Here’s something you’re not going to find anytime soon in Rock Island, Eugene, or Indianapolis: a Citroën BX. Just one look and you know it just has to be a French car! In the ’80s, when many folks in the U.S. were running out and buying Cutlass Supremes or Cutlass Ciera Broughams, French new-car shoppers were checking out cars like these.
The BX replaced the earlier Citroen GS. It had a long life, being produced from 1982 until its 1994 replacement by the Xantia. It was an early product of the recently merged PSA conglomerate comprised of Citroen and parent company Peugeot (the first was the Citroen Visa mini, which utilized the floorpan and engine of the Peugeot 104).
Later BX models shared chassis and other parts with the Peugeot 405 family sedan. Needless to say, the BX did not share its superb hydropneumatic, self-leveling Citroën suspension with the 405. Early BXs used 1.4-, 1.6- and 1.9-liter gasoline engines, but later versions, like our featured car, were available with a turbo diesel. One year after the BX’s introduction, a wagon joined the five-door hatchback.
As you would expect, the dash retained a good helping of Citroën design, with its one-spoke steering wheel and futuristic instruments. Elsewhere, the BX diverged from its Peugeot underpinnings with trademark quirky styling, four-wheel disc brakes, and extensive use of plastic body panels.
This one was snagged by Charkle The 2nd and recently posted to the Cohort. In his words:
“Have to say, this is the one I would want. 1.9 Litre Turbo diesel, with manual transmission. Found this hunkered down in the local Marina carpark, with just enough room around it to get a couple of shots. Was thinking I hadn’t seen another one in years, then saw another (or rather a BX16) about an hour later!”
I’d like to give a big “thank you” to Charkle The 2nd, and to all of our European, Australian and New Zealand-based Cohort contributors, for sharing these great Curbside Classics with us!
I recently returned from a vacation trip to Paris; wonderful time ogling the French cars which almost never show up in the USA. Saw some BX’s, a few DS’s, but was really taken by the impressive C6’s. Much sleeker than any Town Car ever was, although both Citroen and brother Peugeot are suffering financially these days.
Where does the coon dog ride.. in the back seat, front seat, trunk?
Citroens can’t accommodate ‘coon dogs…they’re specifically designed for their cousins, the chiens viverrin.
Quirky, but very interesting car. Great handling, unusually reliable hydro suspension, lot of engines to choose from, but probably best version is BX sport!
In France they offered 3-4 version with automatic, rather unusual in those days. Also, that auto box was nice ZF4HP14 – simple, reliable, no electronics whatsoever….still can be found reconditioned for around 400-500EUR in France.
Ah, the BX! My parents have had two when a was teenager: a 1987 1.4 and later a 1991 1.9TZi. Light and spacious (1.9TZi 1003kgs and 109bhp). And comfortable too. Disc brakes on all corners and the parking brake operating the front. The hydraulics made it unbeatable when fully packed for the summer holiday. The Xantia they bought later on was on a higher reliability and robustness level though.
This 1.9TGD in the last few pictures is probably not a turbo diesel though. These turbo’s had a slightly smaller engine of 1769cc. They were called simply TRD Turbo or TZD turbo later, without the engine capacity displayed on the back.
My mistake, I knew they did a turbo, and assumed that’s what the T stood for. Perhaps a bit of wishful thinking as well – my dad had a 306 XR dt which had an intercooler, and that was a fantastic car. When the turbo wound up it could seriously embarrass quite a lot of “quick” cars, and with that big lump of an engine sat right on top of the drive wheels, it felt incredibly “planted” on the road.
Just wanted to point out that this (though not a BX) just showed up on Bring a Trailer:
Cool find that 1905cc turbodiesel is similar to the one in my Citroen Xsara which is the last model to feature it great engines with bags of torque and incredible fuel economy.
Tom, as a Volvo man do you realize this car was proposed as a Volvo? http://i44.tinypic.com/10f0x3s.jpg
I remember the Volvo concept car, but didn’t make the connection with the BX until I was researching for this article.
I drooled for these cars. They were expensive in Spain at the time and, unfortunately, many haven’t survived here due to simply bad general quality (although this can be due to them being manufactured in Vigo when Spain was still a closed market).
BTW, the small Visa mini (the 104 in disguise) was the Citroën LNA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_LNA
“Needless to say, the BX did not share the superb hydropneumatic ,self-leveling Citroën suspension used by the 405”
You have this backwards. The BX had the hydropneumatic system, the 405, except for the 4×4 (I think) did not.
Yes that jumped out at me too!
I used to see a diesel BX with the c-pillar window every day on my way to a previous job, a bit run-down but no doubt a lot of life left.
A Citroën BX16 won its class in the 1992 Bathurst 12 Hour production car race, beating a Peugeot 405 Mi16 amongst others – that light weight would have helped enormously going up and down the mountain for 12 hours.
Its cornering abilities out rank anything else of its day and when you dont need to brake for corners a car becomes quite fast.
I typo-bungled that in editing. Thanks for pointing it out. Fixed!
