If Citroen invited you to come on a mystery tour in order to assess a new small capacity saloon, and added that you would be transported in a French executive jet, where would you think the destination was ? Obviously you would think of France first of all, which is just what some of our small party did, only to be greeted by smiling Gauls when we arrived in a windswept Eire, shivering in summerweight suits.
However, the weather soon changed and shortly after lunch we were each allotted a new Citroen to be known as the GS to try over two road routes totalling 130 miles and 2½–mile closed public road. The GS is designed to fill the large price gap in Citroen’s present range between the Ami 8 and the D19 Special. Technically speaking, it is an interesting machine with the air-cooled 1,015 c.c. flat-four engine incorporating an overhead chamshaft for each band, driven by a tooth belt. As one would expect, Citroen have stuck to front-wheel-drive and the famous hydropneumatic suspension also appears on this new model, although it is set to give a much firmer ride that on the legendary bigger brother. In other respects the suspension offers the already proven advantages of constant ride height control and instant adjustment of ride height via lever on the central console. The GS also boasts four-wheel disc brakes, an all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox, superb cloth seating, a “TV” speedometer (with a small illuminated magnifying screen showing speed and braking distance), 6,250 r.p.m. red-lined tachometer and very efficient rack-and-pinion steering.
There will be two GS versions, the Club with all the features we have described, and a cheaper Confort model lacking some of the interior sophistication of the costlier car: for example, plastic mats instead of carpeting and far less luxurious seating. The cars we drove had left-hand drive (r.h.d. is unlikely to be available before early 1971) and built to Club specification, which will cost in the region of £1,000; and Confort should retail for less that £1,000.
Over £1,000 is a lot of money to spend on a one-litre saloon car, but this Citroen is more comprehensively equipped than most of the small saloons produced both in Britain and on the Continent.
Settling into the car for the first time we were immediately impressed by the cloth seats, which offer such secure support on hot days. The one-spoke steering wheel looks odd, but is sturdy and properly finished, with a pleasantly grippy rim. The seat-back adjusts easily to give an arms-stretched driving position. The engine takes a little time to warm to its work, but once the windows are shut and the cooling blasts of fresh air correctly adjusted, the driver can settle down at the limit of its performance without leaving one partially crippled by migraine or cramp.
The aerodynamic shape and careful attention to soundproofing reduce wind and engine noise to the point where those braking distances marked on the speedometer serve a useful purpose in reminding the driver that there are some limits worth observing. In Citroen’s press literature it is claimed that the braking response has bene deliberately cut to minimum by using a high-pressure system to feed the front discs (there is also a separate circuit with take-off point on the rear suspension for the back discs). The effect is disconcertingly “on-off” at first and as we got closer to the car’s road-holding limits we round the brakes locking on. This happened only when really trying on the closed section; while stopping harshly for one of Ireland’s wandering dogs the car pulled up accurately.
Examining the engine specification in more detail we found that the bore and stroke ratio is 74mm. by 59 mm. and the unit likes to rev, developing 55.5 b.h.p. DIN (67 b.h.p. SAE) at 6.500 r.p.m., which as you will probably note is above the red line indicated on our car . . . either that or Irish hospitality affected our reporter’s eyesight ! Peak torque, 52.08lb ft. (DIN) at 3,500 r.p.m., is certainly not a quality that reveals itself, save by its absence at anything below this crankshaft speed. The hemispherical combustion chambers have valves arranged in a V layout. A compression ratio of 9 : 1 is used, four-star fuel being sufficient to ensure clear running. Looking at the engine installation with the bonnet open we came to the conclusion that accessibility for routine servicing parts is perhaps restricted. However, we did appreciate the quality air of assembly and the provision of a large oil cooler (mounted close to the Solex 28 CICM carburettor) and an alternator.
The test roads around Dongel featured many long straights with sharpish left- and right-hand bends concealed behind blind brows. On this sort of going the suspension soaks up any punishment one cares to hand out, including running two wheels on to grass while the others remain on tarmac. The nicest thing about the GS handling, thought, is that there is very little lean, even on sharp bends, so the 145 x 15f in.-diameter Michelins remain firmly in contact with the road. We also negotiated two unmade tracks at high and low speeds without noticing any more driver shock than one would get in a more conventional small saloon travelling along a country lane.
So far this has been a glowing account of the car’s road manners, but on the subject of straight-line performance we were disappointed. The manufacturers quote a maximum speed of 91.5 m.p.h., 0-50 m.p.h. in 11. Sec. and 0-60 m.p.h. in 16.9 sec. Although these are creditable figures for a four/five seater saloon weighing nearly 2,000 lb. and having only 1,015 c.c., we would have thought that a 1,300-1,500 c.c. version would be more acceptable for current driving conditions. Acceleration is the only feature which really lets the car down, for one can cruise at close to maximum speed and return close to 30 m.p.g. : overall consumption under normal circumstances should be around 35 m.p.g.
From a styling viewpoint the front end, incorporating huge rectangular quartz iodine headlamps, is reminiscent of the Lancia Zagato, while the chopped-off estate-style rear has a character all of its own. With an overall length of 13 ft. 6 in. and a width of 5 ft 3 in. the car offers plenty of space for the needs of four adults.
The gear-change has an action which is similar to that of the Fiat 850, occasionally baulking when asked to effect a swift change down from third to second, but otherwise quick to operate. Turning the illumination up fully on the magic “speedometer TV” we observed hear speeds equivalent to 32, 44, 69 and 94 m.p.h., the speedometer flattering by 4-5 m.p.h. according to our calculations.–J.W.