The Xantia replaced the earlier Citroën BX and maintained the high level of popularity of that model, but brought the car more into the mainstream to compete harder with its rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, Nissan Primera, Rover 400, Toyota Carina E and Vauxhall Cavalier
It signalled that Citroën had learned from the reception given the staid Citroën ZX, introduced two years earlier and criticised by contemporary journalists for its lack of traditional Citroën flair in engineering and design. The Xantia addressed these concerns in an updated, conventionally attractive form.
Although the Xantia was not as dramatically styled as the Citroën BX, it was certainly more distinctive than its contemporaries such as the conservative Ford Mondeo and Opel Vectra. The Xantia also used the traditional Citroën hydropneumatic suspension system pioneered in the legendary DS. It was initially only available as a hatchback (liftback) (Berline), but an estate (station wagon) (Break) version built by Heuliez appeared in 1995.