A Safe, Comfortable, High-Average-Speed Simplified Version of the Futuristic DS19 Saloon.
I spent the latter part of the summer driving a Citroen ID19 on what might almost be described as a destruction test, for it is significant that Freddie Ridout, Publicity Manager of Citroen Cars Ltd., leaves the return of his Press cars to the discretion of the journalist, instead of limiting the test to a brief weekend or “take a trip up the road, old boy.” There is no more convincing way of proving that Citroen have complete faith in the dependability of their somewhat unorthodox motor cars!
Because of this happy arrangement I am still motoring comfortably in the security of the IDI9, which, before penning those words, had covered 1,600 miles.
The ID19 is a simplified version of the fascinating DS19, about which a full and analytical report was published in the April 1958 issue of MOTOR SPORT. The self-levelling, variable-ground-clearance oleo-pneumatic all-independent suspension is retained but not the power steering, power clutch, hydraulic gear-change and servo brakes of the more expensive model. Other differences are that the 2-litre four-cylinder engine has a single-choke Solex carburetter in place of a double-choke Weber, different porting and, incidentally, a conventional h.t. ignition system, so that it gives nine h.p. less than the DS19 engine. There is also some simplification of the interior arrangements. The strip lighting is replaced by smaller lamps on the central pillars, the ingenious fresh-air inlets each end of the facia are of a different but even more efficient type, and on the Slough-supplied cars a polished wood centre panel incorporating a big open, lined cubbyhole replaces the plastic dash of the DS19. This polished wood looks somewhat incongruous flanked by the plastic air-vents but has the merit of plenty of cubbyhole space, nor does it get hot as the cubbyhole of the DS19 does, to the detriment of chocolate and similar substances. The” pile carpet” of the DS19 is absent, nor does the boot possess that useful space for storing petrol tins.
Otherwise, the two versions of modern Citroen are similar—frontwheel-drive cars with “a wheel at each corner” and spacious body, into which the occupants step down, the driver sitting upright, rather as in a domestic armchair. There are the same very generous, comfortable leather-upholstered seats, the wide doors with those ingenious catches-cum-locks and effective “keeps,” and the same light plastic roof, excellent all-round visibility and sensible soft crash-padding an round the roof rail and along the bottom edge of the facia, backed by swivelling sun-vizors which would fold up easily on impact.
The backs of the separate front seats do not fold flat, but otherwise most of the arrangements are as on the DS19 and our test report on that car covers most aspects of the 1D19. For example, there is the same inset speedometer, although rather easier to read, the minor controls are very similar, likewise the under-bonnet layout. The rear-view mirror spoils the view on the near side on the ID19 and the driver sits just too low.
The unusual foot-button brake pedal of the DS19 is replaced on the IDI9 by a conventional pedal, but this still operates inboard disc brakes-11.6 in., of Citroen manufacture—at the front. The knob-type hand-brake of the DS19 has been changed for a cranked hand-lever under the scuttle for right-hand operation. It is uncomfortable to operate if the car has to be restrained by it on a hill but perfectly adequate as a parking brake. Moreover, it incorporates a tiny turn-button which locks the brake on, thereby forestalling possible disaster resulting from the initial investigation of the brake by young or otherwise unintelligent children. The other major difference in control between the ID19 and the DS19 concerns the gear-lever. Because the four-speed box is manually controlled on the simplified model the flick-lever behind the steering wheel is replaced by a left-hand (on r.h.d. cars) steering-column lever. This works in a commendably positive manner and is rigid and pleasant to operate. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of experience of it to move it in the correct sequence sub-consciously, because the positions are “back-to-front”.
The lower ratios are above the higher and the lever is spring-loaded towards the higher ratios. Reverse is safely and extremely easily engaged, beyond top-gear position. Synchromesh could with advantage be applied to bottom gear. The Citroen would be far nicer with a remote control lever but the presence of a steering-column lever is less Citroen’s sop to seating space and fashion than the difficulty of providing a floor lever with front-wheel-drive. There is a conventional clutch pedal, operating a commendably smooth, fairly light and foolproof clutch. The engine-box precludes parking the left foot beside the clutch pedal but there is ample space beneath.
Opposite the gear-lever there is that extremely convenient stalk operating the various lamps settings, with a two-note horn-push on its extremity. For details of this and other notable features of the modern Citroens, such as the high-set back seat, single-spoke safety steering wheel, detachable mudguards, highly-ingenious jacking arrangement and capacious luggage boot, which is automatically illuminated at night and the raised rid of which doesn’t obscure the rear window, etc., readers are referred to the aforesaid five-page report on the DS19.
Travel in the Citroen IDI9 is a new experience in safe, comfortable transportation at high average speeds. Indeed, while the car seldom seems to be hurrying, its journey times are proof of its average-speed abilities.
The remarkable oleo-pneumatic self-levelling suspension, which is sufficiently sensitive to cause the back of the car to rise as a few gallons of petrol are added to the fuel tank, alone places the Citroen years ahead of contemporary cars. Apart from the fun of owning a car which rises and falls in sympathy with the load it is carrying or has been relieved of, and which sighs contentedly and settles down for the night when returned to its garage, this wonder suspension so irons out bad roads as to materially increase the resistance to fatigue of its occupants. It is not quite foolproof, because the slow reaction to changes of load distribution will not speed up to cope with sudden wheel movement, such as when a bump-back bridge is negotiated fasts but after riding in a Citroen other cars sprung on steel, whether in torsion-bar, coil or leaf form, seem that much less comfortable and desirable.
