Computer Love: Citroën Xsara Windows CE

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The Citroën Xsara Windows CE was a digital car in an analogue age. There's one for sale at next weekend's Aguttes sale of collectors cars and automobilia.

The Citroën Xsara Windows CE. When it starts playing up, simply turn it off and turn it on again. One morning, it will refuse to work without doing a software update, probably at the beginning of a very important journey.

If something goes wrong, an IT person will almost certainly ask: ‘what did you do?’ Other PC-based clichés are available, but won't be used.

Unveiled at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show, the Citroën Xsara Windows CE was ahead of its time. It was the result of a three-year partnership with Microsoft, culminating in the launch of the world's first Windows car. It was also the first car to be equipped with a voice recognition system. This was five years before the launch of voice control in the 2005 Acura RL.

If you thought the Xsara was the least interesting Citroën of the past 25 years, the computer says otherwise. Take that, Quentin Willson.

Windows to the Past

Citroen Xsara Windows CE dashboard

The Citroën Xsara Windows CE used a palm top version of the Windows operating system to run the multimedia system. The tech list wouldn't look out of place in a new car in 2020. Hands-free telephone, address book, sat-nav, text messaging, emailing, plus data transfer to and from a portable peripheral.

Maybe the phone, an Ericsson T28, would look a little of place, but you get the idea. The mobile phone plugged into the computer, which was linked to a GPS receiver and a six-disc CD autochanger. Granted, it's not computer-controlled anti-roll suspension, swivelling headlights or power-sensitive steering. But the Citroën Xsara Windows CE was a glimpse into the future. A hint of things to come.

Best of all, there was no nasty touchscreen. Instead, the Xsara Windows CE featured a small eight-colour screen in the centre of the dashboard. There was also a removable front panel – an anti-theft device that will seem very quaint to readers under the age of 25.

Windows Shopper

Citroen Xsara Windows CE AutoPC button

The idea of a ‘turn it off and turn it on again’ Xsara was nothing new. Just two years earlier, Citroën unveiled the Xsara AutoPC concept, pronounced, rather unfortunately, AutoPissy. It worked well in the confines of a motor show, where the voice control and steering wheel-mounted AutoPC button were able to shine.

But why the sudden interest in the Citroën Xsara Windows CE, aside from the fact that 2020 marks 20 years since its launch? There's one for sale at auction at next weekend's Aguttes sale at the Musée de l'Aventure Peugeot, Sochaux. Talk about a rare Windows of opportunity...

Aguttes has slapped a €13,000 to €15,000 (£12,000 to £14,000) pre-auction estimate on the Xsara, which is a lot, but try finding another one, especially in this condition. There's also the mileage – this Windows CE has covered just 11,000km. Not for you? Maybe a Citroën Xsara WRC show car would be more appealing?

Whatever, the Xsara Window CE is a small slice of Citroën history, so it will be interesting to see what it sells for at auction. If you decide to buy it, you can almost guarantee that some smart arse will tell you that you should have bought a Mac.

Thanks to Ben Hooper for the tip. Images © Aguttes.

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