Used Car Reviews – Getting to Know the Citroën BX

My adventures in the world of French cars continue. Citroëns in particular occupy a certain section of my brain that seems to be on a very special diet of bloodflow; despite their possible shortcomings and idiosyncracies, a Citroën will always catch my eye and tempt me closer. In a way, this article is a song to the siren. The rest of my brain says no, no no and suggests I should be tied to the helm of the good ship Sapporo – and that one glob of brain matter keeps on pulsating and guiding me towards the angular, utilitarian Cit.

So, when there’s a very reasonably priced and reasonably maintained example quite close by, why not take a closer look?

The BX in question sees very little use. For sale in the next town, it’s spent about a year parked on a sheet of protective plastic, only being driven to inspection and back. The seller says he had the timing belt changed some time ago due to replacing the water pump, and the hydraulic suspension system has had a rubber pipe fixed due to the car spewing its LHM fluids around the parking lot in front of a tentative buyer. The white Citroën, then, had sat the whole winter under varying amounts of snow, and the elements were against it when I walked there to see it.

The bastard sensed its chance and started first try.

It carpe’d the hell out of the diem and cranked to life with the slightest puttering, settling down to an idle that had an agricultural quality at first – perhaps the influence of the field next to it – but improving slightly after that. I’m told the XU engines never idle prettily, and a car that had sat the winter (with the moss traces to prove it) didn’t attempt to be anything it wasn’t. Still, there wasn’t any moisture damage to the interior, which is a testament to the sunroof seals. Yeah, the car actually has a factory sunroof, a rare thing over here.

And as I opened the plastic hood and peered at the little 1.6-litre engine, the car lifted up on its heels to operating height and stayed there. I was impressed, so much so that I asked to take the car for a spin around the block. With the grace of a recently-awakened coma patient, the Citroën was eased out of its sleeping place and reversed from the backyard.

It must be said the outward visibility is excellent, as I had no trouble manouevring a car I had never previously driven, from tight confines into which it had been stored months earlier, in a backyard that was not arranged with car storage in mind. I even managed not to scrape either the building or the Volvo 144 next to it. The steering column, however, made a chafing sound that I hoped would be fixed with liberal applying of WD40.

With the Citroën enjoying a more wide, open space around it, I could inspect its condition more thoroughly. And despite it being as close to rust-free as a 21-year-old French car can be (the seller made a big deal of the galvanised body), there are some areas that need attention.

The most noteworthy issue, and one that might have to be addressed before the next inspection that is due in July, is the busted taillight. Something has reversed into the Citroen, leaving a large dent into the rear quarter. That can probably be beaten back into shape, and the green paint that’s in the wound will polish off, but it’s still up to somebody to find a new taillight. The seller claimed he had had the car inspected last time with a piece of plastic over the blinker, but that takes some balls.

Somebody’s also sprayed the fender corners with white paint, as there’s been some chipping. No masking has resulted in overspray.

The sunroof seal/trim also has a bit of bubbling under it.

That’s pretty much the extent of rust on the car, even the rockers are rock hard. I’m being terribly detailed when inspecting a cheap backyard find, aren’t I?

There’s a crack in the windshield, but that too was apparently fine for the inspector engineer. The solitary wiper blade, on the other hand, was well and truly tired.

Inside, things were looking good with 230 000 km having barely left wear on the seat cloth.

I do have a thing for cars with a one-spoke steering wheel.

Piloting the car around the parking lot, I chuckled at the brake feel; there’s two centimetres of travel and then the car pulls to a halt. It would probably take a while for the car to loosen up and feel more natural, while it would take a similar time for me to get used to the car’s feel; it would also probably be a good idea to take the car for a longer spin to actually determine whether it was any good. As it stood, I could merely testify that it was in working, running order, but actual running-it-through-its-paces would have to wait.

So, we arrive to the inevitable conclusion. Kicking the tires will not tell me how it would feel to own a BX; it only showed me a few curious details and a number of strengths – like an unnatural resistance to rust especially for a French car and an incredible ability to start, run and drive like a Japanese car would after being left to sit like a Japanese car would. All this on a car that couldn’t be further removed from a Japanese econobox, especially when you consider the suspension consists of four green spheres and some ingenious piping.

The seller is asking for 600; I would offer 400 and as the seller’s already had it fail to sell for 500, it would probably come home for close to 400. Is that what you’d pay for a distinctive, mostly plastic runaround with a sunroof and a complete disdain to potholes? There’s even a chance it would pass the next inspection with just the taillight replacement, and the price for that can be anything between 50 eur and a firm handshake. The jury’s out…


[Images: Copyright 2012 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]

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