2018 Citroen Berlingo Multispace

The new Citroen Berlingo Multispace is unashamedly unfashionable

2018 Citroen Berlingo MultispaceThe new Citroen Berlingo Multispace would take one look at a crossover, take a drag on a half-smoked Gauloises, before dismissing it with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and sauntering off muttering something about stupid young upstarts.

Since its unveiling at the 1996 Paris Motor Show, the Berlingo has cemented a reputation for being one of the most honest and fit-for-purpose vehicles money can buy, and you’ve never required much in the way of cash to secure its services. Twenty-five years ago, a Berlingo cost less than £9,000.

Citroen will do its best to position it as a ‘Leisure Activity Vehicle’ (LAV), but the French company is fooling nobody. The Berlingo Multispace is unashamedly van-based, and that has always been central to its appeal.

Step inside a Berlingo, and it’s like entering a village hall, complete with masses of headroom, a huge expansive area, and the kind of echoes you associate with large, open spaces, spaces, spaces, spaces…

And like the village hall, you could probably use it to house the post office on a Thursday morning and the table tennis club on a Tuesday night. Multispace by name, Multispace by nature.

Initial sales were slow, right up until the point when Jeremy Clarkson gave the Berlingo the seal of approval. On a booze cruise to France, the then Top Gear presenter waxed lyrical about the van-based Citroen, praising its value for money, sliding doors, ample storage and ride quality.

One steak fracas, a facelift and a new model later – for the Berlingo, mostly – Citroen is about to unveil the new Berlingo Multispace at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. So, what’s new?

Van Morrison

2018 Citroen Berlingo Multispace

It retains its van-based origins, which means enough space in which to swing a crêpe, a pair of sliding doors, a vast tailgate, and more flexibility than an Olympic gymnast.

Naturally, the styling slots neatly into the Citroen stable, with the Berlingo Multispace having the look of a taller and more upright C3 Aircross. Fans of the outgoing C4 Cactus will be pleased to see Airbump panels at the bottom of the doors.

On the inside, the airy cabin and high-set driving position remain, while the seats can be folded to create a flat floor through to the folding passenger seats. Two sizes are available: M and XL, measuring 4.40m and 4.75m in length, respectively, with five and seven seats.

Boot space has been increased by 100 litres to 775 litres in the M version, or 1,050 litres in the XL version with five seats. Just like the original, you’ll spend some time discovering the 28 different cubbies, pockets and bins, which combine to provide 186 litres of interior storage space.

In common with the Cactus, the passenger airbag has been moved to the ceiling, which provides space for a secondary glovebox, known as the Top Box. This can be cooled (depending on the version) and contains a USB socket, jack audio socket, and enough space for a 15-inch laptop.

But space and practicality are no longer enough, not even for a van-based MPV… sorry, LAV. If Citroen wants to add to the 3.3 million or so sales to date, it needs to add improved functionality and technology.

Van Halen

2018 Citroen Berlingo Multispace

There are no fewer than 19 driving assistance systems, including a colour head-up display, lane departure warning, driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, park assist, blind spot monitoring, and auto-navigation to the nearest Carrefour or Mr Bricolage. Probably.

And while the Berlingo Multispace is front-wheel drive, the Grip Control with hill descent assist should provide enough traction for the majority of drivers. You can even add a trailer stability control system if the dog doesn’t fancy sharing the ride with a crate load of Beaujolais.

Further hints of modernity include an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless smartphone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A range of petrol and diesel engines will be available, along with the introduction of an 8-speed EAT8 automatic transmission.

Far from being a niche model, the Berlingo is an incredibly important vehicle for Citroen. It’s the top-selling Citroen in nearly 17 countries and is the brand’s second best-seller behind the C3. While other manufacturers sweat over finding new niches, the Berlingo Multispace remains resolutely down-to-earth and unashamedly unfashionable. Combine this with the new safety tech and connectivity, and it’s hard to see it becoming anything other than a success.

Prices have yet to be announced, but the new Citroen Berlingo Multispace will be built in Spain and will launch in the second half of 2018. Still want that fashionable but compromised crossover?

In summary: 2018 Citroen Berlingo Multispace

Built: Vigo, Spain
Debut: 2018 Geneva Motor Show
On sale: second half 2018
Price: tbc

Length: 4.40m (M), 4.75m (XL)
Width: 1.85m
Height: 1.81m – 1.84m (without or with roofbars)
Boot capacity: 775 litres (M), 1,050 litres (XL)

Citroen museum auction: breaking up is so hard to do

To some people, the auction catalogue for the forthcoming sale of 65 cars from the Citroen Conservatoire collection might seem like one of those chocolate selection boxes you’ll receive this Christmas.

It promises so much on the outside, but once you’ve prized open the box, you discover an awful lot of filler and not much in the way of tasty treats. I say to ‘some people’ while acknowledging that to Citroen enthusiasts, this remains a rare and exciting opportunity.

Exciting, and perhaps a little dispiriting. Allow me to explain.

Back in the summer – remember that? – I was fortunate enough to spend a morning in the Citroen Conservatoire, surrounded by some of the firm’s all-time greats. From concept cars to presidential limos, and motorsport heroes to true icons, the warehouse is like a dimly-lit spotlight on the history of Citroen.

While there, I was told about a ‘reserve’ collection: more cars in another part of the building, off-limits to anyone beyond Citroen circles. I tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access. If your name’s not down, etc, etc.

Fast forward a few months and Citroen has thrown open the doors to the reserve collection, as it prepares to move away from the sprawling Aulnay-sous-Bois site and to L’Aventure Peugeot Citroen DS in Sochaux.

With a collection of more than 400 cars and associated memorabilia, something has to give, which is why 65 vehicles and 90 items of automobilia are deemed surplus to requirements.

It all feels a bit like clearing the attic following the loss of a loved one. It’s not that anybody or anything has died – although no cars have been produced at Aulnay-sous-Bois factory since 2012, and the Citroen and DS divorce was a little awkward – it just seems a tiny bit sad to see the collection split up.

I’ve seen the auction lots described as ‘weird and wonderful’, but to casual onlookers and non Citroenians, the collection will be more ‘weird and a little underwhelming’. You won’t find a proper DS, SM or 2CV in the sale. There is a Traction Avant, mind, which is very much the genesis of modern Citroen.

You’re unlikely to find the items of automobilia featured in any auction previews, but there are some genuinely significant lots. Racing overalls worn by the likes of Jacky Ickx, Timo Salonen and Hubert Auriol are expected to fetch between €200 and €500 each.

There are numerous photos, brochures, models and dealer display items on offer, along with spare parts for a Citroen ZX Rallye Raid, if you feel the urge to take your ZX Aura to Dakar. Fancy the bonnet from Sébastien Loeb’s Xsara WRC car? It could be yours for between €500 and €1,000.

But, as ever, the cars are the stars, so what will see me hovering over the ‘bid’ button come 2pm on 10 December? Nobody asked me to create a list of my top 15 auction cars, but here are my favourites anyway.

Citroen GS: €2,500 – €5,000 (£2,250 – £4,500)

I managed to grab a brief go in a Citroen GS X3 during my visit to the Conservatoire, realising a lifelong ambition to drive one of the best cars my father owned when I was a child. You can read about it here.

This Spanish-registered GS is much older than my father’s, and indeed the X3 I drove in July, but it has covered just 921km from new and features the same red interior I remember from my youth.

Sbarro Berlingo Flanerie: €9,000 – €11,000 (£8,000 – £10,000)

Franco Sbarro has done some wild and crazy things with Citroens over the years, with the Berlingo a particular favourite of the Swiss coachbuilder. The Flanerie is like some kind of theme park safari ride that has managed to end up in a game of Crazy Taxi.

Citroen AX: €3,000 – €6,000 (£2,750 – £5,250)

There’s an electric Citroen AX available in the auction, but this one appeals because it was donated to the collection by Auguste Genovese, a former director at the Citroen plant in Rennes. It has covered just 11,414km since it rolled off the production line in 1991.