Far less hissing and sighing emanates from the ID19 than from the DS19, as would be expected from the less-complicated hydraulic system.
This is supple suspension, yet the long wheelbase, wide track and low build of the Citroen kill roll under fast cornering conditions and enable the adhesion of the Michelin ” X ” tyres to be exploited to the full. The Citroen can be cornered safely, remaining stable, even with the tyres protesting, but in normal very rapid driving only occasional squeals are wrung from these excellent tyres.
Because it is high-geared the ID19 calls for rather a lot of gear-changing. As I have remarked previously, the modern Citroen is at its best driving fast from south of Paris to the Mediterranean coast; it calls for a good deal of work with the gear-lever to keep it motoring briskly on English roads. The top gear is 3.3 to 1 and thus rather like an overdrive, and the silent 4.77-to-1 third gear is likely to be kept in use for long periods and, indeed, is advisable at speeds below 30 m.p.h.
Another criticism levelled at the ID19 is that it has a noisy, agricultural engine. There is considerable mechanical noise of this sort while accelerating but this is not, I think, sufficiently obtrusive when cruising at. say, 70 m.p.h., to trouble the sort of person who will read this report. It has also been said that the ID lacks ” steam.” It must be remembered, in this context, that this is a roomy fast touring car. capable of reaching well over 85 m.p.h. in top gear and being almost as fast in third gear. That, from a 2-litre engine working comfortably within itself to provide durability over a big mileage, seems adequate.
In fact, the ID19 possesses rather better performance than the DS19. It will reach 50 m.p.h. from rest within 14 seconds, 60 m.p.h. in a matter of 21.2 seconds. The s.s. 0.25-mile requires under 22.5 seconds. Let us look at other 1.5/2-litre family saloons and see how this compares. It is quicker than a Ford Consul, about as brisk as a Ford Zephyr Automatic, considerably faster than a Standard Ensign. So can we say that, if the ID19 is not outstandingly fast against the watch, it is at least no sluggard for a touring car ? Actually, it is on long journeys that the car excells, rather than in respect of stop-watch recordings. Its ability to cruise at 80 m.p.h. and more with complete unconcern, open corners and changes of road surface slowing it scarcely at all, and with powerful (but not phenomenal) retardation available for firm pressure on the brake pedal, results in B usually seeming closer to A than in most other cars, and fatigue at a minimum in driving from one to the other of these oft-visited places.
The ID19 has a large steering wheel, bound in that splendid sweat-absorbing tape which will doubtless be imitated, to provide increased leverage which fully compensates for lack of power steering. For parking this is exhaustingly heavy steering-but that on the DS19 is so, until the power comes in-but for normal motoring this is tight, smooth, shock-free steering deserving 100 per cent, full marks. The lock is good for a f.w.d. car (turning circle under 33 feet) and the single-spoke wheel requires 3.5 turns, lock-to-lock. It is quick, accurate steering, transmitting virtually imperceptible vibration. There is useful, not vicious, castor return-action. But due to the low seat a driver of average height tends to find some of his vision impaired by the top of the wheel rim.
In the considerable mileage covered at high speeds petrol consumption was better than 25 m.p.g. After 1,500 miles a pint of oil had been consumed, and no water was needed. A manual ignition control enables medium-price petrol to be used satisfactorily. As the tank holds 14 gallons the range is at least 350 miles but so unsteady is the fuel gauge that one tends to seek a filling station with three gallons remaining. A pleasing aspect is the manner in which the control buttons are set in the order, r. to I. along the facia, in the logical sequence in which they might be wanted-dash lighting with rheostat control, wipers, indicator-flashers with flick neutralising action, screen-washers, ignition key, ignition advance and retard, starter button, choke and interior lighting-while two very well. located knobs under the facia enable the driver to set demisting and heating to his liking. The ignition key is used for the locks in each front door. If a door has been previously locked externally it remains locked when shut from outside, which is useful but confusing. The interior locks are exceedingly convenient but the key is difficult to insert in the exterior locks. The-four-position suspension control lever lives on the near aide of the front compartment and isn’t quite so obtrusive as on the DS19. I met a deep ford after taking to the lanes near the home of the late socialist rich-man Bernard Shaw and it was nice to be able to elevate the car before taking the plunge.
There is an ashtray well placed for each occupant, but unfortunately the near-side back one fouled the front seat, and its lid rattled. The front window handles need 4.5 turns, up-to-down, the back ones four turns. The screen-wiper blades work in opposition; there is an excellent screen-washer. The brakes sometimes squealed tinder initial application after the car had been standing. The driver’s window sealed badly, giving rise to high-pitched whistling even when firmly closed, spoiling the otherwise low wind noise, and the driver’s seat cushion had a disconcerting habit of jumping its securing pegs.
The Citroen ID19 is a surprisingly rapid car from place to place and pleasingly “futuristic”; although cars in the future will not be perfect, after experience of the ID19 most touring saloons are already open to criticism as badly sprung, inadequately braked, cramped or uncomfortable. Those who appreciate speed allied to safety and a high degree of comfort should give serious consideration to the modern Citroen. which is finding increasing favour on Britishand French roads. The ID19 costs £998, or £1,498 7s. after purchase tax has been paid.- W. B