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2CV Index

Autocar w/e 8 March 1975

CitroŽn 2CV6

602 c.c.

Cheapest and most basic CitroŽn available in Britain, with remarkable economy, ride, roadholding and good brakes. Noise level high, forward visibility restricted and seats too upright for comfort on long journeys.
Adequate equipment, roomy enough for four, but a car to either love or hate

IT HAS been common knowledge that the CitroŽn 2CV was a motoring joke, ever since it was seen at the first post-war Paris Motor Show.
Common knowledge, that is, to all but the French, who continued not only to buy it, but to drive it with indecent verve and remarkable economy, along their roads, across their fields and up their mountains.
Since economy is one of the watchwords by which we must live, the 2CV is no longer quite a joke anywhere. Until last year, CitroŽn judged (and probably rightly) that the snobbish, conservative British would never buy such an ugly and spartan device in sufficient numbers to justify holding spares for it. But with the advent of the energy crisis, many people have become willing to value economy above status or tradition, and the 2CV has become part of our motoring scene.
Even now, we are not offered the basic 2CV with its bench front seat and 425 c.c. engine. Our 2CV6 has the 602 c.c. engine which produces not 24, but 28.5 bhp (at a remarkable 6,750 rpm). This is the same engine that powers the rather more familiar Dyane 6, and one must remember that since the 2CV6 is the lighter car, it promises to be faster.
In terms of size, the 2CV is not all that small. Its wheelbase of 94 in. is the same as the Escort’s and its overall length is not so very far short of 13 feet. Perhaps unique among current cars, its height is greater than its overall width. The big wheels betray its age as a design, yet they are also the key to its remarkable cross-country performance. Indeed, the car remains an enigma as far as the British are concerned.

Performance and economy

People clearly expect the 2CV6 to be slow, for the mere sight of it incites them to try and overtake (or so it seemed while we were driving the test car). Yet as our comparison tables show, it is not as slow as all that. It comfortably outruns the little Fiat 126 which is giving it only 8 c.c. in engine capacity, and indeed there is little to choose between the 2CV6 and the Renault 4. The Mini 850 outruns the CitroŽn in acceleration, but hardly at all in top speed.
Indeed, the maximum speed is rather remarkable for a car with less than 30 bhp at its disposal, especially when one considers it is not all that small. Clearly its aerodynamic virtues are more than they would seem from a casual guess. The mean 69 mph is even more surprising when the overall gearing shows the engine still to be well below peak power at this speed. The 2CV6 is in fact well over-geared for its performance, lending strength to CitroŽn’s claim that it can be cruised flat-out all day.
If the car is to keep up with town traffic, the gears need to be used a good deal. The gear ratios are chosen with a wide range of conditions in mind, so that second and third have to bridge the gap between the high top and the “wall-climbing” first. Marks on the speedometer advise the driver not to exceed 19 mph in first, 38 mph in second or 56 mph in third; all these speeds fall below peak power and for best performance one has slightly to exceed them.
The driver soon realizes that the flywheel is very heavy. Its basic purpose is to smooth out the two-cylinder engine, but it can be used to advantage when getting away from a standing start. So much energy is stored in the flywheel with the engine turning over at 4,000 rpm or so that the rapid release of the clutch sends the 2CV away to a wheel-spinning start which can take other drivers by surprise. The surprise runs out at about 20 mph when the first gearchange is needed, but the fact remains that the 2CV can be made to cover the first few yards from a standing start very fast indeed, and without any sign of the wheel-tramp that afflicts some of the larger CitroŽns.
Because the car is over-geared, one soon learns to accept that its performance on the open road is governed by gradient. The intelligent CitroŽn driver husbands momentum and takes a run at any steep hill. On a motorway, the car may wind up to nearly 80 mph on a downgrade; but a long uphill stretch will pin it back to 60 mph or less. The relative lack of performance makes overtaking a matter of planning ahead, of arriving alongside with enough in hand to get past quickly‚”the stand off and charge” approach. But the CitroŽn is no worse in this respect than many other small cars, and indeed is better than some thanks to a torque curve which feels flat, and a lack of any tendency to “run out of breath” suddenly and without warning.
For many owners, however, it will be the CitroŽn’s economy and not its performance which is the main point of interest. Its economy is, without doubt, remarkable. It has everything in its favour: small engine, light weight and sensible gearing. The result is that it betters 60 mpg at a steady 40 mph, and is still doing 44 mpg at a steady 60. Beyond this point it suffers more, and our maximum-speed lap of MIRA brought the consumption down to 33 mpg.
From this it is clear that the 2CV will return a very wide range of mpg figures according to how it is driven. A flat-out run up the Ml gave us 36 mpg, brim-to-brim; a gentle run from the Midlands to the south coast gave 53-5 mpg. In normal use We would not expect many owners to better this last figure, while most could take our overall 45.9 mpg (which shows good agreement with the calculated DIN touring figure of 46.7 mpg) as a basis for calculation. It should always be borne in mind, though, that prolonged use of full throttle will bring that figure down into the mid-30s.
The CitroŽn used less than half a pint of oil during its test period, suggesting a normal oil consumption of considerably more than 1,000 miles per pint.