Citroen Visa Super: €1,500 – €3,000 (£1,250 – £2,750)

When was the last time you saw a Citroen Visa, let alone one as early as this? As a Super, it’s powered by a 1.1-litre four-cylinder engine, and features the wonderfully idiosyncratic dashboard of the early cars. Also, note the polypropylene bumper and grille.

Citroen BX GTI: €6,000 – €10,000 (£5,250 – £9,000)

Given the crazy prices being achieved by certain performance cars of the 80s and 90s, this Citroen BX GTI has a reasonable pre-auction estimate. It has picked up a few battle scars in storage, but there are only 21,499km on the clock.

Citroen Xantia Activa V6: €5,000 – €8,000 (£4,500 – £7,250)

Just 2,600 Xantia Activa V6 models were ever produced, all left-hand drive. Which means the V6 was never officially exported to the UK, making this the holy grail of the Xantia Activa world. There are just 1,575km on the clock. *Bites the back of his hand*

Citroen ZX Reflex: €800 – €1,500 (£725 – £1,250)

You have to wonder where the likes of this ZX Reflex will end up. It’s in excellent condition, as you’d expect from a 20-year-old car with 1,765km on the clock, but will it be used on the road or stored away in a private collection?

Citroen XM V6 Exclusive: €5,000 – €7,000 (£4,500 – £6,250)

This isn’t the tidiest or lowest mileage Citroen XM in the auction, but it’s arguably the most interesting. It was owned by Roger Hanin, who played the lead role in the French TV police drama, Navarro. Hanin was also the brother-in-law of President Mitterrand.

Citroen Ami 6: €800 – €1,200 (£725 – £1,000)

Being polite, this 1961 Ami 6 is blessed with a delightful patina, but in truth, it’s in need of a complete restoration. These were incredibly popular in France, but less so in the UK.

Citroen CX Pallas: €6,000 – €10,000 (£5,250 – £9,000)

Simply wonderful. In mileage terms (15,220km), this is effectively a one-year-old Citroen CX. Not only that, it’s a Series 1, complete with the idiosyncratic dashboard layout and desirable Pallas trim. Oh, to be able to drive home from Paris in this.

Citroen C-Cactus: €8,000 – €12,000 (£7,250 – £10,750)

The C4 Cactus is arguably the most Citroen of modern Citroens, although the facelift version will see it lose some of its eccentricity. This is the C-Cactus concept of 2013, which built on the original design from 2007. It wasn’t a massive leap from concept to production.

Citroen C5: €3,000 – €6,000 (£2,750 – £5,250)

This appeals more than it should, but to me, the original Citroen C5 has ‘future classic’ written all over it. It features clever active hydropneumatic suspension – so it’s a proper Citroen – while the 3.0-litre V6 petrol is the ‘right’ engine. A €6,000 upper estimate for a C5 with 1,151km on the clock seems like excellent value

Citroen Xsara Coupe VTR: €3,500 – €5,500 (£3,000 – £4,900)

There’s no Xsara VTS in the auction – although I was told about one in the ‘reserve’ collection – so this phase 2 VTR will have to do. With 477km on the clock, it’s practically brand new, and you’ll stand more chance of becoming friends with Claudia Schiffer if you buy it. Probably.

Citroen Xantia 16v: €3,000 – €5,000 (£2,750 – £4,500)

I make no apology for featuring a second Citroen Xantia because this is essentially a brand new and very early 2.0-litre 16v model. The mileage: an incredible 89km. Stick a Ford badge on the front, and you could add a zero to the upper estimate. Don’t be surprised to see this break into five figures.

Citroen Tubik: €20,000 – €30,000 (£17,750 – £26,750)

The Tubik was unveiled in 2011 and soon became part of the furniture at subsequent motor shows. My highly original plan for this: turn it into a mobile deli and tour festivals like some kind of Type H van from the future.

Restricting myself to 15 cars was tough because the other 50 vehicles hold strong appeal. The C-Elysee WTCC car could be fun, and I’m drawn to the Citela, Iltis and FAF, not to mention the Meharis, in various states of repair.

One thing’s for sure: I’m very, very tempted to register for online bidding, with the Xantias top of the wish list. Or maybe I should concentrate on perfecting the cars I already own.

It might be sad to see the Citroen collection being broken up and moving away from the famous old factory, but there’s no denying that this is a terrific opportunity for fans of the weird and wonderful.

Or maybe it’s the fans who are weird and wonderful. About that low-mileage ZX Reflex…

Click here to view the auction catalogue.

>NEXT: Is this Europe’s best car museum?

Renault 5 ConnectedCAM

Car-spotting in Citroen’s point and click supermini

Renault 5 ConnectedCAM

If Citroen is to be believed, going down on one knee to ask the love of your life to marry you is so last century. No, what you need is the C3’s ConnectedCAM, which allows you to take photos of a series of letters, culminating in a marriage proposal sent via a smartphone.

Impersonal it might be, and you need to make sure you send the letters in the correct order, as your significant other might be a little perplexed to receive a message about the ARMY and REM.

Of course, ConnectedCAM is designed for the smartphone generation. Those who can’t bear to be disconnected from their friends on social meeja, keen to share every last moment of their day. Simply connect your phone to ‘point and click’ your way around the M25 or along the North Circular.

My recent trip to the Conservatoire Citroen was the ideal opportunity to test the ConnectedCAM for myself. A European road trip, complete with ferry crossings, French countryside and a generous helping of tatty old motors.

Granted, Citroen probably didn’t have French tat in mind when it came up with the idea of a built-in dashcam, but I believe that tired Peugeots, Renaults and Citroens are far more interesting than stunning sunsets and people in fancy dress using zebra crossings. Maybe that’s just me.

I downloaded the app before leaving the home, using the time waiting to board Brittany Ferries’ Armorique at Plymouth to connect the smartphone to the system. It’s as easy as connecting a Bluetooth device to an infotainment system and you can set things up to auto-tweet any photos you take along the way.

Things started positively, with ConnectedCAM taking a good HD photo when boarding the Armorique and another one disembarking the ferry at Roscoff. This is how social sharing works, right? Food, selfies and ferry terminals: three things worth sharing with the world.

From there, things turned decidedly niche. Having snapped a Bentley Bentayga, theatrically weaving in and out of slow moving traffic on the road to Morlaix, attention turned to the wonderful selection of French cars, many of which are on the verge of extinction in the UK.

Peugeot 405s, Renault 21s, first-generation Renault 5s, Citroen BXs, Renault 4s and Citroen XMs: just a handful of the old cars which prompted me to reach for the button situated behind the rear-view mirror.

Not all were shared on Twitter – probably user error – but all were saved to the phone to serve as a visual reminder of a road trip through Brittany and on towards Paris. As pointed out on Twitter, this is what ConnectedCAM was invented for.

It was all going too well. Feeling pleased with the bountiful supply of tat, I caught sight of something rather special emerging through the heat haze in the rear-view mirror: the unmistakable shape of a Peugeot 205 T16. This was it: the moment for ConnectedCAM to shine – social media greatness almost guaranteed. Think of the retweets and ‘likes’. ConnectedCAM: do your bit.

Only it didn’t. Seemingly bored of capturing images of French tat, the infotainment system and camera went into meltdown, killing the sat-nav, audio and climate control settings in the process. Perfect timing, given the 30ºC heat and the maelstrom of the Parisian road network looming into view.

Suddenly, all thoughts of social media greatness vanished into the clouds of smog hovering over the city of love. This was now a test of survival. The rush hour in Paris is best avoided on any occasion, but with no air-con or sat-nav in a right-hand drive car – absolute madness.

Meanwhile, the well-dressed man in the 205 T16 was coolness personified. Anybody prepared to tackle the roads around Paris in a homologation special deserves a lifetime supply of Kronenbourg 1664 and a photo taken via Citroen’s ConnectedCAM. Sadly, the latter was never going to happen.

Citroen C3 Brittany Ferries

The infotainment system rebooted itself, but the ConnectedCAM remained dead, unable to capture more images from the French road trip. A minor annoyance, sure, but you have to question its usefulness in the event of an accident, when Citroen promotes the benefits of video footage taken 30 seconds before and one minute after an incident. And what if you’re mid-marriage proposal? You can’t leave somebody hanging like that.

