NO ONE at Citroen will deny that the venerable Deux
Chevaux and its closely related companion, the Dyane Six, look like the
primeval links to the GSs and the CXs in their current range. Early
last year Citroen launched the two Visas — cars to bridge the
generation (and capacity) gap.
The Club uses an updated 652 c.c. version of the 2CV's
air-cooled horizontally opposed twin-cylinder engine. The Visa Super on
the other hand, makes use of Peugeot's 1,124 c.c. conventional
four-cylinder water-cooled unit to bridge that capacity gap. To all
other intents and purposes, the two cars are virtually identical, save
for the Super's marginally less basic level of trim. The
four-door hatchback body has sufficient traits to make it
instantly recognisable as one of the new Citroen family, and certainly
unlike any other small engined hatchback
in existence. From the front, the most striking characteristic is the
massive thermoplastic bumper which surrounds the radiator grille which,
combined with the
side rubbing strips on the Visa Super's doors, gives the little car
more than a passing resemblance to a bumper car.
four-cylinder 1,124 c.c. unit is transversely
mounted, with a sharp rearwards rake of 72 degrees. It is very slightly
undersquare with bore and stroke dimensions of 72 X 69 mm; compression
ratio is 9.2 to 1 and the single overhead camshaft is chain driven.
Carburation is by a small Solex twin choke 32 PBSIA 7 unit. Poweroutput
is a rather modest 57 bhp at 6,250 rpm, and maximum torque of 59 lb.
ft. is achieved at 3,000 rpm.
The horsepower and torque outputs hardly translate to
astonishing performance, but they
do make the Super a far more attractive proposition to drive than the
Club (36 bhp at 5,500 rpm, 38 lb. ft. at 3,500 rpm), which makes
overtaking at any speed a science requiring split second timing and a
long, long road. Just to give you anidea of the difference, the Club
ambles up to 60 mph in 27.9sec, while the Super can make it in 15.1sec;
and the Club has to strain to rise to 70 mph, while
the Super has an extra 19 mph in hand. Any further comparisons between
these outwardly similar cars would be unfair, since the engines are so
dissimilar. The point is that the Super has a sufficient turn of
performance to make the car delightful to drive in town traffic.
If need be, it can be first away from the traffic lights
to avoid a traffic bottle neck of say, three lanes into two. and the
engine has a sufficiently broad band of power to enable slow moving
cars to be overtaken with a minimum of fuss.
Equally, it is capable of being hammered along the
motorway or Autoroute in the manner that the French reserve for their
smallest cars without fear of repercussions — the relatively high top
gear giving 17.3 mph/1,000 rpm, meaning that 70 mph has the engine
turning over at just over 4,000 rpm — quite low for such a
The intermediate gear ratios are correspondingly higher
than might be expected but are nonetheless well spaced, giving maxima
of 33, 55 and 81 mph.
The gearchange is well sorted out, thanks to its Peugeot
lineage, and ultra quick gear changes are delightfully easy, with a
slick accurate movement.
The slightly heavy clutch gives a smooth and progressive
take-up and stood up well to our wheel-spinning test starts. It also
happily set the car in motion up the 1-in-3 test hill, but we noted
that the engine would not tick-over while the car faced up the hill in
neutral because of fuel starvation.
The car started readily under the limited extremes of
hot and cold temperatures experienced during the test — cold starts
required choke and no pedal, warm starts required the accelerator to be
the massive thermoplastic bumpers and wide rubbing strips give the Visa
Super a dodgem car appearance, it still looks distinctively Citroen
|Every cubic-inch of the
underbonnet area is fully used; the spare wheel nestles on top of the
sharply raked 1,124 c.c. four cylinder ohc engine. Removal is
unneccesary for filling and checking service items apart from access to
the oil filler cap. Oil dipstick can be seen at the front of the
surmised in our Visa Club road test that the Super
might return a better fuel consumption under hard driving conditions,
thanks to its bigger engine and higher gearing. In practice however,
the Club's overall consumption for our road testmileage proves to be
much better at 36.1 mpg against the Super's 32.2 mpg figure. Of course,
there is a substantial difference in performance between the
two Visas, and were the Super to be driven at the same pace as we had
pushed the hardworking Club in our test, then it would easily have
bettered the smaller engined model; but the Super was driven with the
zest that it invited — with consistently higher cruising speeds,
acceleration and lower travel times resulting in the unexceptional fuel
Our interim fuel returns from town commuting, fastish
motorway cruising and even track testing were remarkably close with a
variance of plus or minus just over one mile per gallon but with a
little moderation a Super owner could expect returns in the higher 30s
and no doubt the more economy conscious will return figures in the low
40s. Rather disappointingly, the Super retains the small 8.8 gallon
fuel tank of the Club (using 98 octane 4-star petrol), which gave the
Visa Super a rather lowish range of about 270 miles between fuel stops.
