“Some recent changes to Talbot’s Horizon means we have to take another look at this old stager,” wrote Archie Vicar in Today’s Driver Magazine, apparently.
This appears to be a verbatim transcript of a period road test from the regionally distributed Today’s Driver Magazine, December 1979 (the Vale of Arden-area). Dougl Asland-Windermere (sic) contributed the original photography. Due to fading of the images, stock photos have been used.
On sale since 1978, the Talbot Horizon is a said to be what they supposedly call a “world car”, one designed in England to boot (something the car lacks!). In line with modern expectations, the Horizon is a front-wheel drive hatchback somewhat in the style of the dreary VW “Golf” and odd-ball Fiat Strada but it looks more acceptable than either. Why are we writing about this car, you might very well ask. I didn´t like it very much when I first drove it. But recent revisions to what is by now an old-stager in the fast-moving medium-sized family car market mean we are simply obliged to take another look to see if this all-British car is still up to cutting the mustard.
And mustard is what we tried upon our joyful return the Hotel du Palais in Dijon, much to the surprise of most of the staff who could be excused for thinking Today’s Driver Magazine´s correspondent must be nigh on a full-time resident at said hotel. The mustard went well with the fine steak and chips! And where better than Dijon and Burgundy to test this car, taking as it does the challenge to Peugeot and Citroen in the medium-small family car sector.
The Great Malvern to Dover leg of the tour allowed me get re-acquainted with a car I had not driven (albeit briefly, thankfully) since late 1977 (a top-secret drive in the Lake District which is, as I was reminded, very full of lakes!).
Although not hinted at in the new brochures, my “little bird” inside Talbot tells me changes have been made to the bushings of the rear suspension so as to deal with criticism from some quarters (probably criticism from Mulhouse!). No evidence of this change presented itself in the first ten hours of driving. Moreover, the apparently comfortable velour seats are still too short in the back for a Malvern man and I had to take off my hat to find a good seating position.
The car is still front-engined, and front-wheel drive, much like the rather uninspiring Volkswagen “Golf”. There are three petrols and one diesel (available soon) but for this exclusive long-range taste, I sampled the 1.3 GLS. That trim designation means the addition of head-restraints, laminated glass and velour upholstery over the GL’s standard halogen lamps, reversing lamps, tailgate wash-wipe control, driver’s door mirror and a push-button radio. What´s wrong with a dial, I ask?
The car is reasonably well equipped but then it ought to be for the £4,350 asked (more than the Renault 14, the drab old “Golf”, the Fiat Strada and Opel Kadett). Only the bare-bones dinosaur Vauxhall Chevette costs less in this class and even that is pretty decent motor car, if you must save some pennies.
Yet, with some further acquaintance the extra money spent can be perceived in the Horizon (Austin, take note) so it does not have to be such a penance to drive it about.
The dashboard is a sprightly confection of selected modern shapes and if you look directly, the instruments seem well-considered regarding their positioning. So, by the time I was off the ferry and steaming on to Reims and Chaumont (fine boudin noir and even better dry white!) I very much felt as if I was very (continued on p. 45)
(continued from page 12) “at home” in the Horizon. So why do they still make the (continued on page p.46)
(continued from page p.45) Horizon? (continued on p.48)
(continued from p.45) The ashtray left a bit to be desired and yet even when the car is the wrong way up, the contents remained in place. Remarkable.
Much can be said about the adequate ride, yet the Horizon falls down ever so slightly as a keen motorist’s car. It’ll do for the commute and with its large boot and clear view out, it will even cover long-distances easily (how does 38 mpg sound?) but the engine drones rather and the car is only as fast as your right foot namely, it’s about average. And if you are the kind of driver who likes heavy steering that is low-geared then the Horizon is the car for you.
It was as I toured around the back-lanes of Dijon’s hinterland that I realised that under the surface of a smooth and well-polished and indeed, handsome, English-designed and fairly modern car there was a more traditional large-car trying to get out (much like the Sunbeam). If I was to drive this car blindfold I’d say I was conducting a Vauxhall or Morris from the last decade. No bad thing if you liked those cars and many still do!