something with air suspension and the repair bills that come with it.

I have decided that the ideal solution would be an older Citroen with hydropneumatic suspension. After much research and bearing in mind my budget and requirement for an automatic gearbox (as my wife can only drive autos), I’ve boiled it down to either a Xantia or a C5 (up to about 2007ish), although automatic Xantias are like hen’s teeth it seems.

We live in Spain and the used car market here is very different to the UK one. In general prices here are akin to highway robbery and the government gets a tax handout from every secondhand car sale (usually paid by the buyer). The big advantage however, is that rust is rarely a problem when buying a secondhand car over here due to the climate and the fact that they don’t put salt on the roads.

The next big issue for me is whether to buy petrol or diesel. To be honest, just so you know where I am coming from, I have spent my life avoiding the ownership of cars with diesel engines in the firm belief that they only belong in tractors and commercial vehicles. I realise that they make economic sense in terms of fuel costs, but now it would seem that the establishment, after having cajoled even the staunchly resistant UK into diesels, has a new agenda and diesel passenger cars have now become a target.

Clearly we are all being earmarked for battery powered vehicles, which I personally find totally ridiculous given that mineral deposits of lithium and cadmium are limited, not renewable nor environmentally friendly at the point of extraction or disposal. Furthermore, the electricity required to feed these battery powered vehicles will be generated by providing more nuclear power stations. To me this is insanity, but I digress.

In Spain we already have restrictions for the private motorist to enter certain cities during government declared periods of ‘heavy pollution’ and these are based upon vehicle emissions with older diesel engined cars coming off worst. I believe this is imminent in the UK as well, but typically there you can still make your contribution to the pollution if you pay for the privilege. Who knows what additional sanctions are just around the corner?

It appears to me that beginning with the Citroen C5, the diesels have been plagued with gadgets to clean them up, namely DPFs, EGRs, FAPs, swirl flaps etc. all of which seem merely to collect the muck up to the point where they can hold no more. This then requires maintenance or replacement at considerable cost. Similarly the petrol V6 C5 has a very complicated set of sensors based around and inside the catalytic converter to the same ends. Should these fail they are also very expensive to replace. If I'm mistaken about any of this I would be very pleased to be corrected. Does the Xantia suffer from the same issues in both diesel and petrol forms?

Aesthetically I prefer the Italian designed Xantia to the C5 and the fact that it’s smaller is also attractive. Originally I was eager to get a Xantia Activa, but I have had to face up to the fact that I am no longer a young man and wouldn’t be able to cope with the maintenance. There are a surprising amount for sale in Spain, all manual diesels though.

So, what I would be very grateful for any advice upon is:

Am I simply being paranoid about diesel ownership?
Do the 2.0 and 2.2 diesels sound like tractors?
Is the Xantia a simpler design in relative terms to the C5?
Are Xantias more reliable than the equivalent C5?
Is the 6 speed auto box in the 2006-on C5 the right one to go for?
Is the Hydropneumatic 3+ system with it's extra spheres anything like the Activa’s in terms of ‘controlling the rolling’?
Is the V6 petrol cambelt change really a nightmare?
Is the Citroen 3.0 V6 petrol engine the same as the Alfa Romeo 3.0 V6 ‘Busso’?

Thanking you in anticipation.
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Michel
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Michel »

To answer your questions :)

1. Yes
2. No, the Citroen HDi diesels are not tractor like at all. The VW group ones most definitely are.
3. Yes.
4. No. The youngest ones will be 17 years old now, and parts perish, rot, and spares are getting tricky to find.
5. Yes, the Aisin one. The others can be somewhat problematic if not maintained properly.
6. Not really. It firms the ride up going round bends though, not much else.
7. It's not so much a nightmare as much as a bother with the amount of stuff that's got to be removed before you can change the belt.
8. No. It's a Citroen/PSA engine, not an Alfa one.

Personally, I'd not by hydropneumatic or hydractive car for use on an unmade road. It's not what they're good at.
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GiveMeABreak
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by GiveMeABreak »

Am I simply being paranoid about diesel ownership? - Yes
Do the 2.0 and 2.2 diesels sound like tractors? No
Is the Xantia a simpler design in relative terms to the C5? No The older LHM-based hydraulics require more attention and maintenance as compared with electrohydraulics, which has arguably better backup and greater reliability.
Are Xantias more reliable than the equivalent C5? No
Is the 6 speed auto box in the 2006-on C5 the right one to go for? Yes
Is the Hydropneumatic 3+ system with it's extra spheres anything like the Activa’s in terms of ‘controlling the rolling’? No but they do have more integration with the other car systems like the ESP to provide firmer riding round corners and less pitch / roll and an automatic sport mode on some variants.
Is the V6 petrol cambelt change really a nightmare? Pass But 7 Hours if also doing the water pump on a Xantia II 3.0 (book time), compared with 4.7 hours for a MK C5 138 Diesel for the same job.
Is the Citroen 3.0 V6 petrol engine the same as the Alfa Romeo 3.0 V6 ‘Busso’? The engine codes are ES9J4 on the Xantia S1 & S2, ES9J4S on C5 MK I, ES9A on the C5 MK II. I can see no reference to these being used on the Alfa Romeo.
Gibbo2286
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Gibbo2286 »