Peugeot's 1,124 c.c. overhead camshaft engine has always
distinctively "tappety" sound, and its installation in the Visa Super
has done nothing to change its character - noticeable. but by no means
annoyingly noisy. Wind noise is well suppressed, as with the majority
of Citroens, and even at top speed, it is well below that of its
rock, lots of roll
The little Citroen's all independent suspension gives an
that would put many mid range saloons to shame. Like Peugeot's 104
hatchbacks, the front end is
located by MacPherson strut with coil springs and at the back by a coil
sprung trailing arm assembly. The car soaks up the worst of bumps and
dips with good damping in typically Gallic style that prompted several
passengers to comment favourably on the car's ride across the harshest
surfaces, but they expressed surprise at the car's
propensity to roll considerably when cornering. All small French cars
have this tendency to tilt passengers across the seat on sharp corners,
and the Visa is no worse than many. One tends to drive round the
problem by entering the corner at a slower speed than one might in a
Mini, particularly when carrying passengers of a nervous disposition or
so as not to astonish following cars. However, if you are happy to be
keeled over at a large angle, then there is no reason why bends cannot
taken quickly - the car's front heavy weight distribution will invoke
increasingly large and predictable amounts of understeer as one
approaches the limits of adhesion, requiring a bigger turn in the wheel
to maintain the line, or more safely backing off the car's speed. The
rack and pinion steering is delightfully light and accurate at
anything greater than manoeuvring speed for parking, but the car's nose
heaviness does make parking a proposition more suited to those with
good biceps. A harassed 'mother of three negotiating the shopping
centre car park will no doubt rate this as the car's biggest (and
possibly only) real failing, but it is a problem that most will be
prepared to put up with.
The Michelin XZX l45SR-14in. tyres offer excellent
adhesion both in the wet and the dry, but can cause a slight
embarrassment with an appreciable amount of tyre squeal when cornering
briskly on dry roads. The car's good aerodynamic shape drastically
reduces the effect of cross winds and lorry bow waves when the Visa is
cruising fast, aiding the car's already good directional stability.
The Visa Super's brakes are discs at the front and
drums at the rear, and are the same as fitted to the Club. They give
good response with a near linear progression in relation to pedal load,
with a creditable maximum stop at 8Olb giving 0.98g retardation.
Increasing the pedal load by 5lb locked the front wheels and the
braking fell to 0.8g. The rear wheels were prevented from approaching
the point of locking-up by a pressure limiting valve. Our brake fade
test of 10 successive 0.5g stops from the car's quarter-mile speed of
66 mph showed a steady increase in fade until a hard shove of 12Olb was
needed to maintain the O.5g acceleration by the eighth stop. The
two remaining stops showed that the soft pads were making a marginal
recovery. The handbrake held the Citroen up the 1-in-3 test hill but
the car crept slowly when facing down. Its stopping power was reduced
by the forward weight transfer and the handbrake managed only 0.22g.
The Visa's dashboard is unlike any other:
control drum controls horn, lights, indicator and wiper / washer
functions very effectively, while the single spoke steering wheel
allows an unimpeded view of the instrument binnacle containing quartz
clock, fuel gauge and speedometer with resettable trip, and the bank of
buttons for fog lamp. hazard warning, brake fluid level, two speed
heater fan and rear window demister. Knob to the left of the manual
choke alters the headlight beam to compensate for varying loads.
Heating and ventilation sliding controls are to the right of the
Behind the wheel
As you step into the driver's seat the satellite control
drum grabs your attention. Its visibility is unimpeded by the single
spoke steering wheel, but even so, it can take a few minutes to get
over the initial surprise that there are none of the old familiar
spindly stalks or switches for the lights, wipers and indicators.
Fortunately, the symbols used on the drum take little thought to work
out: the top quarter rotates to operate the two-speed wiper (washer
emits a short squirt by pressing on the top), the lower quarter also
rotates to turn on the lights, the indicators are set off by a vertical
rocker level, and beyond that lies the horn switch, which is pulled
back towards the steering wheel by the tip of your fingers. This novel
set-up means there is no need to take a hand fully off the steering
wheel, but we reserve our comments for the next section. The H-shaped
instrument binnacle is also easily seen through the steering wheel,
with a clock and speedo with resettable trip straddling a vertical fuel
gauge, the horizontal needle for which "floats"
erratically whilst the car is accelerating or decelerating.
The fully reclining seats are firm, well shaped for
lumbar and side support and must be among the best made for a car in
the under £4,000 category. Legroom for our tallest tester proved to be
just acceptable, and the seat moves forward to adjust forthe shortest
The convex slope of the bonnet prevents the driver from
using a visual cue to gauge the car's forward length, and so the driver
will have to employ a little guesswork, but the car's front is so short
that any estimate will probably err on the safe side.
The screen pillars also pose a problem as they are
rather wide and could obscure an oncoming car at a junction. Citroen
employ their familiar, massive single-arm wiper which sweeps a
satisfactorily large proportion of the windscreen.
Living with the Visa Super
We thoroughly enjoyed driving the little Citroen: its
size, performance. braking and predictable (though lively) handling
helped to make travelling in London's rush hour driving a much more
agreeable proposition than with many larger cars, and on the occasions
when we had to travel on a motorway, the car proved to be much more
relaxing than some other non-French competitors. The satellite
switchgear is a unique approach that fares quite well in practice. The
indicators are not self cancelling, and the horn is not the easiest to
reach, particularly for those with short fingers, who will have to take
their left hand off the wheel (spoiling the finger-tip intention). The
interior is a little less spartan than the Club in that the rubber
floor mats are replaced by carpets. The heater and ventilation outlets
performed the task of warming and cooling the occupants and demisting
the screen quite capably, and stowage space in the passenger
compartment is provided by shelves and door pockets on both driver and
passenger sides, in addition to the parcel shelf behind the rear seat.
The rear tailgate opens well out of the way, and the parcel shelf is
either completely removable, or will fold in half to allow access to
luggage area, which could be expanded to accommodate
more by pushing the rear seat right forward.
A knob located on the steering column releases the
bonnet, which opens on to a self-fixing stay. The spare wheel is
located on top of the sharply raked engine by three pegs and simply
lifts off, though all service items can be checked without moving it.
Removal is, however required for topping up the oil and the filler is
located right at the back of the engine; filling is retarded by the
The Citroen Visa Range
As we have mentioned, the 652 c.c. Club is the only
other model offered in the range at £3,327, against the Super’s £3,566.