ConnectedCAM is a neat piece of kit, but like any slice of modern tech, it’s only good when it’s working. It’s standard equipment on the top-spec C3 Flair, or a £380 option on the mid-range C3 Feel. A price worth paying if it encourages drivers to leave their smartphone in the glovebox and can be used as evidence in the event of a road accident. Just don’t ask it to capture photos of rare homologation specials, especially those built by rival manufacturers.

Shame it wasn’t a Citroen BX 4TC…

More Citroen on Motoring Research:

Conservatoire Citroen

Inside Citroen’s ‘secret’ car collection

Conservatoire CitroenNestled between the appropriately named Boulevard Andre Citroen and the sprawling 170-acre Aulnay-sous-Bois site, where 8.5 million vehicles rolled off a busy production line, stands a rather anonymous looking building. Within the grey walls sit more than 400 old Citroens, preserved for future generations and maintained by a man in blue overalls.

His name is Yannick Billy and the cars form part of the Conservatoire Citroen: the largest collection of Citroens in the world. For a company with such a proud history, Citroen is reluctant to throw open its doors to the general public. Which only served to make our visit to the house of Citroen all the more special.

More French cars on Motoring Research:

Yannick BillyConservatoire Citroen

Conservatoire Citroen isn’t open to the public, so it cannot be classed as a museum. Instead, entry is via invitation only: not even a sheik armed with two million bucks could rock up and demand entry, said the Citroen UK press man, perhaps flippantly. Indeed, when we turned up at the agreed time, the reception area was cloaked in darkness and nobody was answering the door.

We wandered around to the back door, where we were greeted by Yannick Billy, a long-standing member of the Citroen Heritage team. Our lack of French was matched by Yannick’s lack of English, but eventually we were guided through the workshop – enriched by an intoxicating and evocative blend of oil and petrol – and to the doors to the collection.

A feast for the eyesConservatoire Citroen

As a Citroen fan it’s almost impossible not to be initially overwhelmed by the spectacle of 400 Citroens in one very large room. But even a non-car person would be amazed by the sheer scale of the place. Citroen’s complete history is here, from the Type A to the latest production models and concept cars.

We were given until noon before we’d be shown the door and told to leave. A little over three hours to immerse ourselves in the history of the world’s most innovative and eccentric car brand. So where do you start?

Top gear wheelsConservatoire Citroen

You start, much like Andre Citroen, with the Type A. Citroen’s first vehicle was launched in 1919, but the company’s roots date back to 1905, with the creation of Citroen et Cie. Back then, the company manufactured double-helical gear wheels with V-shaped teeth, the design of which inspired the famous Citroen logo.

Andre Citroen had first seen gear wheels such as these during a visit to Poland in 1900, and he returned to Paris where he took out a patent for their design. A factory was built to house the production facilities and soon his gear wheels were being used across the world. Famously, his wheels formed part of the steering system in the Titanic.

Andre CitroenConservatoire Citroen

In 1912, Andre Citroen went to America where he met Henry Ford and marveled at the production facilities used to build the Model T. He returned to Paris with the aim of building a car of his own, but his plans were put on hold by the outbreak of the First World War.

But from adversity came an opportunity. As an officer, Andre Citroen witnessed his army running out of shells, and he approached the government with plans to mass produce them. He won the contract and by the end of the war he had built 23 million shells from a factory in Paris.

Citroen Type AConservatoire Citroen

With the experience gained through the production of gear wheels and shells, not to mention the capital and production facilities, Andre Citroen was well-equipped to build his first motor car. The Type A arrived in 1919 and was, quite simply, a revelation.

Not only was it Citroen’s first car, but it was also the first mass-produced European vehicle. For the first time, motorists could buy a car ‘ready for the road’. Little wonder, then, that Citroen managed to shift 12,000 Type As within the first two years.

Andre Citroen: industrialist and marketeerConservatoire Citroen

But Andre Citroen was more than simply an ace industrialist. He knew the power of promotion, which is why his name was displayed on the Eiffel Tower at night. Once a month he took out a full page advertisement on the back of France’s biggest newspaper, while aircraft were sent into the skies to write the Citroen name in smoke.

In 1926, Citroen opened a new showroom in London’s Piccadilly, reported to be the grandest and most expensive ever built. The interior was clad in marble and the place felt more like a cathedral than a car showroom.

The icons: Citroen Traction AvantConservatoire Citroen

In 1934, Citroen launched the Traction Avant, widely considered to be the godfather of the modern motor car. Three years earlier, Andre Citroen had travelled to the US to visit the Budd Corporation in Philadelphia, where he was shown a front-wheel-drive car featuring a monocoque bodyshell.

He knew that it would be possible to build a shell capable of holding the engine, transmission and suspension together, freeing up space and reducing weight. The Traction Avant was the first mass-produced front-wheel-drive car and it changed automotive production forever. But the cost of development crippled the organisation and Citroen was declared bankrupt in 1934. Seven months later, Andre Citroen died, having lost his health, company and the rights to his name. Michelin Tyres took the reins, with the Traction Avant helping to return the company to profitability.

The icons: Citroen 2CVConservatoire Citroen

In 1935, Citroen started working on the idea of a ‘people’s car’, the so-called TPV, as it was then known. The idea was simple: to create a basic French car for the masses, with Citroen’s chairman, Pierre-Jules Boulanger, describing the design as “a deck-chair under an umbrella”.

Prototypes were built in 1939 and then hidden away during the Second World War, with the French keen for the Nazis not to discover their revolutionary little car. It would arrive at the 1948 Paris Motor Show, with production continuing until 1990, by which time more than 30 different versions had been built.

The icons: Citroen DSConservatoire Citroen

The one other Citroen worthy of the icon tag is the DS. The ‘Goddess’ was unveiled at the 1955 Paris Motor Show and such was the response, 12,000 orders were taken on the first day of the show.

It was the first production car to be equipped with front disc brakes and featured revolutionary hydropneumatic suspension. The car pictured is a DS 21 Pallas, showcasing the restyled front end complete with innovative directional headlights.

The legends: Citroen SMConservatoire Citroen

Take the technology found in the Citroen DS, add a Maserati V6 engine and house them in a streamlined body and this is the result: the delightful Citroen SM.

On the right is an original press car from 1970, built at the start of production. On the left is a later, fuel-injected model. Production was short-lived, partly because of the fuel crisis, partly because of reliability issues, and most certainly as a result of Peugeot’s takeover of Citroen in 1974.

The legends: Citroen GSConservatoire Citroen

Imagine being at the Paris Motor Show in 1970. Not only was the achingly beautiful SM first shown to the public, but Citroen also unveiled the brilliant GS. A year later, the GS scooped the European Car of the Year award, leaving the Volkswagen K70 and Citroen SM to finish second and third, respectively. Oh, what a time to be alive.

The GS was designed to slot between the Ami 8 and the DS in the Citroen range, delivering hydropneumatic technology to the everyman. The air-cooled flat-four engine gave it an evocative soundtrack, but a hatchback wouldn’t arrive until 1979, with the launch of the GSA.

The legends: Citroen CXConservatoire Citroen

The CX had the unenviable task of following the iconic DS, but while it wasn’t a game-changer like its predecessor, it certainly captured the true spirit of Citroen. Unveiled at the 1974 Paris Motor Show, the CX featured a futuristic and achingly cool dashboard, hydropneumatic suspension and a concave rear window.

A facelift was introduced in 1985, as showcased by this stunning GTI of 1989. Earlier, in 1975, the last Citroen DS had rolled off the production line: vehicle number 1,330,755.

The presidential cars: Citroen DS 21Conservatoire Citroen

Nothing can prepare you for the sheer scale of this thing. Designed by the Citroen style department, the DS 21 Presidentielle was built by Henri Chapron and was used by Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou.

Its dimensions are: 6.53m length, 2.13m width and 1.60m height. Oh, and it weighs 2,660kg. The gearbox is designed to maintain a speed of 6 to 7km/h for several hours.

