In what appears to be a transcript from an article (“Another New Car From Citroen!”) in the Northampton Mercury (4 June, 1976) Archie Vicar considers the new Citroen CX Safari.
(The original photos were taken by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to extreme fading of the original items stock photos have been used.)
Having driven the saloon version of Citroen’s oddball new CX recently, I approached the new estate with mixed feelings: anxiety, irritation and concern. On the plus side, a tour in France is always accompanied by some excellent chance to savour the local nourishment and to sip regional wines. On the other side of the ledger stand the risks of trouble with some new and partially elaborated concatenation of complexity and carelessness, namely, any new French car.
The CX Safari takes the main ingredients of the saloon and adds 98 inches of strangeness in the form of an extended rear section and a fifth door, the fifth door one might imagine the four door is asking for but has not yet received.
At £4,230 the car is certainly reasonable value for money, if one overlooks the potentially disconcerting ride quality, nervous steering and trembling speedometer not to mention the superficially eccentric appearance of this already deeply eccentric car. Vauxhall, all is forgiven!
Among the items of standard equipment are four very soft seats and a large load bay, swathed in vinyl. There is a single rear window wiper and one washer, supplied with a large reserve of Evian; the front windows are electrically actuated by means of small switches within easy reach of the driver (simply dab the switch and the window is raised by Servo motors); the brakes are ventilated disc at the rear and at the front.
I took the car on a test drive from Pau to Périgeaux (though had planned to motor on to Paris) to see how it managed a mixed diet of lanes, autoroutes and main roads. Starting off one must await the car’s patented Citroen suspension system to pressure up, time for a leisurely Craven “A”.
Where is the ashtray? It is the spherical object perched like an all-seeing eye on the centre console, something I took at first to be an air-freshener. The rather coarse 2.0 litre engine drags the car’s 3,078 lb forward with some reluctance but driven with some care, it can just about cope (even with nine boxes of red on board).
At low speeds the steering is very direct, meaning one careens left and right like a child learning to ride a bicycle. By the time I had reached Auch I had just about learned to accommodate the car’s steering and was exhausted as I pulled into the Hotel Du France. A large plate of garbure helped restore my strength and a bottle and a half of Brulhois raised my spirits. Sitting outside the hotel, I had some moments to consider the car’s appearance, scanning the car’s 16 ft from left to right like a lion scanning the horizon of the Serengeti.
The roof is raised aft of the B-pillar and Citroen have designed new rear doors, something of an indulgence in these increasingly competitive times, considering the cost of tooling. A large third side-glass makes for an airy space inside the car but spoils the CX’s lines somewhat; the rear wheels have partial covers, making for a rather heavy look. Ford’s sensible Granada does not need this kind of decorative excess so why do Citroen, one is forced to ask. At the front, the car is much the same as the saloon, and some will find it acceptable.
The second day, Auch to Périgeaux, I opened the throttle with a tad more confidence and found the steering settled down, having less assistance at higher speeds. It felt a bit heavy but had decent turn-in. The ashtray got a bit full but remained attached to the car despite hard, understeerish cornering. It might ride somewhat floatily but the car grips fairly well, in spite of the dreadful undulations of the road surfaces.
The engine turns out 102 hp (four speeds and reverse) at 5,500 rpm, with 112 lb ft of torque at three thou. If you keep it running in the middle range the car keeps up with traffic quite well. By the end of the tour and after several stops at various vineyards for tasting, a clearer picture of the car was beginning to emerge: large, long and French. I can’t see a lot of need for a car like this in Britain. If you need to carry people, try a traditional saloon and if you need to carry as much as the Safari can then try a Transit van, which looks more attractive.
Car seat covers in brown and black terry cloth, embossed with the Citroen chevrons will be available in October.