Well, nobody saw this coming. Hot versions of Citroën’s Saxo supermini, once the preserve of the Max Power brigade and more commonly found lurking in police impound lots, have become genuinely desirable modern classics, and ones that are exceedingly tricky to get hold of, to boot.
Souped-up Saxos could be had in two flavours when new: VTR and VTS. Both are a blast on a B-road, but the VTS’s 16-valve 1.6-litre engine packs a noticeable 29bhp advantage over its sibling’s same-sized eight-valve unit, making it tangibly faster and, now, substantially harder to find. There were just a handful for sale at the time of writing, with rust, early-noughties tuner trends and exuberant young drivers all playing a big part in their endangerment over the years. That’s not to say untouched examples are completely extinct: look hard and ye shall be rewarded, but expect to fork out upwards of £3500 these days.
Happily, the VTR is much easier to nab and, like the eight-valve version of the Mk2 Volkswagen Golf GTI, is finally being recognised for the enjoyable steer it provides, rather than being overlooked as a result of its power deficit. Early cars had only 89bhp but, tipping the scales at just a shade over 900kg, the VTR could still crack the 0-62mph sprint in 10.0sec – compared with the more potent car’s 7.8sec – and top out at 116mph, which is more than quick enough in a car this small.
Be warned, though: despite the Saxo’s relative youth, bodywork woes and mechanical gremlins can tarnish the ownership experience, such was the cheap, cheerful and charming nature of its original billing.
Look past any dubious decals and garish bodykits at the foundation underneath to determine the true value of a particular ‘VT’. If there isn’t any rust now, there will have been before, so don’t hesitate to get underneath with a torch and make sure the bodyshell still has life in it. Repro panels aren’t readily available any more and the Saxo’s increasing rarity means you can no longer saunter into your local scrapyard and locate that elusive inner-wing section. However, the forums are your friend, and if you get chummy with the right people, you can keep your VTS or VTR on the road for years to come. D Whitworth Vehicle Fabrication in Lincolnshire, for example, offers high-quality replacements for some of the Saxo’s most notorious weak spots.
Citroen Saxo VTS, 2003, 94K miles, £1800: At £1800, this could be the UK’s most appealing Saxo VTS currently on sale. It looks clean in the pictures, but the seller warns of a noisy clutch bearing and CV joint and recommends mild paintwork corrections. Well worth the risk if you’re handy with a spanner…