The presidential cars: Citroen SMConservatoire Citroen

Unsurprisingly, the Citroen SM Presidentielle of 1972 is far more elegant and less imposing than the car it replaced. Once again, Henri Chapron was tasked with handling the build of two majestic presidential cars.

They were delivered in May 1972, just before Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Paris. Her Majesty was pictured in the back, travelling with Georges Pompidou.

The presidential cars: Citroen DS5Conservatoire Citroen

A classic case of ‘they don’t make ‘em like they used to’, this is the Citroen DS5 used by Francois Hollande in 2012.

Today, DS Automobiles has separated from the mother brand.

The concepts: Citroen Project LConservatoire Citroen

The Project L was the final Citroen designed by Robert Opron and was intended to be a replacement for the DS. It features what’s essentially an SM dashboard with a GS steering wheel, and Citroen called for enough space under the bonnet to house Maserati’s V6 engine.

The concepts: Citroen ActivaConservatoire Citroen

The Citroen Activa of 1988 featured four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer and active suspension, the latter of which would appear as the Hydractive system in the XM. The original Activa concept could also boast ABS brakes and traction control, both of which were considered to be high-tech at the time.

The concepts: Citroen EoleConservatoire Citroen

This is the Citroen CX-based Eole of 1986, which claimed a drag coefficient of just 0.19Cd, around half that of the CX. Note the covers over the wheels, which are linked to the car’s hydraulics to lift them clear when steering. The design was intended to showcase the estate car of the future.

The concepts: Citroen KarinConservatoire Citroen

The Karin of 1980 presented the idea of a three-seater, with the driver positioned centrally and ahead of the passengers, some 12 years ahead of the McLaren F1. It was designed by Trevor Fiore but never made it beyond the concept stage. Shame.

The crazy stuff: Citroen RE-2Conservatoire Citroen

Yes, Citroen really did build a helicopter. It was designed by Charles Marchetti and first took to the skies in 1971. It used an evolution of the rotary engine found in the Citroen GS Birotor, but flew a mere 38 hours before Peugeot pulled the plug on the project. The RE-2 was grounded.

The crazy stuff: Citroen U23Conservatoire Citroen

The Citroen U23 was produced between 1935 and 1969. This particular bus was built in 1947 by the Besset facility in Annonay, France. The 18/20-seater was found in Corsica in 2006 and subsequently restored to former glory.

The crazy stuff: Citroen 2CV 007Conservatoire Citroen

Remember the Citroen 2CV from the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only? It was powered by an engine from a GS and reinforced with a host of safety features, including a roll cage, reinforced plating and raised suspension. Legendary stunt driver Remy Julienne was the man behind the wheel.

The crazy stuff: Citroen Evo MobilConservatoire Citroen

Looks a little out of place in these surroundings, doesn’t it? Look again and you’ll see that it was inspired by the design and build of the Traction Avant. Clever, eh? French designer Ora-Ito used an icon of the past to present a vision of the future. Or something.

The racers: Citroen MEP X27Conservatoire Citroen

The X27 was the final development of the Citroen-Panhard racecar produced from 1964 to 1975. It competed in the final years of Formule Bleue, which ended in 1975.

The racers: Citroen BX 4TCConservatoire Citroen

The Citroen BX 4TC is one of the least successful rally cars of all-time, managing just three races before Group B was banned in 1986. The project was so disastrous, Citroen attempted to buy back all road-going versions in order to have them destroyed.

The racers: Citroen ZX Rallye RaidConservatoire Citroen

You’re unlikely to see more Citroen ZX Rallye Raid cars in one place. In the 1990s, these were formidable machines, taking no fewer than four Paris-Dakar victories and winning the World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for five consecutive years.

The hot hatches: Citroen ZX 16vConservatoire Citroen

The Citroen ZX 16v is an increasingly rare sight in Britain, with a mere seven registered as being on the road. Thanks to passive rear steering, it’s a genuine delight to drive on a B-road.

The hot hatches: Citroen AX SportConservatoire Citroen

The Citroen AX was a hugely successful car, with around 2.4 million cars produced over a 10-year period. The AX Sport was introduced in 1987 and was a prelude to the more familiar GT and GTI models.

The hot hatches: Citroen Visa GTIConservatoire Citroen

According to the DVLA, there are just five Citroen Visa GTIs on the roads of Britain. Which is a shame, because the Visa GTI is a genuinely good hot hatch, with powered sourced from the same 1.6-litre engine you’d find in the Peugeot 205 GTI. And quad headlights are cool, right?


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Richard Hammond Citroen Saxo VTS

Richard Hammond has bought a Citroen Saxo VTS – and we’re jealous

Richard Hammond Citroen Saxo VTS

If the current episode of The Grand Tour is anything to go by, Richard Hammond is about to nip out and steal a chainsaw… in a Citroen Saxo VTS.

According to Amazon Prime’s clever X-Ray feature – which provides extra information about what you’re watching on screen – Hammond loves the Saxo VTS so much that, after the show was filmed, he went out and bought one. The lucky so-and-so.

During ‘Conversation Street’, the presenters were charting the rapid fall in numbers of Citroen’s hot hatch, which had dropped from around 4,500 in 2008 to 491 when the episode was filmed. We’ve just checked the latest figures, and they show that the number on the road has now fallen to 464 –with 946 declared as off the road.

Fabulous, proper and fizzy

“By 2019 they’ll all have gone,” said the ‘Hamster’, which was enough to see him off to the classifieds in an attempt to save the “fabulous, proper, fizzy little hatchback” from extinction. Good man.

That he loves the Citroen Saxo VTS so much should come as no surprise. In his days as a presenter on Men & Motors, Hammond pitched the French tearaway against a Caterham Super 7 Sprint, before driving home in the Citroen.

Weirdly, in a different episode, former radio presenter and drag racer, Dave Lee Travis – aka the ‘Hairy Cornflake’ – proclaimed the Saxo VTS to be “the closest you can get to an old-school GTI”. High praise indeed.

Later, in 2008, Hammond named the Saxo VTS as one of the ‘best second-hand boy-racer bargains’, saying it’s “another belter from Les Francais. The Saxo VTS is virtually a cult car among the young and to see why, you only need to drive one.

“It looks cute, with reasonable performance and good handling.”

This isn’t the first time Richard Hammond has bought a Saxo VTS. In series 18 of Top Gear, he paid £550 for a 1999 model and went racing against Clarkson and May. Sadly, the car’s MOT expired in 2012, so we can only assume that it has gone to the great rallycross track in the sky.

The Price is right

The hot Saxo’s fall from grace is hardly surprising. The Saxo VTS, with its 120hp 1.6-litre 16v engine, developed a bit of an image problem: a kind of hot Nova for a new generation. Lads believed that a Saxo VTS and a pumping stereo was the key to getting a girl undressed.

Citroen didn’t help matters when it asked Katie Price, AKA Jordan, to perch on the bonnet of its four-wheeled bra remover.

Citroen Saxo VTS and Jordan

It meant that – for all of its qualities as a typically French hot hatch – polite, gentle folk stayed away from the Saxo VTS, allowing it to spiral into the abyss. On the flip-side, this means values are stupidly low, so you needn’t spend more than £1,000 to secure a good one.

Compare and contrast with the values of other French heroes – most notably the Peugeot 205 GTi, Renault 5 GT Turbo and Peugeot 106 Rallye – and the Saxo VTS looks a bit of a bargain. Prices won’t stay this low forever.

Take a leaf out of Hammond’s book: rescue a Citroen Saxo VTS today. You won’t regret it. Just don’t let a girl called Katie sit on the bonnet.

Citroen C3 review

Citroen C3 review: smile, it’s a French supermini

Citroen C3 review

This is the Citroen C3, reinvented. Gone is the dull and lacklustre current C3, replaced by something fresh and funky, which is part-supermini, part-crossover. A Citroen C3 SuperCross, if you like.

The French firm has a rich history of pushing boundaries, and while a set of Airbumps, chunky SUV-esque styling, a camera and a host of personalisation options might not elevate the C3 to the greatness bestowed upon the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS, it is – for now at least – in a league of its own.

