On Citroen

In view of the fact that all the staff members of this magazine are admirers of Citroen advanced engineering, readers might find it surprising to learn that other than D.S.J.’s ultra-enthusiastic road test of the Maserati-engined SM in 1972, we have published little or nothing specific about this broad-minded French manufacturer since W.B. described his experiences with the early GS in August 1971. Thus it was interesting to make re-acquaintance with the products marketed (or eventually to be marketed) by Citroen’s Slough-based British offshoot on a couple of recent occasions, by courtesy of the firm’s efficient, young, bi-lingual PRO, Bernadette Piot.

Firstly, we were loaned 2 GS 1220 Club to sample the improvements the more powerful engine has rendered to the car which was so underpowered in its original 1,015-c.c. form. We had no sooner acclimatised ourselves to the power brakes and excellent road manners of this brilliant small car than Citroen whisked us in the quietness and smoothness of a Fan-Jet Falcon executive jet to the forests and lakes of Swedish Lapland, of all places, to try their new, medium-sized cars, the CX 2000 and CX 2200. Apart from the delights of admiring a magnificent three-country panorama from the top of a mountain, reached by ski-lift at the appropriate time in this Land of the Midnight Sun. being eaten alive by mosquitoes when the effect of the chemical deterrent wained, and an excess of reindeer meat, this trip will remain memorable for marking our first experience with the CX, which we believe is likely to remain the most advanced family saloon car in the World for the next few years.

The Citroen GS 1220 Club

In appearance the GS remains unchanged since our first road impressions of the car in 1971. It continues to possess that quality of ugliness which only the chic French can make admirable. The controversial shape packs in the maximum passenger and luggage space within a minimum road space, is of such aerodynamic excellence that the little 1,220-c.c., all-aluminium, flat-four, overhead-camshaft, air-cooled engine will propel it at well over an indicated 100 m.p.h., and contrives to practically eliminate wind noise.

Yet this little car is a surprisingly thirsty beast, refusing to improve upon the lower to mid-twenties miles per gallon consumption. Exceptionally bad cold starting and a persistent flat spot, coupled with the heavy consumption, would have persuaded us to believe that the cause was a carburetter malady peculiar to the test car had we not read other road tests noting identical complaints, similarly confirmed by a number of readers’ letters. Certainly the mixture of the test car’s carburetter was over-rich, the exhaust emitting sooty smoke, but so they all seem to do. A number of readers have said that they intended to change their twin-choke Solex or Weber carburetters for other types such as Minnow-Fish to cure similar problems. We would be interested to hear the results.

The foregoing should not be taken as condemnatory. Other qualities of the GS are so magnificent that, these criticisms notwithstanding, the car is addictive. Ride and seating comfort is superior to any other small car in the World. The all-independent, self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension is designed, after all, to cope with the worst vagaries French roads can offer, so that it takes the nastiest British potholes and undulations in its stride. The three-position ride height control between the seats is normally left in its mid-way position, though for off-road work, which the front-wheel-drive GS takes in its stride, the higher position can be selected. The lowest position is required only for lowering the car on to its jacks for wheel removal. A single-spoke steering wheel controls light, wonderfully accurate and ideally-geared steering, those front wheels seemingly entirely unaffected by the torque reaction one normally associates with front-wheel-drive. After all, Citroens were amongst the pioneers of traction avant. The all-disc, power-operated brakes are powerful and reassuring, once one’s right foot is accustomed to the sensitivity and fractional movement of the conventional-inappearance central pedal. Fortunately on this car and the CX, Citroen have forsaken the over-sensitive central brake button. There is the usual Gallic roll under hard cornering, but the roadholding on its Michelin ZXs is tremendous and in traffic the car is nimble and responsive.

Though performance is certainly not in the road-burning class, this larger-engined GS (the bore is increased from 74 to 77 mm. and the stroke from 59 to 65.6 mm.) will outperform the majority of 1,500 to 1,800-c.c. British cars and will cruise all day at its maximum attainable speed according to the conditions. It is buzzy through the gears, though not objectionably so. The long gear lever has to be rowed fairly energetically still and gears seem to be available by luck rather than accuracy, for even when a gear is engaged the lever can be slopped three to four inches from side to side. But the main point is that this 60-b.h.p. engine is a vast improvement on the still available 1,015-c.c., 55-b.h.p. unit. On the other hand the excellence of the rest of the running gear continues to cry out for more power, so that we look forward avidly to trying the Wankel Bi-Rotor version.

Five people can be accommodated in the utmost comfort in the GS and sufficient luggage for them all can be swallowed by the massive, unobstructed-shape boot. The hinge arrangement of the full-depth boot lid is unfortunate in that it required a couple of extra feet behind the car to enable it to be opened upwards. In a tight parking space this renders the boot unusable. Various specifications of 1,015 and 1,220-c.c. GSs are available, including estate cars. The 1220 Club saloon tested cost £1,466.

The Citroen CX 2000 and CX 2200

The immediate impression created by the new CX was that it is a clever styling mixture of GS and SM, a recommendation in itself. Technically too it is an amalgam of everything that is advanced in all the existing Citroen models, wrapped in this most elegant, ultra modern body. It is intended to fit between the GS and DS ranges, which would suggest a price of around £2,300 if it came into the country now, quite exceptional value for money, though it is unlikely to be marketed here before late summer next year.

CX is taken from the symbol for the aerodynamics of a moving body, which is especially apt for this car because of its exceptional co-efficient of frontal penetration, 11 per cent better than that of the legendary DS. There are three models: the CX 2000, the CX 2000 Economy (both with 1985 c.c. engines) and the 2175 c.c. CX 2200. The rest of the Citroen range is unchanged.

