Looking at character, balance, luxury behind the wheel

Mechanic Jean-Francois Martin sits inside a classic 1972 Citroen DS Safari wagon at MARRS Automotive Repair and Racing Services in Santa Clarita. PHOTO BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL
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From reliability to quality and aesthetics, every automobile manufacturer becomes known for specific attributes in their vehicles that set them apart from others. 

Foreign cars are no exception, with collectors and connoisseurs all having their favorite aspects among the Swiss, German and French car-makers, for the Volvo, Mercedes Benz and the Citroën, too. The last is a bit rarer, but there’s also a local mechanic who specializes in the sporty French vehicles.

Comfort with character 

If you’re looking for a European brand that values comfort and character, look no further than the French Citroën, which began as an upstart company early on in the automobile industry in Europe, part of a tradition that continues today.

Since its beginning, Citroën has established itself as an innovative, forward-thinking manufacturer. In 1919, André Citroën launched his project of producing a popular, mass-produced car. 

“History remembers the all-steel body, the floating engine, the unibody chassis and Traction Avant (the first mass-produced front-wheel drive vehicle),” reads Citroën’s origins website. 

From hatchbacks, like the C1 or C3, to larger family models, ranging from the Spacetourer to the C3 Aircross SUV, they’re well known for their value and quirky designs that continue to keep alive its tradition, featuring “Airbump” technology that protects cars from bumps and scrapes and in straying from the sports look other brands prioritize. 

“You would be amazed by how soft (the drive) is. Soft doesn’t mean like a boat or like with a 60s American car, but super-soft absorbing any irregularities of the road,” said Jean-Francois Martin, who started MARRS Automotive Repair and Racing Services last year in Santa Clarita and is a longtime owner of a Citroën 2CV. He had the 1977 model, which he received at age 18, shipped from France about 15 years ago. 

Citroën models have also been known for their simplicity and reliability but with the addition of competition, they place at just below average. On the Reliability Index, the brand was rated 21st out of 40, with a reliability index of 114, a figure from ReliabilityIndex.com. This looks at factors such as the number of times a car fails, the cost of repairing it, the average amount of time it spends off the road due to repairs.

Though a classic brand with value, they are rare in the U.S. Martin estimates there to be about 500 in Southern California and about 4,000 nationwide, making it a unique niche locally. 

MAARS is located at 25845 Railroad Ave., Unit 4, Santa Clarita, and can be reached at (661) 644-8612.

Finding a good balance

Swedish carmaker Volvo has been a leader in the field of car safety for decades, which has always been a point of pride for the brand — but over the years, it’s also climbed to the ranks in terms of prestige for top luxury European brands. 

“Volvo is now a true rival to the likes of Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, offering an alternative take on premium executive cars to a rapidly growing fanbase,” according to the whatcar.com, a UK site that offers expert car reviews and vehicle deals. 

Take the XC90 model, which Consumer Guide rated among the best car buys.

The pros t’s spacious, flaunts a luxuriously trimmed cabin, is economical with a 4-cylinder engine and has a broad range of unconventional safety and technology features.

The cons t’s third-row seats are cramped for adults, has complicated touchscreen controls and its fully equipped editions come with a price tag to match. 

“The XC90 is at the head of the premium midsize SUV class. It offers excellent all-around refinement, a smorgasbord of available features, and cushy road manners,” according to a  Consumer Guide review, “all while maintaining a distinct Scandinavian character.” 

Valencia Volvo Independent is located at 26951 Ruether Ave., Unit J, Santa Clarita, and can be reached at (661) 298-2784.

The Mercedes-Benz of Valencia showroom has the latest models on display for the German luxury brand. PHOTO BY BOBBY BLOCK / THE SIGNAL

Something more luxurious 

With its German slogan that translates to “the best or nothing,” Mercedes-Benz is well-established as a luxury brand, vowing to offer “innovation, performance, design, safety and environment,” according to its website.  

Mercedes offers variety: It’s lineup ranges from the A-Class family hatchback to the C-Class and E-Class, as well as SUVs, luxury coupés and convertibles. 

In looking at one of its most popular vehicles, the C-Class, what’s not to like? The 2020 model packs in overall refinement, fine-ride quality and unique safety characteristics such as collision warning, autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian alert. With these features, however, the model loses trunk space and is more expensive with only some improved standard equipment, according to Consumer Guide Automobile, which offers expert car reviews. Pricing can range between $42,000 for a 300 sedan and $53,800 for a 300 Coupe. 

“The redesigned C-Class moved a bit upscale in size and prestige. Its strong points include regal cabin appointments and an impressive array of comfort, safety, and technology features. Prices are steep, but the C-Class is a compelling premium-compact car choice,” read the review on Consumer Guide’s website.  

Often dealer alternatives can offer expert services and repairs than you would at a traditional dealership. In the SCV, German Hi-Tech in Valencia and German Autohaus in Newhall bring specialized bumper-to-bumper service for Mercedes and other German brands.

For the latest, high-end selection locally, Mercedes-Benz of Valencia is located at 23355 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita. 

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