Come next year, the Citroen C3 might be the car to be seen in, darling. The vanilla supermini is like so last year, honey.

Isn’t it just a fun-size C4 Cactus?

Similarities will be drawn with the Citroen C4 Cactus – you can thank the Airbumps for that – but there’s more to the C3 than a set of air-filled body panels.

It’s smaller, for a start, and if you don’t like the Airbumps – and we know a number of people who don’t – they’re not available on the entry-level Touch trim and only an option on the mid-spec Feel.

It looks a little naked without them, removing part of the C3’s unique character. Not a great idea if you’re looking to stand out. No, what you need are the Airbumps and the wheelarch extensions, the latter standard on Feel and Flair models.

About that styling: love it or hate it?


Come on, how could you not love the look of the new Citroen C3? This could be the best looking small or medium Citroen since Claudia Schiffer stripped off to help sell the Xsara Coupe. Unless we’re allowed to class the DS3 as a Citroen? Hashtag controversial.

The styling is just the right side of in-yer-face aggression, while the Airbumps are narrower than those found on the C4 Cactus and seem to suit the C3’s overall proportions.

Much will depend on how you spec your C3. With nine different body colours and three roof options, Citroen is offering a total of 36 ways to create your look, so there’s no excuse if you end up with the same C3 as the fella across the road.

A black roof is fitted as standard on Feel and Flair models, with white or red versions available as a free upgrade. In our view, you’d be mad not to experiment with a duotone look. Again, it’s part of the C3’s character.

Interior: like a C4 Cactus, but better

If you like the interior in the C4 Cactus, you’ll love the C3’s minimalist cabin. But if you weren’t a fan of the lounge-style vibe, there’s every reason to take a second glance. It’s a familiar look, but Citroen has ironed out many of the niggles associated with the Cactus.

The rear windows open: they don’t simply pop out. The rear seat splits 60:40. There’s more than one cupholder (and each one is useful). And the infotainment screen is a touch more intuitive, although it still lags behind some of the best systems on the market.

It all adds up to one of the best cabins in the sector and proves that you don’t need to go premium in order for something to feel good.

Citroen has worked hard to ensure the touchpoints feel special, while neat touches, such as the details on the air vents and the reverse Airbumps make it easier to forgive the low-rent plastics found elsewhere in the cabin.

The wide seats are comfortable and far more supportive than they look, while the top-spec Flair trim adds a leather steering wheel and leather gearknob to the mix.

The exterior is customisable, what about the interior?


Good news: Citroen is offering three so-called ‘interior ambiances’, including the standard, but oh-so boring Grey Mica Cloth.

Far better to opt for the manly Urban Red or coffee-shop-friendly Hype Colorado. In both cases, the dashboard, door cards and seats are enhanced, while Hype Colorado adds a two-tone steering wheel. The names are daft, but the results are good.

Sadly, Citroen UK isn’t planning to offer Metropolitan Grey Ambiance, a blend of grey fabric and yellow stitching, which is far more appealing than it sounds. It’s just a hunch, but we think it could be a big seller in the UK.

Enough about the style, what about the tech?

Now you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin. Aware that, to many buyers, in-car tech is about as important as how the car drives, Citroen has loaded the C3 with useful kit, much of which is standard.

Even the entry-level C3 Touch gets hill-start assist, a lane-departure warning system, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, coffee-break alert and a speed recognition system. But the real value lies in the mid-spec Feel trim.

This adds a 7-inch colour touchscreen, LED daytime running lights, automatic air conditioning, steering column controls, front and rear electric windows, and mirror screen with Apple CarPlay.

Wait, isn’t the C3 supposed to feature a camera?


That’ll be the ConnectedCAM: what Citroen is calling a “world first”. Standard on the C3 Flair and optional on the Feel, ConnectedCAM is an integrated full HD camera with a wide 120º view of the road ahead.

Simply press a button behind the rear-view mirror and the camera records what you see, either as a photo or a single minute of video footage. Used in conjunction with a free app, ConnectedCAM will share your memories on social media.

You need to remember to deselect the ‘auto share’ box, something we discovered having taken half a dozen terrible shots of the airport car park and approach roads, which were shared on Twitter along with the tweet “Enjoying my drive”.

Regardless of our lack of social media skills, the ConnectedCAM is a neat touch – perfect for boring your friends with memories of your favourite road trips or random things you see on the side of the road. You know, like killer clowns, gorillas or genuinely intelligent candidates from the current series of The Apprentice.

ConnectedCAM also works like a dashcam in the event of an accident, automatically saving video footage from 30 seconds before and 60 seconds afterwards. We suspect other carmakers will follow suit with their own versions of Citroen’s system.

So far, so good, but how does the C3 drive?

It’s a sign of the times that we’ve managed to get this far without mentioning the C3’s dynamics. Two reasons for this. Firstly, the majority of C3 buyers will be more interested in style and technology than ride and handling. Secondly, it’s not the sharpest supermini in the sector.

If you prefer driving to taking photos on the move, the Ford Fiesta remains the supermini of choice, but that’s not to say the Citroen C3 is without appeal. In fact, the C3 feels refreshingly French.

Which means you can expect a barrel-load of body roll when cornering hard, along with a tendency for the C3 to feel slightly unsettled over uneven road surfaces. On the flipside, the ride quality is soft and cosseting, putting us in mind of large Citroens of old.

The five-speed manual gearbox also has a whiff of Gitanes and an air of yellow headlights about it, with a very long throw but surprisingly satisfying shift action. Did we mention the C3 feels decidedly French?

Citroen C3: best left in the city?


There are five engines to choose from: three 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrols and a pair of 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesels. The roads in and around Barcelona were either drenched or filled with traffic, but we were able to test the mid-range PureTech with 82hp and the higher-powered PureTech with 110hp.

In both flavours you’ll experience the familiar three-cylinder thrum and while there’s a little vibration transmitted through the pedals, it never becomes an issue. Indeed, the gearing is such that the peppy 1.2-litre engine is crying out to be taken to the redline. Peak power sits at between 5,550 and 5,750rpm, depending on the output.

It does feel a little out of its depth on a motorway, and on more than one occasion we reached for a sixth gear that wasn’t there. But given the nature of a supermini, it’s easy to forgive a little engine and road noise.

Less forgivable is the fact that the smaller of the two engines had a tendency to stutter at higher speeds: an occasional ‘hiccup’, as though the engine had cut out. We’d put it down to a quirk of our test car, had it not been for the fact that another journalist experienced similar issues.

Will the C3 be easy to live with?

This all depends on what you intend to do with it. Up front, the C3 is extremely well packaged, feeling every inch the minimalist lounge Citroen intended it to be.

It also offers 300 litres of boot space, which is 10 litres more than the Ford Fiesta, but 30 litres down on the Skoda Fabia. But it’s in the back seats where things start to go awry. Taller passengers may wish to explore alternative options. Yes, even a trip via Southern Rail.

Rear headroom is extremely limited, especially if you opt for the panoramic roof – a £400 option on the C3 Flair. But if your head and neck are suffering, spare a thought for your knees and legs, because legroom is also rather cramped.

Still, at least you can poke your head out of the window, which is something you can’t do in the C4 Cactus. While on the subject of practicality, the C3 offers a number of useful storage areas, including large door pockets and three cupholders.

Can I afford a new Citroen C3?


The Ford Fiesta has recently gone all expensive, with a starting price of £13,545, while the Skoda Fabia kicks off at £10,750. As for the C3, the £10,995 for the C3 Touch is a bit misleading, because you’ll almost certainly want to upgrade to the Feel, for which prices start at £13,045.

The best value would appear to be the PureTech 110 Feel at £14,945, while the PureTech 82 Flair at £14,795 is tempting if you’re after all the toys and don’t intend to venture too far from the city.

CO2 emissions range from 92g/km for the BlueHDi 75 to 109g/km for the PureTech 82. As you’d expect, the diesel engines offer the best economy, with figures of 76.3mpg to 80.7mpg, although 60.1mpg to 61.4mpg for the petrol engines isn’t too shabby.

Should I buy a new Citroen C3?