We have other posters on here who reckon Spain's roads are wonderful compared to the UK so your post is a bit of a surprise. :)

As for the cars I have a 2006 C5 Estate 2.0 diesel with the AM 6 automatic box and it's as nice a car as I've ever driven.
Rufus Baggsby
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Rufus Baggsby »

Well thank you all very much for the replies, most interesting.

Spain's main roads are very good, but when you get outside of the towns, in the 'campo', they're just the same as anywhere else. Where I am they are simply dirt tracks, not exactly what you would call off-road, but they get pretty potholed, particularly in winter..

The reason I asked about the Alfa V6 is because I was surprised to see it uses the same timing belt...
https://www.mister-auto.co.uk/timing-be ... tl=default
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by GiveMeABreak »

Only part 0831V2 and that is for the ES9A on the C5 MK II. None of the other engines use this part according to Citroen parts....
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white exec
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by white exec »

Well . . . home from home! We live in the campo, 4km from our local village (Sayalonga). Tarmac'd roads as far as the village are first class, but beyond it it's a mixture of concreted and earth/rock single-lane rural tracks. To get away from our house, there are two choices: 5km of bumpy track to the coast, or about 1km of same to the village.

Like you, we bought a 4x4 to deal with all this when we moved here in 2004, and still run it, for local and daily use. It copes with anything. But a 1996 hydropneumatic 2.5TD XM came with us too, and that provides a very interesting comparison with the RAV4 2.0 D4D.

The Citroen is now 22 years old, been with us from new, and is in pretty much perfect condition. However, out of sheer respect for its age, I try not to do the long and very bumpy route direct to the coast with it, more than once a year or so - it's a road that the RAV has to tackle in 2nd gear for 5km, rising from sea level to 450m.

Citroen hydronpeumatic suspension is hugely tough and resilient, and Hydractive 2 (XM and Xantia onwards) hugely competent for normal and high-speed work. Although the spheres and the rest of the system need only normal care and maintenance, it is essential on Xantia (and XM) that the front sphere mounts (a rubber-steel assembly) are monitored for stretching/splitting/underside rusting. If front spheres are allowed to go really low on gas pressure, a sudden bump can rip the sphere mount apart, and the front strut will usually pierce and destroy the bonnet. If gas pressure is checked every year or two (not too difficult), and the strut tops kept an eye on, all should be well. (At the rear, this destruction situation doesn't exist: just a very bumpy ride!)

In Spain (around Malaga, anyway), Xantias were once very popular (on the back of previous huge sales of C15 and other Citroens), but, like many old cars in Spanish hands, maintenance was often skimped. This is not OK on a Xantia, and huge numbers met their end and they hopped and crashed their way about, owners either too ignorant or too mean to get the spheres fixed. Finding a Xantia in a scrapyard in Malaga is virtually impossible now; the few that come in are immediately crushed, simply because there is now "no demand" for their parts. Milanuncios has lots of Citroens for sale, but they and their sellers will need careful vetting.

The strut top burst-through issue started with XM and Xantia. Previous to that, BX and CX did not have the problem, as the strut top was differently designed. BX and CX also had the last of Citroen's "long travel" hydropneumatic suspension, and were simply superb at mopping up bumps, and offering a soft ride at the Intermediate High ride height. Both I'm sure are now to old for consideration, and wouldn't fit your bill.

Others here are experts on C5, and the consensus seems to be that mk1 and mk2 - even though electronically much more complex than Xantia - are good cars. The styling of mk2 can have greater appeal. Mk3 (X7) is probably best avoided (in my opinion), because of several design faults, and the complexity of maintaining it. It's not a car for regular campo track use!

Suspension system? Hydropneumatic is superb on virtually everything except a sudden transverse step or ridge taken too fast. Non-hydractive models are good too, if you enjoy an always softer ride. Hydractive 2 (for most XM and Xantia) is all you are likely to need; 3 and 3+ have handling advantages, but nothing new in the comfort-ride department.

If the choice were mine, on the roads we have, it'd be Xantia diesel (pulling power and economy), and maybe even a non-hydractive one, the latter for sheer comfort on the bumpy stuff, and very very simple diy maintenance.

One thing for certain . . . no shortage of help and support here, as you're already discovering.
Hasta luego.
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Jaf »

I know nothing about the C5. I have a 1998 Xantia, 1.9td. 6 spheres. She is brilliant on the ramblas. Smoother than Dad’s vw t3 syncro, a Range Rover, loads of friends’ hire cars. Modern cars hurt my back, Fred does not!