All three models have transversely arranged versions of the four-cylinder DS engines driving the front wheels. This proven power unit is perfectly satisfactory and if some of the journalists in Lapland were disappointed that this should have been chosen as the motive power, it was only because they had heard rumours that the car would have a brand-new flat-six engine. The wet-linered, iron-block, alloy-headed engine develops 102 b.h.p. DIN at 5,500 r.p.m. and 112 lb. ft. torque DIN at 3,000 r.p.m. in 2000 form and the 2200 model produces 112 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. and 123 lb. ft. torque at 3,500 r.p.m. These transverse engines are inclined forwards at 30 degrees and have their four-speed gearboxes mounted in line and to the left. A floor-change lever is fitted. The so-called Economy model has the same 2-litre engine as the ordinary CX 2000 and its economy comes from the use of a higher top gear, offering 22.5 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. instead of 19.3 m.p.h. Fuel consumption of this model is claimed to be 37 m.p.g. at 56 m.p.h., an exceptional figure for such a comprehensively equipped, 100 m.p.h. car and partially accounted for by those brilliant aerodynamics.

Citroen’s constant height hydropneumatic suspension is fitted, the central lever having four positions: high, intermediate, for bad roads, normal and low. Light alloy trailing arms are fitted at the rear, as is an anti-roll bar. A front anti-roll bar is fitted too, the steel, transverse suspension arms form a parallelogram, and the geometry ensures anti-dive characteristics. Front and rear subframes which carry the engine and suspension are connected by two side box sections upon which the monocoque steel body is connected by flexible mountings. This arrangement is claimed to cut down the transmission of engine, transmission and road noises to the interior, to provide exceptional rigidity in order to ensure very high directional stability and to absorb front and rear impacts.

Power operated, dual circuit, outboard-mounted disc brakes are fitted, the front ones being ventilated, and a conventional brake pedal is used. Optional power steering is similar to the SM system with powered castor return, but the servo control unit has been isolated from the steering and moved into the passenger compartment and the gearing of the rack and pinion has been lowered to give 2.5 turns lock to lock instead of the very sensitive 2 turns of the SM. The CX steering without the optional power assistance is geared to 4.5 turns lock to lock.

The four-door body has an exceptionally large window area. A single, centrally-mounted wiper arm clears the vast windscreen and the steeply sloping rear window is of concave shape; presumably so designed to help with the vortex effect and to keep the window generally free from rain and dirt; rain water from the roof channels itself down the middle of this screen. Like the GS and the SM, the CX has a flat floored, cleanly shaped boot of massive proportions. It is surmounted within the passenger compartment by an extensive rear parcel shelf.

The driver is confronted by a single-spoke wheel and a futuristic, demi-flying saucer-shaped instrument and switchgear unit mounted on top of the main facia. This brilliant conception brings all the switches to finger-tip reach on “horns” protruding from the saucer. On the left-hand drive test cars the speedometer and rev. counter were of illuminated revolving drum type, as on left-hand drive GSs. Fortunately it is likely that more conventional instruments will be fitted for the UK market. The array of warning lights is confusing in its complexity.

These new Citroens might have been designed for these Lapland roads rather than the roughness of French by-ways. There could have been no sterner test of the excellence of the ride and handling than the 250-mile route, completed between breakfast and lunchtime, which meandered through 80 miles of unsurfaced forest roads and hurtled along fast, winding, almost empty main roads. Lack of monotony was ensured by the occasional Kamikaze reindeer.

In places the road surfaces were so bad that they would have spelled doom to the suspensions of most conventional cars if taken at speed. The CX glided over them with hardly a ripple felt through the luxurious padding of the seats. Apart from the SM there can be no car in the World which is so comfortable under such extremes of conditions, as well as under more normal demands. The power-steering on the CX 2200 model tried was wonderfully precise and direct, perhaps a little too much so for the man-in-the-street. A manual-steering CX 2000 tried later felt marginally less precise because of the steering’s lower gearing, but the effort required was by no means high. In both cases there was no transmission of bumps to the steering wheel and no noticeable torque reaction from the front wheels under acceleration, no doubt a virtue of the equal-length driveshafts.

Roadholding was exceptional, even on loose surfaces. There was no excessive understeer and if the natural reaction was followed to lift off the throttle when a corner was approached too fast, the tail would come out to set up the car for powering it round the corner in preference to ploughing straight on. There is the amount of roll we have come to expect from Citroen’s hydropneumatic suspension, though not disturbing to the occupants. A natural cruising gait for both models is well over the 100 m.p.h. mark, a maximum speed of 111 m.p.h. being claimed for the 2200, 108 for the 2000 and 104 for the 2000 Economy. At such speeds the CX is uncommonly quiet, it feels as though it is riding upon a cushion of air and the stability is exceptional. Such behaviour makes this Citroen a particularly long-legged car, ideal for long-distance motorway work. However, in town the curved sides make its width very difficult to judge.

If high-speed cruising comes naturally to the CX, then rapid acceleration doesn’t. It is by no means a slouch, but there again this long-in-the-tooth DS-type engine is far from being power-packed. It is generally fuss-free, however, and gives little sign of having a mere four-cylinders.

No doubt it will be well over a year before we are allowed to carry out a full-length road test in normal British motoring conditions. In the meantime, we remain convinced that this new Citroen is in a class of its own, setting new standards for a medium-sized saloon car.

The Deux Chevaux for Britain

At the opposite end of the Citroen scale, the company is to re-introduce the remarkable little 2CV to the British market.

In its right-hand-drive form the Deux Chevaux will have a derated version of the Ami 6/Dyane twin cylinder, 602 c.c. engine, which develops 28.5 b.h.p. DIN at 6,750 r.p.m. Consumption is claimed to be in the upper forties to the gallon and the price is £829.-C.R.