The Citroen C3 is dripping in showroom appeal. It looks great, is blessed with a brilliant interior – in the front, at least – while the ConnectedCAM ensures it offers something new in a fiercely competitive and crowded sector.

But strip away the fancy duotone paint jobs and novelty factor of the HD camera, and you’re left with a supermini you’ll have to live with for three years plus. So, should you buy a Citroen C3?

Put it this way: we sincerely hope you do. The world needs more Almond Green, Cobalt Blue and Power Orange superminis, while the C3 is further proof that Citroen is following the right path. A future focused on comfort and technology feels very Citroen to us.

It’s not perfect: the lack of space in the rear is a big issue, we remain to be convinced that sticking all the controls on a touchscreen is a good idea, and the driving experience won’t suit everyone.

Rationally, it’s arguably a three-star supermini. But emotionally, it’s elevated to four stars, because it’s an easy car to love. Come January 2017, we hope the C3 becomes a familiar sight on Britain’s roads. You know what to do.

This is how Peugeot Citroen calculates real-world fuel economy

This is how Peugeot Citroen calculates real-world fuel economy

This is how Peugeot Citroen calculates real-world fuel economy

PSA Peugeot Citroen has revealed the exact methods it uses to calculate real-world fuel economy figures across its range.

The company announced real-world figures for 30 cars across its range earlier in the year, and has said it plans to reveal 20 more by the end of the year.

It’s part of a move to appear more transparent, with PSA being one of a number of manufacturers blaming the official NEDC fuel economy test for generating unachievable MPG figures.

Why is the official NEDC test to blame for unachievable fuel economy figures?

The New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) fuel economy test is used to calculate official MPG and CO2 figures for all new cars on sale in Europe.

The test is split into two sections: urban and extra-urban cycles. The first test, the urban cycle, covers a stop/start journey of 2.5 miles at an average speed of 12mph, intended to be representative of driving through a congested town or city. The car starts off cold and touches a maximum top speed of 31mph.

After this test, the now warmed-up car is put through the extra-urban cycle. This covers a distance of 4.3 miles at an average speed of 39mph.

This is how Peugeot Citroen calculates real-world fuel economy

The CO2 and fuel economy results for each cycle are then combined to provide the official CO2 and fuel economy figures quoted by manufacturers.

However, the official test has been criticised by consumers and car manufacturers alike. Carried out on a rolling road, it’s not influenced by real-life conditions such as other traffic, weather conditions and driving styles.

Developed before hybrid and electric vehicles were commonplace, it also produces extremely unrealistic fuel economy and CO2 figures for cars such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. As the test takes place when the plug-in hybrid Outlander is freshly charged, it covers most of it under electric power, hence the Outlander’s official 156.9mpg. When the Outlander’s short electric-only range runs out, its real-life fuel economy will be much lower than this figure.

So what’s Peugeot Citroen doing about it?

PSA Peugeot Citroen has announced that, along with the official NEDC tests (a European requirement), it will conduct real-world fuel economy tests across its range, and publish its findings.

To carry out the tests, the car manufacturer is working with environmental organisation Transport & Environment. It tests cars in real-world conditions, stipulating that ambient temperatures must be ‘normal’ (not too hot or too cold), while a set route should be followed.

During the test, 22.8km (14.2 miles and 24.7% of the total distance) must take place in urban areas; 39.6km (24.6 miles and 42.9% of the total distance) on rural roads; and 29.9km (18.6 miles and 32.4% of the total distance) on motorways.

This is how Peugeot Citroen calculates real-world fuel economy

Tyres must be inflated to ‘normal’ pressures and the driver should ideally not be a trained driver. The car should be driven exactly as a customer would, with all speed limits adhered to and typical acceleration for the type of car.

The test also requires at least one passenger being carried in the car, with the climate control being set to 21°C.

Transport & Environment’s clean vehicles director, Greg Archer, said: “The real-world test developed with PSA Group provides full transparency towards customers and more representative information to drivers than the new laboratory test, helping them choose the most fuel-efficient cars. This scientific approach is robust, reproducible and reliable in measuring real carbon emissions.

“We urge the European Commission and all carmakers to use this test for regulatory and advertising purposes,” he added.

What are the results of PSA’s real world tests?

So far, 30 Peugeot Citroen models have completed the test, with most averaging around 20mpg below the official NEDC figure. Here’s an example of models tested, with another 20 set to be announced before the end of 2016.

CarReal MPGNEDC MPGDifference
Peugeot 108 1.2 PureTech 8246.3065.6919.39
Peugeot 308 1.6 BlueHDi 12057.6588.2830.63
Peugeot 508 2.0 BlueHDi 18044.8470.6225.78
Citroen C3 Picasso BlueHDi 10049.5674.3424.78
Citroen C4 Cactus PureTech 11046.3165.6919.38
DS4 PureTech 11052.3174.3422.03
Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Celebrating Citroen at its innovative bestThe Citroen Type A of 1919 was Europe’s first mass-produced car and the brainchild of the obsessive innovator Andre Citroen. The French company went on to build some of the 20th century’s most iconic and important vehicles, including the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS. As Citroen prepares to launch the new C3, we take a look back at some of its greatest hits.

Citroen DSCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Arguably the greatest Citroen ever made and certainly the most iconic: the DS was a technical tour de force when it was launched in 1955. It featured hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension and hydraulic brakes, steering and transmission, and was the first mass-production car to offer disc brakes. Little wonder that Citroen received 12,000 orders on the first day of the Paris Motor Show. Over 20 years the ‘Goddess’ continued to evolve, cementing itself as one of the most important cars of the 20th century.

Citroen 2CVCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

From a ‘Goddess’ to a ‘Tin Snail’, the 2CV couldn’t be more different to the DS. But don’t let the rudimentary appearance fool you, because the 2CV was no less innovative than its illustrious cousin. Launched in 1948, but developed before World War 2, the 2CV was designed to provide cheap and reliable transport for an entire nation. At its heart was a trick suspension set-up, an air-cooled engine and a raised ride height, which famously meant that you could carry eggs across a ploughed field without breaking them.

Citroen SMCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The Citroen SM was a victim of circumstances beyond its control, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be labelled as one of Citroen’s true greats. Think of the SM as a sporting version of the DS, offering a hydropneumatic suspension, powered brakes and self-levelling headlights, yet powered by a Maserati V6 engine. In terms of cross-continental performance it was almost without peers, but the fuel crisis and Peugeot’s takeover of Citroen led to its premature demise.

Citroen Traction AvantCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The Traction Avant – introduced in 1934 – is accepted as the godfather of the modern family car. This was the first mass-produced car to feature front-wheel drive, an automatic transmission, independent front and rear suspension, hydraulic brakes and a monocoque chassis. Andre Citroen, the company’s founder, was an obsessive innovator, and the Traction Avant was a reflection of his genius.

Citroen GSCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

So often overlooked, the Citroen GS is one of the most important cars in the firm’s brilliant history. Amazingly, it was launched a mere six months after the SM, making this a golden era for Citroen. The GS brought all-round powered disc brakes and hydropneumatic suspension to the family man; indeed, this was the smallest car to feature hydraulic suspension. In 1971, the GS deservedly scooped the European Car of the Year award, beating the Range Rover, Volkswagen K70 and Citroen SM. Nearly 1.9 million GS/GSA models were built between 1970 and 1986.

Citroen Type ACelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The Type A of 1919 represents the very genesis of Citroen – Europe’s first mass-produced car and, unlike other cars of the era, delivered ready for the road. It was also the first French car to feature a driver’s seat on the left-hand side, setting a trend that other manufacturers would follow. Features included fabric upholstery, cushions, spring-loaded seatbacks and interior lights.

Citroen MehariCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The French Mini Moke? Perhaps, but unlike the Moke, the Citroen Mehari was a runaway success, with a production life spanning two decades. It was a replacement for the four-wheel-drive 2CV Sahara and based on the chassis of the Dyane 6. Launched in 1968, a 4×4 version wouldn’t arrive until 1980, by which time the Mehari had established itself as crossover before the crossover was a thing. Useful as a recreational car and a utility truck, the Mehari featured an Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) body that could be spray-washed inside and out, and wouldn’t rust.

