French Import: 1991 Citroën XM

French automakers such as Citroën, Peugeot, and Renault all spent time selling vehicles in the United States, but by the early 1990s, the trio had all left the market due to abysmal sales. Though most vehicles from the 1980s and 1990s have a reputation for being quirky, this 1991 Citroën XM that’s available here on eBay shows that French automakers were undeniably some of the most eccentric during that time period.

This Citroën is available in Flanders, New Jersey with a clean title. There isn’t a ton of information in the advertisement about how this specimen ended up in Jersey, but when the XM was new, a few different companies modified the car to make it compliant with United States safety regulations. According to this article, one of these was CXA, a company based in Middlesex, New Jersey – which is approximately 30 to 45 minutes from the seller’s location.

The XM was available as either a station wagon or a 5-door hatchback, with this example being the latter of the two. With faded trim and some other minor imperfections, this is a driver-quality example, but chances are those searching for a Citroën XM in the United States aren’t too picky.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any close-ups of the cabin, but the interior looks good in photos and the seller describes it as “mint.” All of the major electrical components and gauges work, as does the air conditioning system.

There’s a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine under the hood, which pairs to a 5-speed manual transmission to drive the front wheels. The drivetrain has 149,601 miles on it, and the seller states that it starts, runs and drives well. While we’re under the hood, let’s talk about those green spheres – they contain nitrogen, and they are part of the XM’s hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension, known as Hydractive. The system uses sensors in the steering, brakes, suspension, throttle pedal, and transmission to push air in and out of the spheres, resulting in a smoother ride and better handling. While the idea of a complicated suspension setup in a nearly 30-year-old French vehicle is somewhat daunting, have no fear – the seller mentions that it functions without issue.

At the time of publication, bidding is at $3,100, and it does not appear that the auction has a reserve. What do you think of this distinctive French hatchback?

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  1. Moncton(was Winnipeg)carnut Member

    What do I think? I think this would be a great road trip car. French cars have amazing seats and suspensions.

    Like 5
  2. alphasud Member

    Close on the explanation but this is a hydro pneumatic suspension meaning there is a hydraulic pump that pumps LM fluid to each corner of the vehicle to raise and lower the suspension. The nitrogen charged spheres act as a gas spring to give the dampening effect when going over bumps. Otherwise it would ride like a rock since hydraulic fluid does not compress.

    Like 10
    • Kevin Barr Staff

      Thank you for the clarification! I wasn’t sure of all the specifics.

  3. Bultaco

    Epic car chase with an XM and a BMW in the film “Ronin” starring Robert DeNiro.

    Like 4
  4. Beyfon

    I did have a couple of XM back when they were new. They were pretty nice cars, they don’t float down the road like the DS and CX but handles quite a bit sharper. For sure a lot more mainstream than earlier Citroen, do one dare to say almost boring?

    I always found the feeling when driving them a bit peculiar as you see nothing of the hood from the driver’s seat, it looks just like the car ends at the edge of the windshield.

    This one looks quite nice, but for better or worse it is a bog standard 2.0i with no options other than the sunroof. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, fewer things that break and easier to work on than a fully loaded V6. (The best versions were the turbodiesels and the later 2.0 Turbo) 122 hp doesn’t make it very quick, but it’s better than you think because the car isn’t all that heavy and the engine has plenty of torque so driving is better than what the meager output would suggest.

    Odd that the Citroen chevrons at the front are upside down, and also that the seller is so clearly wrong – this car doesn’t have the active suspension. Fancier trim levels did, there was a button to the upper left of the shifter, there’s clearly only a blank insert on this car. (If you wanted the active suspension on a 2.0i you had to splurge for the Confort version which among other things also had a rather pointless extra rear window inside the hatch so that you could open the hatch without getting rear seat passengers exposed to cold in the winter…)

    As for the active suspension, it wasn’t terribly valuable. You had the comfy position, a sport mode that made the suspension ultra stiff and an automatic mode that sensed your driving behavior and switched between the two modes. Much cooler with the later Xantia Turbo Activa where the suspension actually leans in turns like a motorcycle. Then you have something to brag about.

    Like 11
  5. Car Nut Tacoma

    I could be wrong, of course. But I would think that the reason French cars sold so poorly was the lack of service network. Unlike Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Audi, French cars like Citroen, Renault, Peugeot, etc., never had a nationwide service network to keep a car running properly. Think about it, what good is producing a good quality car, truck, SUV, etc., if you’re not going to offer a means to properly maintain it?

    Like 3
    • MikeH

      And they were seldom sold at stand alone dealerships. I bought a Peugeot 505 in ‘84 from a Chevy dealership. They could not have cared less about selling Peugeots let alone servicing them. I never took my car to the dealership for service because of their horrible reputation. Plus, Chevys and Peugeot appeal to completely different types of buyers.

      Like 1
  6. Royal Ricci

    You missed the link to the additional photos.

    Like 1
  7. Maestro1 Member

    Car nut is correct. The issue was always service and warranty issues, and poorly trained mechanics in the service department. Citroens are wonderful
    cars, esoteric and sophisticated, classic French avant-garde. Don’t buy this,
    I’m sorry to say, unless you are close to a mechanic who knows these cars.
    And join the Owner’s Club, who will be of endless help and support.

    Like 1
  8. Mitchell Ross

    They also couldn’t or didn’t want to source a bulletproof automatic transmission. The RWD Peugeot 505 had a decent ZF but no FWD ever had a decent trans. That also killed AMC/Renault because nobody wanted a car whose transmission lasted only 30,000 miles.

    • Beyfon

      This is not correct. Citroën’s manual transmissions were never the greatest – not for reliability but they were for sure not matching a Miata for the shift action. Somehow both vague and notchy.
      For its time the automatics were great. The CX was always much better as an auto, but a 1987 BX19 Break was the first car I ever owned where I realized that manuals were a dying breed. Smooth, quick shifting and full lockup that didn’t sap the performance.

      I worked for a Citroen dealership 1990-93 and electrics were for sure the weakest link on these cars. We’d rebuild a manual now and then to fix synchros and bent shift rods but the autos were trouble free.

      If you have proof of the opposite, share the evidence and not just the general sweeping statement that they were junk.

      Like 2
  9. Jasper

    These are more impressive in person. Saw many in Belgium back in the early 2000s. In my weak ass opinion, the last Citroén. Cool wheels too. Actually the OEM wheels were generally funkier and more in step with the futuristic vibe.

    Like 1
  10. Richard Miles

    Looks like it may have been imported from the Netherlands with that style of number plate. Rare over here in England and they were sold here so to see one for sale in the US is astonishing!

  11. Chris Newman

    This idiot didn’t see the bidding go to where he wanted it so he pulled the auction and relisted it for $10,000 BIN or BO

    • Beyfon

      “Idiot” might be a strong word, but if you actually do have a reserve why keep wasting people’s time instead of just listing it honestly from the get-go?

      $10k seems like quite a reach. The market must be extremely limited at that price point. I had thought $3500-ish. Where you can get a nice Peugeot 505 or Volvo S90. This one is cooler but also requiring a bit more commitment to maintain.

      Not a great impression also that the seller maintains the misleading claims about being equipped with the Hydractive suspension. As a final note (proving that one forgets a lot in 30 years!) but I came to think that this isn’t even the base 122 hp engine that is punching so far above its weight. I came to think that this is more likely the 110 hp “stripper” version that only got single point injection and lost quite a bit of the great throttle response as a consequence.

      Of course I can be proven completely wrong and that there actually is someone out there ready to pay $10k for the entry level XM. I’d be happy for the seller but my gut feel is that he may be keeping the car for a quite long time.

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