Tiny engine lives well forward but low down, beneath all its accessories.  Ducted cooling fan and headlamp-adjusting system can be clearly seen.  A plastic bonnet muff is obligatory below 10 deg. C. Back seat is roomy but too upright for real comfort.  Small flat windscreen gives restricted forward view and wipers are very small.  Slot at base of screen gives direct flow of ventilating air.  Boot is quite large and easily loaded; wheelbrace doubles as a starting handle.

Handling and brakes

The 2CV is one of those cars where one has carefully to distinguish between steering, handling and roadholding. It has odd steering, mediocre handling but supremely good roadholding, in fact.
The steering, by rack and pinion, has very good response and is well insulated from kick-back. It is not however all that high-geared, especially in relation to a poor 36ft turning circle. When manoeuvring the car in tight spaces, it is surprising how hard one has to work at the wheel, and how often one needs to take two bites at a turn instead of getting round in one. The other noticeable feature of the steering (though not necessarily a bad one) is the way it gets heavier as speed increases. At maximum speed, it takes a hefty tug at the wheel rim to haul the car onto a new course.
This implies, rightly, that the natural stability of the 2CV is excellent. Nor is the car diverted by sidewinds or uneven surfaces. But super-stability is often, as in this case, accompanied by an unwillingness to change course even when the driver wishes. In any circumstance, the CitroŽn understeers. The faster it is driven, the harder it is cornered, the more it understeers, until one arrives at the situation where full lock has been applied and the nose still runs wide. At this point there is no alternative but to release the accelerator, whereupon the car slows very quickly but without misbehaving. In fact it may not be necessary to back off the accelerator, for on full lock the tyre drag is tremendous and the car slows rapidly in any case.
The roadholding is totally beyond reproach. The Michelin tyres are narrow but entirely adequate for a car of this weight, and they hang on like grim death on any firm, unfrozen surface. It is only with some difficulty that wheel-sliding can be provoked even under braking. The result of all this, naturally, is that the little CitroŽn is outstandingly safe and forgiving.
The brakes are drums front and rear, and not over-large; but they are quite large enough to give good performance and fade resistance. Pedal loads are not unduly high despite the lack of a servo - the car is not heavy enough to need one. Our ultimate stop was an indicated 1-05g (probably exaggerated by the considerable nosedive) for an effort of 1001b. This was achieved with the front wheels on the point of locking, with excellent control.
Because of the low maximum speed, our fade tests were carried out from 52 mph and presented the car with no problem. Pedal pressures hardly changed throughout the 10-stop test, and it is only fair to say that two stops from a rather higher speed produced no untoward result. The handbrake works on the front wheels and is outstandingly effective, giving an emergency stop of 0.55g when used alone on the level. It held the car securely facing either way on the 1 in 3 test hill, and a restart was possible on this gradient with the aid of the "high-speed flywheel" technique already referred to.

