In fact it cost us less to run than anticipated: our drivers beat the official combined fuel consumption figure of 42.8mpg by 1.43mpg. At ú2.94 for a gallon of diesel over 14,280 miles, that was a saving of ú30 - and it could have been more, because one driver got a real life figure of 49.2mpg. A Volkswagen Golf 1.9 GL TDI estate, however, does things better. The combined EC figure is 56.60mpg, and while the VW is nearly ú1,000 dearer (ú16,090 on-the-road), it will retain more of its value over three years/60,000 miles. CAP Future Residual Values estimates the Golf will be worth 44% of price new, compared with 35% for the Citroen.
A Vauxhall Astra CD 2.0Di estate with air-conditioning costs ú15,920 also betters the Xsara on fuel economy (47.10mpg combined) and is awarded a 35% RV by CAP after three years/60,000 miles - the same RV as a Peugeot 306 1.9 TD GLX estate, costing ú16,323. A Ford Focus Zetec 1.8-litre TDdi diesel estate (ú14,350 on-the-road) should achieve 38% and 55.4mpg.
So - the major competitors burn less oil and are viewed as least as favourably by the fortune-tellers. But there are still two good reasons to consider the Xsara Turbo D estate as a fleet workhorse. The first is purchase price: it beats most competitors, the Focus being the major exception. The second is its biggest advantage - practical loadspace. Seats up, it provides 528 litres, seats down 1,512, not far short of the Focus, and it provides this in a proper, all-square, low-loading cargo swallower.
It handles and drives well (although its turbodiesel engine behaves in typical diesel fashion) and it is comfortable. But the conservatively-styled Xsara estate is fighting its corner in a very tough market. Price is important, but specification is a mite meagre for trim level where most fleets would expect ABS and a passenger airbag would be provided as standard rather than options. As an estate all-rounder, it does its job well. As a car to get the aspirational juices flowing, it's too staid.