Citroen C4 CactusCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The C4 Cactus, launched in 2014, was a sign that Citroen had rediscovered its mojo. The Airbumps – available in four different colours – ensured the Cactus stood out in a fiercely competitive sector, while protecting the body from car park scrapes and dents. Other features include the roof-mounted passenger airbag and Magic Wash system, with wiper-mounted washer jets. Best served with a petrol engine, which seems to suit the Cactus’ lightness and joie de vivre.

Citroen CXCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

How do you follow an icon like the Citroen DS? The CX of 1974 had the unenviable task of replacing the ‘Goddess’ and is considered by many to be the last true Citroen. Vari-Power steering was available as standard from 1975, with the C-Matic semi-automatic transmission also introduced as an option. With a top speed of 137mph, the CX-25 GTi Turbo-2 was the fastest French car of its day, while the Safari (estate) and eight-seat Familiale were the ultimate family cars.

Citroen XMCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The CX was replaced in 1989 by the Citroen XM – the company’s first luxury hatchback. Its standout feature was the new computer-controlled Hydractive suspension, although early cars were dogged with electrical issues that dented the XM’s reputation. Note the so-called ‘13th window’ between the cabin and the boot, designed to protect passengers from the wind when the tailgate was open.

Citroen M35Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

In 1969, Citroen toyed with the idea of using a rotary engine to power its cars. The result was the Ami 8-based M35, of which 267 were built and given to high-mileage customers. Each car was individually numbered, as can be seen on the front wing of this original press photo. The project ended with Citroen giving owners the option to keep the car, although any that were returned were destroyed. It was left to NSU and Mazda to persevere with the Wankel rotary engine.

Citroen ZX VolcaneCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

It might upset the purists, but the ZX was an important car for Citroen. Here was a family car with mass market appeal, good enough to convince over 2.1 million people to part with their cash. It also spawned the ZX Volcane turbodiesel, which could claim to be the world’s first diesel hot hatch. Oh, and if you want innovation, consider the passive rear-steer axle and the sliding rear seat.

Citroen Xantia ActivaCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Launched in 1996 – three years after the arrival of the Xantia – the amazing Xantia Activa established itself as the flagship of the range. It featured an active anti-roll system that was able to detect lateral inclination and immediately firm up the suspension, eliminating body lean. Not only could the Xantia Activa corner with remarkable poise, it also offered outstanding ride quality.

Citroen B2/NormandeCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The B2 was Citroen’s second car and built between 1921 and 1926. The Normande – derived from the B2 pictured – was France’s first real utility vehicle, while Andre Citroen also developed a half-track version, which was the first vehicle of its kind to cross the Sahara Desert.

Citroen H VanCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Many people will have encountered a Citroen H Van without even knowing it, as a larger number have been converted into trendy takeaways for use at festivals or in city centres. Launched in 1948, the H Van featured a cab-forward design, backbone-type frame in corrugated steel and front-wheel drive. It remained in production until 1981, by which time 473,289 had been built.

Citroen AXCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

On the face of it, the AX might not seem that radical and innovative, but Citroen went to great lengths to ensure its first genuine supermini hit the ground running. Superb aerodynamics and lightweight construction ensured the AX cost pennies to run, which is why some 2.5 million were produced. The AX GT is regarded as one of the definitive hot hatches of the era.

Citroen C3 PlurielCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Proof that not everything Citroen touches turns to gold. Based on the Pluriel Concept of 1999, the C3 Pluriel was designed to be four cars in one: supermini, cabriolet, spider and pick-up. There were one or two problems, including the fact that there was nowhere to store the bits of roof when they weren’t in use. Also, in pick-up mode, the number plate was no longer on show, making it illegal to drive in the UK. The C3 Pluriel: good in theory, not so great in practice.

Citroen C6 (original)Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The C6 of 1928 was the first Citroen to be powered by a six-cylinder engine and designed to appeal to more affluent motorists. To this end it was more lavishly equipped than the C4, while the C6G MFP adopted ‘Floating Power’, using an engine secured with rubber mounts, instead of being bolted to the chassis. It used a Chrysler patent and helped to eliminate engine vibrations.

Citroen C6Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The C6 of 2005 was the spiritual successor to the C6 of the 1920s and, as you’d expect, it was loaded with gadgets. It featured the Hydractive III suspension system, first seen on the Mk1 Citroen C5, while other options included directional xenon headlights, semi-reclining rear seats, lane departure warning, voice control and a head up display. Other features included frameless doors, a concave rear window and an air deflector that deployed at speed.

Citroen Berlingo MultispaceCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Citroen’s unsung hero, the Berlingo Multispace was genuinely innovative. Here was a van-based compact MPV that offered flexibility and versatility in abundance, whilst offering space for five adults and their luggage. Options included a full-length electric sunroof, while the huge tailgate and low floor made it ideal for carrying bikes or incredibly large dogs. Citroen claims to have invented the ‘leisure activity vehicle’ with the first generation Berlingo.

Citroen C5Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Citroen entered the new millennium with the C5 – a replacement for the Xantia. The new car featured Hydractive III, the latest version of Citroen’s self-levelling suspension, which went one step further than before by being able to adjust the ride height according to speed and the condition of the road.

Citroen BXCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The BX was a game-changer for Citroen, enabling the company to establish a firm foothold in the lucrative fleet and company car sectors. The diesel versions in particular became firm favourites, while sporting, estate and 4×4 models ensured there was a BX for all. Over 2.3 million cars were produced between 1982 and 1994.

Citroen e-MehariCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

A Citroen Mehari for a new generation – where do we sign? Sadly, the e-Mehari is unlikely to be sold in the UK, but this is one car to hunt down at the holiday rental desk. This is a four-seat electric vehicle offering a top speed of 70mph and a range of 125 miles. We want one.

Citroen DyaneCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Robert Opron and Jacques Charreton were asked to revamp the 2CV, conserve its qualities, dress it in a new body and add a few more luxuries. The result was the Dyane – a car with a large tailgate and a full-length canvas roof. Though it was designed to replace the 2CV, the Dyane was pulled from production in 1983, by which time an impressive 1.4 million units had rolled out of the factory. Meanwhile, the 2CV soldiered on until 1990.

Citroen VisaCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

By Citroen’s standards, the Visa was relatively conventional, but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find some interesting features. Take the integrated energy-absorbing polypropylene grille and bumpers of the original car – something that led to it being christened ‘pig snout’. The single wiper and ‘satellite’ control unit were also innovative features for the time. The Visa II was a more conservative affair, although the car did live on in the form of the C15 van.

Citroen DS3Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The DS3 was an important car for Citroen, representing the first step on a journey that would lead to the creation of DS Automobiles and a divorce from the mothership. Back in 2010 we were still permitted to call the DS3 a Citroen, and it was a terrific car. Not only did it look good, buyers could choose from a huge range of personalisation options.

Citroen Ami 6Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

Launched in 1961, the Ami 6 was designed to fill a gap between the ID19 and the 2CV. The most striking feature was the inverted rear window – the first time Citroen had adopted this design. The Ami 6 was the first car to be fitted with rectangular headlights. An estate version looked more conventional, and therefore sold in good numbers, before Citroen replaced the 6 with the Ami 8.

Citroen BijouCelebrating Citroen at its innovative best

When Citroen is compiling a list of its greatest hits, the Bijou is unlikely to get a mention. Indeed, the 2CV-based oddity might be filed under ‘Now That’s What I Call Weird’. Designed and built in Britain (the only Citroen to be designed outside France), the Bijou was created for the Commonwealth. Anglicising the 2CV was not Citroen’s best move, especially as the Bijou turned out to be heavier and slower than the Tin Snail. Oh dear.

Citroen C4Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

The Citroen C4 is perhaps best remembered for its fixed hub steering wheel, with the major buttons used to control the main display staying fixed, even when turning the wheel. The C4 introduced lane-departure warning, while buyers could also take advantage of a scented air freshener.

