Visa in Three Volumes

The Citroën Visa was never a wildly popular choice in the UK or Ireland during its lifetime and with just over 40 Visas reportedly still registered in Britain, it’s now on the extinction list.

Visa saloon Prototype. Image via autoshite.
Image: autoshite.

Rarer still (had it existed) would have been this, a putative Visa saloon – (possibly Photoshopped?). Citroën – (via Heuliez) – did explore a five-door ‘break’ or estate variant, which never went beyond a mock-up. 

... and just for comparison, the standard hatch. Image via planettandra-citroen
… and for comparison, the standard hatch. Image via planettandra-citroen

Creating a three volume body from a hatchback without appearing tacked-on is something of an art; one that proved beyond the capabilities of most rivals at the time, especially for a car as diminutive as the Visa. But this is a neatly proportioned conversion, looking as though it was designed from first principles. The Visa’s relatively long wheelbase helps, that and the fact the designer avoided a fashionably high boot line. The plunging tail treatment lends the little saloon an elegance perhaps lacking in its hatchback sibling.

Despite its troubled background, the Visa was an underrated car and probably deserved more sales success than it managed in these parts. This may have been in part because of its looks, which fell between several stools. Would a small saloon have served them better? Probably unlikely, but who knows? Either way, I rather like this.

[Author’s note: This article was amended, to reflect considerable uncertainty about the authenticity of the lead image of this article. Dec 30, 2015]

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

15 thoughts on “Visa in Three Volumes”

  1. Saw a late low mileage (gt version orwhatever it might be called) one about 12 months ago .. for under a grand…. back to bangernomics. Despite being used to bigger stuff – I was tempted but I have too many motor vehicles.

    1. The very last Visa I saw outside of a claasic car show: 2005, or even 2003. Salty winter roads in Denmark resulted in many cars rusting ferociously.
      Thinking back to that time, were vehicle manufucterers’ ranges more disparate? The Visa was succeeded by the AX, according to Wikipedia. In 1984 Citroen had the BX, LNA, Visa and CX and 2CV. What a spread.

    2. Bizarrely the 2CV , LNA and Visa seem to be all much the same size of vehicle. Clearly Citroen were trying hard to get cv owners out of them and failing. I have a desire to own a GS (I assume these ceased in 1984).

    3. Yes, Citroën’s small car offer was somewhat confusing at that time. LN(A) / Visa is quite straightforward if you think of them as just a three- and a five-door variant built on the same platform, but with completely different bodies. They did a similar thing again with the C2 / C3 a good twenty years later. The 2CV was similar in size, but overall a much more basic vehicle, which was probably kept for a special clientele who wanted the image of nostalgia, classlessness, rebellion, or whatever might be read into this car.

  2. The Visa was hard to compare with other cars – but that was his attraction.
    With 2 cylinders, it offers 4 doors and much more comfort (seats and suspension) than other cars at the same price. Plus very low running costs.
    But you have to accept a significant lack of power.

    As a GTI, it was a strange mixture of aggressive exterior style and 4 doors and traditional instruments. Very attractive in my eyes.

    But you have to consider that PSA was also offering the LNA / 104. So they have to create something really different to this conventional small car. And they succeeded in my eyes. Ok, with the Peugeot 205, his time was over.

    The saloon prototype was another example that a french car with a three-box-design is not the prefered task of a car-designer in France.

  3. I think I am on record from before about being a fan of the Visa and the AX that replaced it. I owned a GTi for a couple of years; a white one with a red and grey 115ch swoosh (it was far more than a go-faster stripe) that rattled like an Early Learning Centre. It appealed very much as an “alternative” to the 205 of the same badge and the fact that it was brash and kind of ugly was something that I found endearing. Of course, a 1.7D Challenger, or even C15 “Van Rouge” would have been more sensible, but looking back, the GTi was my main act of automotive-rebellion, which probably tells you all you need to know.

    My first car was kind of a three door version of the same car, a Talbot Samba, a car to which I don’t refer much (OK, ever) because it let me down so horribly so often (head-gasket went and it was never right after), even though it too had redeeming features (possibly the softest and most comfortable front seats on any car I have owned).

    As for this three-volume concept, it’s very sympathetically done, and, therefore, very French to boot (sic). It would not have sold at all well in the UK, but it’s been a long time since we cared for such a format, really, as hatches, MPVs, and latterly, CUVs/ SUVs have successively rendered saloons somewhat de-moded.

  4. I’m pretty sure the Visa Sedan/saloon is photoshop. There are pictures online of a normal Visa against the same backdrop.

    1. I’ve found this: http://www.autoevolution.com/cars/citroen-visa-1981.html#
      The original picture seems to be a factory photo.

      Interestingly, Google also showed me a link to a Dutch Citroën forum: http://www.citroen-forum.nl/forums/viewthread/200829/#1034670 – Visa estates! As far as I’m able to translate, the second picture is clearly photoshopped, while the first one seems to be a Heuliez prototype.

      How did I find this? I just right clicked on the image and chose “search in Google”. It’s much easier than finding anything at home.

    1. If it is a photoshopped image, it’s a good one. That estate is very well executed as well. On that basis, I’ll amend the text to clarify matters.

  5. This has awakened a – possibly faulty – recollection of a picture of a very finished looking Visa Break prototype which emerged around the time of the 1982 rework. Probably in CAR, before it became Boring Boring CAR, certainly from the time when print media was all that was available.

    Sucking of the internet hasn’t turned anything up. It could of course have been a drawing – an archaic technique used before Photoshop was invented.

    I’ll keep looking. In the meantime here are some rather lovely unrealised Peugeot 104 derivatives I found in Liepedia, of all places:

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