My motoring background goes back 40 years and includes several years of competition driving; older readers may even recall my “Cars I have owned” article in MOTOR SPORT, March 1956 and driving good cars briskly remains one of my great pleasures, therefore I feel qualified in commenting on ML.’s critique of the Citroen BX 19 GT (November issue).
Up to a year ago I was not particularly interested in Citroens feeling that, although they were different, durable and comfortable they were not an “enthusiast’s” car. For many years I have remained faithful to a string of Porsches and Alfa Suds. As the delectable Sud had reached the end of the line I was looking for a replacement to continue with my motoring pleasure, little did I think it would come from a Citroen. Previously to my road testing a BX 19 GT I had tested a Porsche 3.2-litre Carrera Sport (231 bhp) on my usual 600 mile circuit over the empty Welsh mountain back roads I let the Porsche off the leash, road conditions were good (lf somewhat damp at times) and although I am an experienced Porsche driver some restraint was called for, the Porsche is undoubtedly one of the world’s classic super cars and very rewarding to drive. I returned to London elated but exhausted, as I had to be totally alert every split second to keep the Porsche from overstepping the mark.
When the familiar and somewhat tamer 1.9-litre (105 bhp) Citroen BX 19 GT arrived a week later I returned to Wales and covered the same circuit under similar damp conditions, I was amazed. Due to an excellent blend of torque, gear ratios useable power, and unique hydro-pneumatic stability I was, with less than half the power, able to maintain similar averages to those of the Porsche, but without any sweat whatsoever, in fact I was so relaxed on my return that I felt I could have driven another couple of hundred miles. I summed it up in one word POISE.
I was so impressed that I “borrowed” two more 19 GT’s from local agents and track tested one at Donington to verify my impressions before deciding to buy one. After some 5,000 miles as an owner I am still elated to return to my own car, after testing various hot hatchbacks which are usually quite fun for short journeys but become frantic and irritating on longer trips, even the excellent VW Golf GTi comes within this category. Perhaps the completely different miniature exotic Toyota MR2 is closest to the Citroen for sustained driving pleasure, but with a passenger there was not even space to put my jacket, great fun but not practical. Other much more expensive candidates are the Alfa Romeo GTV and Lotus EXCEL. On a recent trip across Europe in a BMW 320i I just could not wait to get back to the Citroen. The label GT is exactly right for the BX 19, Grand Tourismo is what it’s all about, quick, comfortable, pleasurable and relaxing. It is the hot hatchbacks that are wrongly labelled, they are modern sports cars not GT’s. Since acquiring my BX 19 GT four of my “enthusiast” friends have bought the same model; three replacing their Suds (a tough act to follow), also a respected motoring journalist acquaintance of mine is awaiting delivery of his after conducting his own road test. No car is without some adverse criticism and the Citroen BX 19 GT does need acclimatisation before most of its adverse areas, such as switch controls, begin to make sense M.L it appears was just on the threshold of a breakthrough, of possibly becoming a convert at the end of the short test.
London SW1 ERIC LISTER
(Since Mr Lister is both a professional jazz player and former competition driver he should be added boor list of rhythmic racers Ed.)