Citroen C3Celebrating Citroen at its innovative best

All of which brings us right up-to-date with the all-new Citroen C3. The supermini will introduce ConnectedCAM – a fully integrated camera, located behind the rear-view mirror, to capture images and videos that can be shared via social media. Note the Airbumps, first seen on the C4 Cactus. Will the C3 be able to take its place as one of Citroen’s most innovative cars? We’ll find out in the autumn.

Citroen C4 Cactus Feel BlueHDi 100 (2016) road test review


The Citroen C4 Cactus has been around long enough to be considered part of the UK furniture, but it’s showing little sign of blending in.

It’s all about the Airbumps, which – much like that famous spread – you’ll either love or hate. We’re testing the super-frugal BlueHDi 100 diesel, in mid-spec Feel trim, along with the optional Airdream Pack.

What are its rivals?


The Cactus is one of those annoying cars that doesn’t slot into an established segment. The C4 part of the name is a red herring, because it’s actually based on the smaller Citroen C3, although it does have the same wheelbase as the C4.

Having spent some considerable time with the Cactus, we’d conclude that its rivals include the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Dacia Duster and Peugeot 2008. In all cases, they offer something different to a standard supermini. And there’s a definite sense that you’re getting a little extra for your money.

Which engines does it use?


The C4 Cactus is offered with a choice of PureTech three-cylinder engines and BlueHDi diesels. On test here is the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100, developing 98hp at 3,750pm and 187lb ft of torque at 1,750rpm. Top speed is a claimed 114mph and the 0-62 time is a leisurely 10.7 seconds.

With figures like that, you wouldn’t expect the Cactus to offer whippet-like performance, so keep that in mind, because Mr Bump is no greyhound. Rapid progress requires patience and many shifts through the five-speed gearbox. It can also be a tad noisy, especially when worked hard.

What’s it like to drive?


Different, it’s definitely different. Remove the badge from the flat-bottomed steering wheel and you’d still know you were driving a Citroen. Purists will bemoan the absence of Citroen’s legendary hydropneumatic suspension, but the Cactus still manages to offer better ride quality than the vast majority of cars on the market, especially at this price point.

Crucially, this Cactus Feel is equipped with the eco Airdream Pack, a no-cost option that exchanges alloys for 15-inch steel wheels and hubcaps. We’re convinced this provides a superior ride quality, even compared to the rest of the Cactus range. You’ll also experience a fair amount of lean when cornering, not too dissimilar to famous Citroens of old, but the Cactus will grip until the Charolais cattle come home. Well, at least until the tyres start screaming for mercy, at which point you’ll back off.

In the Cactus, everything just seems to gel. The steering is lacking in feel, but its lightness only serves to add to the experience. Shifting through the gears is similarly vague, but you soon learn to live with it, or indeed love it. Overall, it feels playful. If you’re after precision, look elsewhere, but it’s you who will be missing out.

Fuel economy and running costs


The mid-spec Feel trim level comes with 16-inch alloy wheels as standard and, when powered by the BlueHDi engine, offers 83.1mpg and 90g/km CO2. However, tick the box marked ‘Airdream Pack’ and the economy rises to a remarkable 91.1mpg, with the CO2 dropping to 82g/km. Sure, you’ll have to live with 15-inch wheels, but there’s something wonderfully French about that.

Crucially, the 15-inch wheels are standard on the entry-level Cactus Pure, but this is a petrol-only trim level. We’d thoroughly recommend the Airdream Pack, as the tasteful wheel trims do not give the appearance of a poverty-spec motor. A word of warning, though: even with the Airdream Pack, we’re only seeing between 55 and 60mpg – quite a way short of the official figures.

Is it practical?


Forget the Airbump panels for a moment, which we admit is quite tricky, and the standout feature of the Cactus is the interior. This is an area where Citroen has had to keep costs to a minimum, but somehow it still feels like a special place. The touch points feel like quality items, and by placing the passenger airbag in the roof, Citroen has been able to include a huge luggage-inspired glovebox.

The door bins are large enough to carry a big bottle of water, while the shelf immediately in front of the USB port can just about stretch to an iPhone 6 Plus. But it’s not all good news, as the back-seat passengers might not appreciate the pop-out rear windows. And while 358 litres of boot space is adequate for this sector, the lack of a split-fold rear seat is an oversight. Fortunately, some newer models are being delivered with a family-friendly 60:40 split.

What about safety?


The Citroen C4 Cactus received a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating, scoring well across the board, but marked down – perhaps predictability for a budget-conscious car – for its safety technology.

Hill-start assist is standard across the range, as is emergency brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring, LED daytime running lights and two ISOFIX points in the rear. Oh, and those Airbumps are designed to protect your Cactus from nasty car park scrapes and dents. This Citroen laughs in the face of runaway shopping trolleys.

Which version should I go for?


Prices may start at a headline-grabbing £12,990, but the entry-level Cactus Touch does without air conditioning, Bluetooth and a rear parcel shelf. You’ll also discover you’re limited in terms of options, leaving you with little choice but to upgrade to Feel or Flair trim.

Unless you really need an automatic, we’d avoid the ETG transmission, which is a shame as we really like the idea of a full-width sofa-style front seat. The BlueHDi diesel engine is perfectly suited for those who cover long distances, but the PureTech petrol is perhaps more in keeping with the joie de vivre of the Cactus.

Should I buy one?


Oh, absolutely. The C4 Cactus divides opinion, but our experience suggests there’s more love than there is hate for ‘that funny looking car with the bumps on the side’. With some must-have options, the price edges a little too close to £20,000, but you’re unlikely to feel short-changed.

You can even have some fun choosing between the various colours, such as Hello Yellow, Deep Purple and Jelly Red. Even the Airbumps come in three different colours: Stone Grey, Dune and Chocolate. It’s not as customisable as a DS 3, but there’s enough on offer to make the Cactus your own.

Pub fact


The Citroen C4 Cactus features Magic Wash, in which the windscreen washer nozzles are moved from the bonnet and built into the wiper blades. By using exactly the right amount of screen wash, Citroen claims it uses 50% less fluid than a conventional system. We’ve had plenty of time to test it and can confirm it works very well.

2016 DS3 revealed - it's no longer a Citroen!

New DS3 revealed – it’s no longer a Citroen!

2016 DS3 revealed - it's no longer a Citroen!

Citroen’s now stand-alone offshoot DS Automobiles has revealed its new DS3 supermini at an event in Paris.

It’s an important car for the premium brand as, when sold by Citroen, the DS3 was by far its biggest seller – especially in the UK, where more were sold than in France or any other market.

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Since its launch in 2010, 390,000 DS3 hatch and cabrio models have been sold worldwide.

This new model is based on the same underpinnings as its predecessor, but has been blinged-up in a bid to take it further upmarket with the DS brand.

It now features the trademark DS grille (note the absence of any Citroen chevrons), along with ‘DS wings’ running around the grille and below the headlights.

The big news for hot hatch fans is the introduction of a new ‘Performance’ model, powered by a 208hp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, emitting 125g/km CO2. Performance figures are yet to be confirmed – but expect them to be similar to the previous limited edition DS3 Racing, which sported a £23,100 price tag and could hit 62mph in 6.5 seconds.

2016 DS3 revealed - it's no longer a Citroen!

The Performance trim will come with a six-speed manual gearbox, as well as a Torsen limited slip diff. It’s been lowered, too – by 15mm, and its front and rear tracks have been widened. Larger brakes are fitted as standard (with Brembo calipers) and it’s available in four colours – and with special Performance graphics.

Other engines have been carried over from the previous model – ranging from a 1.2-litre 81hp three-cylinder petrol, to a 120hp BlueHDi diesel. For the first time, buyers can opt for a 130hp three-cylinder petrol, emitting 105g/km CO2 and returning a combined MPG figure of 62.8.

Inside will be familiar to anyone who’s driven the outgoing DS3, but with a new infotainment system to appeal to a young target market. It comprises a seven-inch touchscreen (replacing 20 buttons from its previously cluttered dash), including Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink connectivity.

Prices for the new DS3 are yet to be confirmed, but expect a small increase over the outgoing model – which currently starts at £13,295. The new range will arrive in dealerships from February, when prices will also be announced.

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