The Citroen BX was the forerunner of
the current Citroen Xantia model, in some ways it's easy to see the resemblance:
slightly oddball styling, and powered everything.
The angular styling hasn't done too badly over time. It still looks as weird now as when it was new! Some parts are obvious age related giveaways, like the huge and obvious rough moulded bumpers but all in all there are many worse looking cars than this (see Austin Allegro, Pre '94 Skodas, Fiat Multipla and the mother of them all, the Ford Scorpio)
Getting into the car, you notice the obvious design flaw of most French cars from this era: they appear to be made from tin foil and cardboard. The doors have a real flimsy feel as you pull them open and vibrate shut with a tinny rattle. I'm not saying they are not designed and built well, it's just that they feel like they have been made from the thinnest possible materials.
The Citroen interior is a bit like a sixties sci-fi film,
guessing at a Bauhaussian future that never arrives. Thinly padded cross cut seats, acres
of stark dark flat plastic, miles of uncovered metal, rubber lever gaiters and
a multitude of unmarked scattered controls and switches you may be able to live with;
woollen trim for the seats you probably couldn't.
The one area of Citroen design that has not improved recently though is the steering wheel, the single spokers of old are a design classic which probably won't return in this age of air-bags - Shame!!
The engine in this one had me fooled. As I was coerced in semi darkness into an already running vehicle, the fuel tank showed half full and it was starting to rain, I didn't have time to inspect the tail badge. With the windows down it sounded a little rough, like a diesel but with the windows up and the car moving I wasn't quite so sure. This thing had almost electric pace with a real mid-range surge. First thing on arrival at destination was to check the badges, yep a turbo diesel. Perhaps the aforementioned flimsy build is the secret here, maybe the car's so light due to the paper thin metal that it has a huge power to weight ratio. Maybe it's just the lack of all the interior trimmings and power everything that gives it such a turn of speed, maybe my normal car is just so slow, either way it's a nice reminder that performance isn't just about pure BHP
Whilst the Citroen BX engine may shine, the Citroen BX gear-box does not. The stubby lever with shiny lollipop gear knob looks promising, but it's about as indistinct and rubbery a shift as a gear-box can be; changes are best avoided as long as possible and then executed slowly with precise application of brute force.
In this pre Citroen Xantia model, the fluid suspension shows why it was either loved or loathed. Around town the car floats over bumps like they don't exist, but on the motorway it floats along feeling slightly out of control, giving me, at least, a rather queasy feeling when cruising at speed. Given more time you could probably learn to love it and the comfort it brings to this car.
Unfortunately, the BX rolls and under-steers too much to be described as a good handler. The steering is finger light, which is great round town but doesn't have much feel and is too lifeless through the bends, but still it's reasonably sharp if you trust the tyres to keep on gripping.
The big fan club for these seems to be with middle-aged
caravan club members. The self-leveling suspension is the main reason for this of course
and it's doubtful that you could buy anything used with self-leveling cheaper than one of
The suspension worries people most but despite the perceived complexity, it really shouldn't be that much of a concern as it is a well-proven and tested system and is well catered for by a host of garages nowadays.
There are quite a few of these still knocking around, and they seem to vary from rusty shed to immaculate original shed with prices ranging from a few hundred pounds to some really almost exotic levels (well a rather optimistic few thousand anyway).
To buy one you really need to be a Citroen lover who can't afford a Xantia, but if you're looking at an expensive one , I'd suggest you look at a cheap Xantia instead of the delightful Citroen BX.
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