The name Talbot was, in the earlier part of the century, associated with quality cars, but in the mid-thirties, the Clement Talbot company was sold to the Rootes Group and the Talbot name began its slide into relative obscurity, appearing briefly in the UK as Sunbeam-Talbot in the fifties. It was not until some years after the takeover of the Rootes Group by Chrysler that the name re-appeared on the cars previously called Hillmans, Simcas or Chryslers, and only now that Chrysler have sold out to Peugeot is there a car in keeping with the traditions of the Talbot name, the Tagora.
Plans for this big saloon were laid down in 1976, some two years before Peugeot acquired the Talbot name. It must have been difficult for the new owners to decide whether or not to carry on with the project – the Peugeot and Talbot ranges were both weakest at the cheap end of the market, so a small car would have been preferable, and the new Talbot would be a direct competitor of the already established Peugeot 604. But the project was sufficiently advanced for the new management to recognise the car’s potential in the small large-car sector of the market, and continued development.
The Tagora will be available in the UK from the end of May in three guises, the GL, GLS and SX. The two former having a 2.2-litre engine developed from the 2-litre engine was fitted to the Chrysler 180, and the SX being equipped with the 2.6-litre V6 used in the big Peugeot and also in the Renault 30. A fourth version, a 2.3-litre turbocharged diesel, is on the stocks, and should be available here early next year. We recently had the chance to drive the GL, SX and Diesel versions of the empty roads of Morocco and were favourably impressed with the cars.
Price has to play a very important part in assessing any car, and at the time of writing, no figures have been announced. It is, however, clear that Talbot are planning a massive assault on the large-saloon area of the market and will therefore be aiming to win sales from the current leader, the Ford Granada. It is thus likely that prices will be set to reflect this competition, undercutting the Granada price structure. If this is the case, Fords have a serious and worthy competitor, particularly in the fleet sales area, which Ford has dominated for so long. The addition of the Tagora gives the Talbot name a range of cars which spans the requirements of the Company Chairman and the lowliest sales rep.
On this basis, the Tagora will represent fine value for money. The interior accommodation is comfortable, spacious, carefully thought out, well finished and quiet. Despite the chunky appearance, visibility is excellent. The equipment levels of the SX, GLS and DT (diesel) are high, having five-speed gearboxes and power steering as standard. The GL has a four-speed box and manual steering, although power is optional. Suspension is independent all round, being by MacPherson struts at the front and by Peugeot-style semi-trailing arms at the rear. Anti-roll bars are fitted at both ends. The SX has disc brakes all round, the front ones being ventilated, while the remaining models have the more usual disc/drum arrangement. The SX comes on low profile tyres on alloy rims.
On the road, the Tagora comes fully up to expectations. The ride and the handling are both excellent, enabling he driver to press-on hard with confidence. Performance of the SX is quite exhilarating, and that of the Diesel is surprisingly good. The GL, with four-speed box, felt like hard work on the tight mountain roads, but would cruise at well above the UK legal maximum quite happily when on the plains.
We hope to have one of the new top-of-the-range Talbots for a more detailed examination later in the year. – P.H.J.W