Mine is used as a daily car. If something terminal happens I’ll get another one (there’s one at a former Citroen garage for €800 though the transfer tax will be annoying). I have had to fix things but that’s to be expected with any car.

I don’t have a problem finding parts in the scrappy, but the prices are so so high, I end up buying new parts instead.
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by xantia_v6 »

To give a slightly different perspective, I am a long-term Xantia and XM owner (I have owned about 6 petrol Xantias and an XM, not yet a C5, but have looked a few times).
Rufus Baggsby wrote:
04 Jan 2019, 16:40
So, what I would be very grateful for any advice upon is:

Am I simply being paranoid about diesel ownership? Probably, but each time I have test-driven a diesel, I have been put of by the noise they make, the last time being a 2011 Pug 308 CC with the 2.0 HDI lump.

Do the 2.0 and 2.2 diesels sound like tractors? It depends on the sensitivity of your ears.

Is the Xantia a simpler design in relative terms to the C5? I would say that there is not much difference, the Xantia has more stand-alone electronic units, but the C5 has more stuff controlled by centralised computer systems. The Xantia hydraulics are more old-school, the versions without Hydractive have no electronics at all.

Are Xantias more reliable than the equivalent C5? I would say that there is probably not much difference in reliability. After driving a lot of miles in my Xantias and XMs, I have only failed to get home on 3 occasions, once with a split low pressure return hose that dumped all the LHM, and twice with failed transmission selector switches on V6 Xantias. Especially iin Spain, failing rubber components are the biggest problem, but most can still be sourced one way or another. You do have to take into consideration the appalling spare parts policies of PSA, which mean that few genuine new parts can now be obtained for Xantias or XMs and early C5s will be the same in a couple of years.

Is the 6 speed auto box in the 2006-on C5 the right one to go for? None of the PSA transmissions (ignoring the EGS) are really bad. The AL4 used on Xantia and C5 suffered from faulty solenoids, but is not too hard to fix. The 4HP20 used on bigger Xantia/C5 engines is a very strong transmission, but suffers from an internal oil filter which eventually gets clogged (and cant be changed with the transmission in the car), often causing serious collateral damage. The AM6 transmission is very good, but early versions (to 2009 I think) had a design fault which caused the valve block to fail prematurely.

Is the Hydropneumatic 3+ system with it's extra spheres anything like the Activa’s in terms of ‘controlling the rolling’? No, but it does limit body roll to normal levels, unlike hydraulic Citroens of the 60s, 70s, and 80s that often looked as if they were going to fall over when driven enthusiastically around a corner.

Is the V6 petrol cambelt change really a nightmare? No, I have done about 6 of them, on Xantias and XM (the C5 procedure is similar). I can now do one easily in a day.
Access is a little fiddly, and there is a knack to getting the cam sprockets all on the right tooth at the same time, but it is not difficult.


Is the Citroen 3.0 V6 petrol engine the same as the Alfa Romeo 3.0 V6 ‘Busso’? No the PSA ES9 series of engines was an all-new design introduced in 1997, and is pretty much bullet-proof
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Stickyfinger »

Off field: but

I would say, get a 2Cv.

Short runs, easy to drive, great on rough roads....and simple.
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white exec
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by white exec »

Those skinny Michelins wouldn't survive our rocky tracks! :?
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by xantia_v6 »

I should also mention that over the years I have driven a Xantia on many occasions on unformed or unmaintained roads and provided that ground clearance is not an issue, the suspension just soaks up the potholes. I imagine that a C5 would be just as good.

One of the characteristics of the hydraulic suspension is that you tend to hear bumps rather than feel them, and a tiny step in the road surface seems to have more effect than a major hole or dip.
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Paul-R »

On the C5 (at least on the Mk1), if the ground is rough then the suspension pumps up slightly to increase the ground clearance.
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Pug_XUD_KeenAmateur »

Rufus Baggsby wrote:
04 Jan 2019, 16:40
.....now it would seem that the establishment, after having cajoled even the staunchly resistant UK into diesels, has a new agenda and diesel passenger cars have now become a target.

Clearly we are all being earmarked for battery powered vehicles, which I personally find totally ridiculous given that mineral deposits of lithium and cadmium are limited, not renewable nor environmentally friendly at the point of extraction or disposal. Furthermore, the electricity required to feed these battery powered vehicles will be generated by providing more nuclear power stations. To me this is insanity
Hear Hear! =D>
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Re: Dilemma – Xantia or C5? Petrol or Diesel?

Post by Rufus Baggsby »

Stickyfinger wrote:
04 Jan 2019, 22:42
Off field: but

I would say, get a 2Cv.

Short runs, easy to drive, great on rough roads....and simple.


Already thought of that, but sadly no automatic version. :-D