One of these with 240hp for racing could out corner BMWs much hyped M3 on a track
I was quite taken with these when they were announced, and shortly afterwards I found one in a carpark belonging to a French tourist who was happy to open the (plastic) bonnet and let me see the motor. Early high spec models had a plastic window in the “C” pillar, but this was soon dropped. I remember looking at a diesel version on a motorshow stand and asking the salesman why it had a steel bonnet instead of plastic – he hadn’t a clue. I seem to remember the BX as being one of the first to offer an auto box with a diesel engine.There was a “GTI” version with a 16 valve 1.9 petrol motor that went very nicely. There was even a rare 4WD rally version, though I don’t think it ever saw serious competition.
In recent times I remember that when you saw one of these cars offerred for sale, there was always a very long list of parts that had been replaced….
+1 Uncle M. I always liked them better with the plastic side window too
These 16 valve versions were really quick before the catalytic convertor came: 165bhp on a car weighing around 1000kgs. The 8 valve 1.9 GTI used the same engine as the legendary Peugeot 205 1.9 GTI, not bad either.
Four wheel drive for production BX’s was available on the 8v GTI. This rally version you mention is probably the 4TC. (here’s more: http://classiccarhunter.com/2009/02/homologation-special-1986-citroen-bx-4tc/)
Ah! That looks a hundred times better without the rear wheel skirt. Somehow that detail works on cars like the DS that taper front to back, but not on this folded-paper box.
Late models were also available with the C pillar window, although it wasn’t that common. A 1990 example.
Rare indeed. Can’t remember seeing the late models with that feature.
Not aware that the BX ever had anything to do with Volvo…however I believe I’m correct in saying the BX design was derived from a design Reliant produced for the Turkish car company Anadol- more research required!
As far as I know the BX was dull but fairly reliable, like Volvo 200 series they make good hacks. The Zantia that followed it was full of woes, largely electrical, a problem shared with the XM- pity as the XM is an attractive car, much more what one would expect of a once innovative company like Citroen.
No, no direct connection between Volvo, Citroen and Anadol. The link is the Italian designer Bert One.
Well, Bertone actually, which shopped the same basic design themes around as the Bertone Volvo Tundra, the FW11 low-volume sedan which Reliant offered to Anadol ( http://www.sporting-reliants.com/images/Prototypes/FW11ProtoDrawing.jpg) and the related SE82 sports, and finally the BX.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a contemporary road test of the Peugeot 405 in which it was described as anything less than new even though its platform was nearly five years old at the time of introduction (BX introduced late ’82, 405 introduced mid ’87). And despite Citroen’s reputation for progressive style and the European market’s less conservative tastes, as an American, I can only imagine how shockingly NEW the BX must have looked at the time. The sort of sharp creases until that point had only been seen on cars like the Countach and Lagonda. It seems that the BX was among the first truly mass market models to usher in ’80s style. Anyone with better knowledge of design trends, please feel free to add your perspective.
Even more impressive, this large-ish FWD, transverse family car platform was lauded for excellent handling in both the BX and 405, up until its replacement in 1995 by the 406.
My cousin bought one of these new in 1988, it was a GTi, not sure if it was the 16 valve or not. It had the plastic window in the c-pillar – which I thought was a great touch! I quite liked the car to look at, though I never got to ride in it, and wasn’t old enough to beg a drive either. He kept it for a year or two, the only issue he had was the wheels were very soft and kept going out of round on potholes. The BX stays in my heart as the last of what I thought were the quirky-cool Citroens.
Those sharp creases! How about the Lotus Esprit. A lot of British prototypes in the late ’70s had very angular looks and there is an interesting design overlap between BL and Citroen. Both companies designs were very progressive, however BL failed to appreciate the conservatism of the British public, their liking for American design cues and their fear of the new. The drive towards greater reliability (from the Japanese and VW), plus the rising kudos of first BMW then Audi really did for both companies. Citroen only survives through the relative success of Peugeot and abandoning much of it’s progressive design. In the UK Citroens are thought of (and sometimes marketed) as cheap kitsch cars with a very ephemeral appeal. Pity as the big C6 is an elegant vehicle with much to offer.
I totally forgot about the Rover SD1, a legitimately mass market choice. Arguably just as stylish, but a copy of the designs pioneered by the BX’s GS and CX predecessors.
Just getting back to this car, had a chat with my uncle who owned one for a few years. Good car? Yes. Reliable? No. As he recalls, it rode very smoothly, the only real reason he bought one, and was fairly spacious and far from dated in the early ’90s. However, even though it was one of the later cars so should be mostly trouble-free, it was plagued by all kinds of defects, ranging from breaking interior trim to more serious issues, often suspension trouble. At one point, the otherwise superb hydropneumatic suspension simply stopped working. As the above pictures show, a BX, like all Citroens of its day, would sit almost on the ground when parked, and would rise up elegantly when the engine was started. However, one day, his BX simply refused to get up, probably in a fit of laziness. He got rid of it the same day, swapping it for a dull but reliable and equally roomy Volvo 440. He’s stuck to Volvos since.
Even when the BX had horrid reliability problems, somehow it proved quite durable, particularly the diesels were bulletproof. Nowadays, sightings are rare outside France but in its home country, mostly in the south, they’re still fairly common, most of them clapped-out bangers (its successor, the Xantia, is quickly reaching that stage now, too).