1974 Citroen CX review: from the Archie Vicar archives

The Citroen CX is 40 years old this year. To celebrate this milestone in European car design, we present what looks like one of the very first reviews printed in the English language. The author is Archie Vicar who at the time was contributing motoring editor of the Worcester Morning Gazette (Sept. 23rd 1974).

1974 Citroen CX front view blue

Introduction

After a very long time in production, the DS has been (thankfully!) discontinued by its maker, Citroen.  Whilst there were some good points in favour of the DS, there were too many oddities. Some of these have been ironed out so the new car will be more palatable to a wider range of customers. The incoming CX will be a more welcome car for motorists who want to drive something other than a Granada or Victor but without suffering the cost and inconvenience that the over-complex DS served up, drenched in garlic.

1974 Citroen CX (stock photo)
1974 Citroen CX (stock photo)

“unsupportive seats”

To begin with, Citroen collected me from the rather small Charleville-Mézières airport in the Ardennes.  As if to make a point, the car that met me at the terminal was a DS. This was one final chance to sample the unsupportive seats, wallowy ride and the grating rattle of Citroen´s least appealing engine.  I expect that sending me along the winding roads of the Ardennes in a DS was some kind of a joke at my expense.  My duty-free drink and Craven  “A” cigarettes filled the DS´s inadequate boot and overflowed into the area around my feet. A queezy hour and a half later, I was delivered to the Auberge Champenoise, some considerable distance south of Reims. With the rain falling heavily, I was left to move my luggage on my own as the DS rattled and wheezed off into the night.

1974 Citroen CX blue at sea front

“roasted venison and Merseult”

The next morning, I was still digesting the evening meal (raw shellfish salad, Riesling, roasted haunch of venison, a half bottle of Merseult, and a rolled up heap of sole and salmon with a cream and sorrel sauce along with the other half of a bottle of Cos d´Estournel) when the test car arrived. Since I had not had a chance to read the promotional literature on the flight the previous day, I did not know what to expect. The champagne served by Air France was very concentrated.  So, I was a bit confused when what looked like an elongated Lancia Beta rolled up, making what sounded like the same sort of grinding, gasping sounds as the DS which abandoned me the night before.  The test car was the 4-cylinder, two-litre, carburetted four speed manual edition with manual steering and manual window winders.  Note the engine is transversely mounted. So why the very long bonnet? I suspect a straight six is being planned for the CX as the fours are insufficient. Time will tell!

1974 Citroen CX brochure image

“absurdly low and one has to fall into the seats”

Like it or not, this [see photo top right] is what Citroen think will take the fight to the British, Italians and the other French.  Peugeot will not be worried and nor will Humber or Triumph for that matter. Ignoring the technicalities [see inset box, page 23] we find something akin to a Ford Granada seen through the eyes of the French.  The car is absurdly low and one has to fall into the seats before being confronted by the kind of dashboard that will give Victor and Maxi owners nightmares.  Whilst the interior is much less unusually arranged than in the DS, Citroen have not quite gone far enough in making things easy for the ordinary motorist. The steering wheel still only has one spoke. The radio, if fitted, is located in what little room is between the front seats.  I never got accustomed to the indicator switches so I didn’t use them. Fine in France but this won´t do in orderly England, I can say.  Starting up, the car coughs into action and the vehicle rises up but not until one has waited a minute or two. Not enough time to smoke. And where is the ashtray? It´s sited in a small globe, glued onto the top of the centre console.  I could go on at some length about the idiosyncracies of the CX but I have not the space. And remember, this car is much less idiosyncratic than the predecessor.

“steering still too direct”

Moving off, one finds the suspension is acceptable but the steering is still too direct. Braking is sudden and the car still quite roly-poly when asked to change direction. With some more work these features can be corrected.  The engine is a four cylinder unit, much the same sort of thing found in the DS though at least it’s sited a bit further forward.  The mpg is around 28 to the gallon, better than the DS and probably better than you´ll get from one of Ford´s dipsomaniac sixes.

“…the Granada is simply a better car overall…no doubt”

The rear passenger compartment is adequate though the owners of Maxis and even Cortinas will find their cars more comfortable. The problem with the CX is that it is cramped. Citroen have fitted more empty space behind the rear passengers than in the DS but less than in similar cars from other makers. I got a few crates of wine into the regularly-shaped boot but I am baffled why the car is a saloon when it looks like it ought to be a hatchback.  Perhaps Granada owners expect four doors and a separate boot but they don´t expect any of the rest of the tomfoolery Citroen have gone along with in this car. And yet, as I said, it´s less alarming than the DS and certainly much cheaper.

“…buy a Vauxhall if you must, and a Ford if you can!”

The four-speed box did a reasonable job. The cheapest models do without power steering, which is a point to note if you want to avoid crashing. To be honest, I gave up fighting the effects of the previous night´s dinner and the steering at the same time.  The CX managed to slither off the side of the road (too much understeer) and into a freshly ploughed field from which it proved difficult to extract.

“…Citroen has started making good, normal cars”

 I suggest that Citroen think again and have a good close look at what Ford and Vauxhall are selling by the boat-load before attempting to woo their customers away.  The CX is a less annoying car than the DS and most average motorists could manage a CX if they had to. That said, the changes are not quite enough to declare that Citroen has started making good, normal cars. An estate is due in 1976.

(Worcester Morning Gazette, September 23, 1974. Due to the poor quality of the original photos, stock images have been used. The original photos were taken by Douglas Land-Windermere.)

1974 Citroen CX dashboard

 

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “1974 Citroen CX review: from the Archie Vicar archives”

  1. Not Vicar’s finest piece but I’m guessing this was still early days in his career reporting on motoring? What did he specialise in before then?

    Also I can imagine either his command of the French language was in itself somewhat idiosyncratic, or more likely the sub-editor had no immediate way to verify the spelling of ‘Meursault’, let alone have a taste for himself.

  2. You should have seen some of the other typos I corrected. The article is from back in the day before Google facilitated fact checking and Word put red wobbles under spolling errrors.
    I have another review from the same month but for a different paper awaiting transcription. I hope it’s better. I think AV would have been in his early 50sin 1974. Remember he seemed to have retired from regular journalism by 1981. The lunches were getting too short to sustain him as current ideas of efficiency took hold.

    1. He was still confused by some of the food served to him in France too by the looks of it e.g. I very much doubt the seafood was served raw, in a salad. Or more probably he was just playing to the (British) gallery, as the customary reference to garlic earlier in the text seems to suggest…

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