For this you get electric front windows, electrically-operated passenger door mirror, electric sunroof and front fog lights - all standard on the LX - plus air conditioning with automatic temperature control, driver's seat height adjustment, 60:40 divided rear seat with head restraints, tilt-adjustable front seat head restraints, front seat back pockets and velour upholstery. You don't, however, get an anti-theft alarm: it's listed among the options at ú215. Also extra are metallic paint (ú225) and a six-CD autochanger (ú330).
The 1997cc common rail diesel engine delivers its maximum power of 90bhp at 4,000rpm and 155lb-ft of torque at 1,900rpm. Claimed economy looks impressive at 54.3mpg for the combined cycle but, with so few miles on the clock, it's too early to be making any judgements. With a maximum speed of 112mph and 0-62mph acceleration in 11.4 seconds, our Xsara is no sluggard and feels lively, only really giving the game away that it is a diesel when the engine is cold.
Top among any list of close rivals must be the Peugeot 306, Renault Megane, Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. As petrol-engined derivatives, the Golf and Focus would clearly be at the top but, judged purely by their diesel engines, the Focus and Megane are relegated to the bottom of the list simply because their power plants are not a patch on the oil-burners in Golf, Astra and 306.
Our car is finished in metallic silver with a black velour interior. Outside, it looks good but, inside, the small windows, limited rear visibility and black trim make it seem somewhat claustrophobic. It has now done just over 1,200 miles and there has only been one moment of alarm: once, when the steering was on full lock, the power steering pump or rack made a strange groaning noise. If it happens again, we will be making a trip to the dealer.