But a half-hour drive on country lanes and town streets can never really match the total driving experience provided by a journey that takes in UK motorways and the French peage. I had high expectations of the Xsara's fuel economy since I neither wanted to be stopping regularly nor pay out wads of French francs - and the car delivered. Neither I nor my co-driver 'spared the horses', particularly on our 20-hour outward journey. But the car showed no signs of flagging. It returned an impressive mpg rate of 46.7, down slightly on the last long term test review, but it was undoubtedly doing much greater speeds this time round and in a more aggressive way.
The HDi engine is a little lack lustre in first and you only get a real sense of its power from second. It is also incredibly smooth running at full peage speed, with the rev counter nestling at around 3,000rpm and plenty of power to spare. The fact that there were three people in the car, plus two tents and associated camping gear for the long weekend, made little difference to the Xsara's performance. Since then, however, while the car has proved equally capable on the tame commuting drives, there have been a couple of niggles.
I've had to top up the oil already (hence the ú5.15 expenditure) , the driver's side electric window stuck for a couple of days during the recent spell of hot weather - which meant paying at a Macdonalds' drive-through via the electric sunroof - and one of the audio speakers has developed a rattle. These three are a major disappointment considering the treasure trove that lies under the bonnet.