Despite the news that diesel car fleet sales have fallen by 12,533 units year-on-year in the first six months of 1999 and the announcement by the Inland Revenue that it will impose a 3% penalty under the new company car tax system from 2002 on diesels to take account of the alleged health risks from particulates they emit, Citroen believes it is a pioneer in shedding diesel's 'dirty' image.
Olivier Pittet, managing director of Citroen UK, said: 'We anticipate that our new 2.0-litre common rail diesel engines will enjoy similar success to our old 1.9TD which for so many years dominated the diesel class. The HDI technology means that Xsara and Xantia customers can look forward to improvements in fuel economy, noise levels, refinement, emissions and performance.'
The new engine will be available in Xsara and Xantia hatchback and estate with prices starting at £13,580 for the Xsara X five-door hatchback and £15,955 for the Xantia X. Across the Xsara range, common rail comes at a £100 price premium. The 90bhp 2.0-litre Xsara X costs £13,850 on the road; LX £14,290; SX £14,650 and Exclusive £15,670 The estate version comes at £750 extra. Prices for the Xantia remain the same as the 1.9TD versions. They are Xantia X £15,955; LX £16,670 and SX £17,675. The Xantia estate has a £970 premium on the hatchback.
Against a competitor such as the Vauxhall Astra 2.0Di 16v LS saloon, the Xsara X is £595 cheaper and emits 20g less CO2. But against the Ford Focus 1.8 TCi CL, the Xsara is £1,055 more expensive and emits 2g more CO2. Base model comparisons of the Xantia X 2.0-litre 90bhp HDI show that the Ford Mondeo 1.8 LX TD is £45 more expensive and emits 12g more CO2. The Vauxhall Vectra 2.0Dti 16v is £565 cheaper and emits 9g less CO2.
Citroen is confident HDI technology will find favour with the company driver facing an increased tax bill under the Inland Revenue proposals if they opt for common rail technology over petrol and conventional diesel because of the associated benefits of fuel economy, performance and noise reduction. 'We are certain that, despite the 3% benefit-in-kind penalty diesel drivers face, the two HDI engines we offer - the 110bhp and the 90bhp - will still prove more economical than a petrol equivalent,' it says.
While there is still the typical diesel 'chug' when the engine is idling, sound levels on the move are reduced. The new Xantia 2.0 HDI 90bhp is the quietest Xantia of all, Citroen says. The new 90bhp engine provides torque of 155lb ft at 1,900rpm. Emissions of carbon dioxide from the Xsara are down to 141g/km, some 83g less than the 2.0i 16v VTS petrol-engined equivalent and 34g less than the 1.9TD version. In the Xantia, carbon dioxide emissions with the new engine are 154g/km (saloon) and 160g/km (estate). With the 1.9 TD 90bhp, they are 181g/km and 183 respectively.
Citroen is confident of high sales into fleets. A spokesman said: 'When we introduced the 110bhp common rail engine in the Xantia in November, we expected it to be a minority player because of the lack of public awareness. However, the sales figures have been amazing. We have sold about 1,500 of the 110bhp common rail-equipped Xantias so far this year compared to 500 of the 1.9TD in the same period last year. Most have gone to companies. Fleet buyers have shown they want common rail, so we have high hopes for the 90bhp HDI which we always planned would be the volume seller.'