I was always an enthusiast for the vivacious Simca Arondes, with their air of distant relationship to lively Fiat models of approximately similar engine size. Chrysler tended to embarrass Simca by advocating front engines with rear-wheel drive just when the rear-engined Simca 1000 was struggling to become established, but the latest Simca 1000 is another very “usable” small car.
It is joined in the Simca family by the 1300 and 1500 saloons, again conventional cars with engines ahead, the drive astern.
Handsome, with excellent visibility on account of a very deep windscreen and thin pillars, these new Simcas are attracting much favourable attention. I have sampled both of them, somewhat hurriedly, and formed the following opinions.
The seats, with adjustable-rake squabs, are generous in size and very comfortable in all except hot weather, when the beachball resilience of the plastic-upholstered cushions hugs one uncomfortably. But ventilation from rotatable scuttle vents is good.
Performance is good, too, and achieved without undue clamour. The Simca 1500 will reach 94 m.p.h. and accelerate from 0-50 m.p.h. in 11.0 sec., devouring a s.s. ¼-mile in 20 sec.
The Simca 1300 accomplishes 85 m.p.h., 0-50 m.p.h. in 12.7 sec., and a s.s. ¼-mile in 21.4 sec., even more quietly, because the bigger-engined car (75.2 x 83 mm -1,475 c.c. against 74 x 75 mm -1,290 c.c.) has a faintly sporting note from its engine and a very slight whine in top gear. The 5-bearing engine, which develops 81 (gross) b.h.p. at 5,400 r.p.m. in 1500 form, 62 (gross) b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m. as a 1300, revs fast, to 6,400 r.p.m. in the gears, maximum torque from the 1500 occurring at 3,500 r.p.m., when 90.4 ft./lb. is achieved. It uses the economical progressive-choke Weber 28-36DCB carburetter.
The driving position is good, but the clutch and brake pedals are set high in relation to the accelerator. The gear-change is effected by a long, central lever working “back-to-front” and spring-loaded away from the lower ratio. Most testers found the action satisfactory but to me it was a soggy, unprecise action, apt to catch-up unless the lever was brought fully to the right to engage bottom or second gear, and not helped by a rubber knob that was inclined to rotate and a heavy, indecisive clutch. However, perhaps both test Simcas had been used brutally—certainly the clutch of the 1300 was apt to slip. The actual synchromesh— Porsche baulk-ring—is unbeatable; reverse location is sensibly opposite top-gear position.
The steering calls for over four turns, lock-to-lock, but the lock is distinctly generous, there is no kick-back, and control is generally satisfactory, if lifeless, although this is sticky rather than heavy steering.
The drum brakes of the Simca 1300 functioned well; better, indeed, than the disc/drum brakes of the larger car. Both models had rather too-lively coil-spring suspension. The smaller car was happy at around 70 m.p.h., the larger one at 80 m.p.h., when its 5-bearing engine was galloping round at 5,200 r.p.m. The cornering tendency is understeer, the back axle of the 1500 becoming a bit lively over bad roads when accelerating.
The bigger car had the optional walnut facia trim, durable-looking carpets, and pockets both sides of the scuttle; there are parcel-nets on the backs of the front-seat squabs. The smaller-engined Simca had a single scuttle pocket for the driver, a plainer facia, but both had very deep cubby-holes at each end of the facia, with lids opened by depressing big push-buttons. A Rolleiflex camera could just enter the cubby aperture.
A hooded 100-m.p.h. speedometer incorporates the anticipated warning lights, a long r.h. stalk controls lamps and flasher, French style, a short stalk above it operating turn-indicators that cancel rather too readily. There is a foot-operated control for the screen-washer, apt to be confused for a foot lamps-dipper, and facia knobs, with a gold finish, look after car temperature/heater fan, panel lighting, 2-speed wipers, and choke on the 1500. The 1300 has a knob for the two-tone horn (compulsory in France), delightfully identified by a sketch of a bulb horn! On the 1500 this control is on the steering-column nacelle. Lights at each end of the facia sills, with courtesy action, are a feature of the 1500. Separate dials give fuel contents and water-temperature readings. The boot lid locks automatically, U.S.A.-wise. The boot is of good average size. The interior door handles are beneath the arm-rests but sufficiently far below them not to be grabbed inadvertently. A minor irritation is that only the driver’s door has an external lock.
The hand-brake is a pull-out affair under the facia on the left of the steering column and there is a 1/3rd horn-ring. Roof grab handles are provided for all occupants not holding the steering wheel.
An excellent feature of these Simcas is a tank capacity of just over 12 gallons. This gives such a useful range that I did not manage to take fuel consumption checks, but the Simca 1300 would appear to give around 30 m.p.g., the 1500 about 27 m.p.g. Neither car used oil. Both, incidentally, were shod with 5.90 x 13 French Dunlop B7 tyres.
As individual, good-looking family saloons with useful performance, I rate these conventional, comprehensively-equipped Simcas good value, respectively, at £798 15s. and £918 15s., inclusive of p.t. But I infinitely prefer the controls of the less expensive rear-engined Simca 1000. All models are handled here by Simca Motors (G.B.) Ltd., Oxgate Lane, Cricklewood, London, N.W.2.—W. B.