Comfort and convenience

The CitroŽn's ride is legendary, and rightly so. The combination of long-stroke travel and cunning damping enables the car to soak up truly appalling surfaces without disturbing its occupants, yet at the same time there is very little of the uncomfortable floating sensation which is the curse of other softly-sprung vehicles. On a main road, the CitroŽn ride feels good - a lot better than average; but one has to drive the car across a ploughed field to appreciate the ultimate virtues of the suspension. It is caught out only by single large potholes, which cause a reverberating crash through the whole structure, or by single bumps (like hump-backed bridges) over which the car seems to hesitate before realizing the ground has dropped away.
The usual drawback with so soft a suspension is that the car rolls a good deal. It is still possible to provoke the 2CV into roll angles which either amuse or alarm one?s fellow road users, but we have the distinct impression that the car is stiffer in roll than it used to be. Driven gently, it does not roll all that much, and only when pressed into a tightening bend will it disturb its passengers.
The 2CV has four small doors rather than two large ones.  This is greatly to the benefit of the back seat passengers, but entry into the front is rather restricted, and one of our larger testers managed to tear his clothing on the projecting striker plate of the door lock. The seats look far more civilized than was once the case now that they are upholstered in padded vinyl, but they are still built on the same principle as the original hammock-type seats so widely praised by those who tried them. The current seats are still very comfortable for short trips, but are far too upright for long-journey comfort. There is too much support behind the shoulders and too little in the small of the back, and eventually backache claimed any tester who drove the 2CV any real distance.
The driving position is well planned. Because the driver sits high and upright, CitroŽn are able to get away with a minimum of fore-and-aft seat movement. Some of our larger drivers felt at first that they lacked rearward movement, then came to terms with the lorry-like position with the big steering wheel set fairly flat in one?s lap. The pedals are well spaced and easily operated. It takes some time to get used to the gearchange, which is one of those push-pull affairs found only in small French cars, but not so much because of its action. The pattern is  unusual, with reverse opposite first, second opposite third, and top gear away on its own to the right. There is a beautiful logic in the layout, in that one can shuttle between first and reverse while manoeuvring, and between second and third in town traffic, but most of our drivers confess to having just stopped themselves from moving smartly backwards when traffic lights turned green. The quality of the change is good, with short, precise movements, but the synchromesh on the lower gears is weak and the clutch in our test car took up rather late in its travel.
The minor controls are something of a mess.  The lights switch is a typically French column-mounted stalk and works well once one is accustomed to its sense of operation, but the wiper switch and washer pushbutton are hidden away on the facia behind the steering wheel rim. The heater controls are scattered and unmarked.
Forward visibility is something of a problem, especially for tall drivers. The flat windscreen is shallow and low-browed and the single-speed wipers have miserably small arcs; nor is the washer very effective. On the other hand the lights are excellent and their elevation can be adjusted by the driver while on the move - a refinement that would not come amiss in many more refined and expensive cars. To the sides and rear there is much less of a visibility problem, since the pillars are thin and there are no real blind spots.
The heater, with its simple heat-exchanger built round the exhaust system, works surprisingly well. Its output is easily controlled and so is its distribution (once one has found the controls concerned). Demisting performance is good, and ventilation, via a direct fresh-air duct at the base of the screen, is all one could wish.
One of the real drawbacks of the 2CV is noise. It is not, as you might imagine, simply a question of engine noise. Certainly the engine gives forth a harsh clatter when working hard at low speed, but higher up the scale it fades into a background of other noises of which wind noise is the worst. At 70 mph, wind noise through and around the various gaps and edges of the body completely drowns the engine and transmission, and is loud enough not to be tolerated for long without the risk of a headache. To this extent it is the noise level which sets the comfortable cruising speed of the car, at about 50 mph.
Thanks to the height of the car and the limited rearward movement of the front seat, there is quite a lot of room in the back. The 2CV is cramped for four large adults, but far from impossible. Head and kneeroom are good, but again the seat back is too upright for long-term comfort while the back passengers equally notice the lack of forward vision.

Living with the CitroŽn 2CV6

There is little one can add to the 2CV specification, at least where CitroŽn options are concerned. The individual front seats and canvas sunroof are standard, and the test car was fitted with a radio which worked well, but was a long stretch for the driver to reach in its position under the front parcels shelf on the passenger side.
Luggage capacity is good, and loading easy; the flat and flimsy boot lid may be propped, or lifted about its hinges to rest on the sloping rear of the car. There are two keys, one for the ignition/steering lock and a smaller one for everything else. The door and boot handles rotate freely about their spindles when they are locked -  a good way of defeating the pipe-wielding thief. But the bonnet latch is beneath the front bumper rather than inside the car, and must be held out of the way when closing the bonnet (rusty marks on the front bumper of the test car showed what happened if this was not done).  Beneath the bonnet the layout is confused and some items, notably the sparking plugs and fluid reservoirs, are not easy to reach.
The fuel tank is easy to fill, but its limited capacity is something of a drawback. Even with the outstanding fuel economy of the 2CV6, a tank which holds only 4.4 gallons (20 litres) gives a safe range of scarcely 200 miles. To make matters worse the fuel gauge in the test car showed five-eighths full when the tank was actually full to the brim, and fell to empty when there was still over a gallon remaining in the tank.
We had no real trouble starting the car, though a cold start always needed a second or two of churning away with the starter. Warming-up was quick, with the aid of a bonnet muff which is part of the standard equipment  -- and which CitroŽn say must be in place below 10 deg C, but must be removed above 15 deg C. Such was the weather during our test that it stayed in place all the time.  Servicing places no more than average demands upon the owner, with the major interval occurring every 6,000 miles. The simple (mostly unstressed) body design means repairs are easy as any tourist knows, many Frenchmen simply do not  bother  - while the engine should be long-lived and the big wheels promise above-average tyre life.


Hillman Imp de luxe (£1,184)
Renault 4L (£1,183
Mini 850 (£1,099)
CitroŽn 2CV6 (£994)
Fiat 126L (£899)
0-60 MPH, SEC
Hillman Imp de luxe 21.1
Mini 850 27.5
Renault 4L 32.1
CitroŽn 2CV6 32.7
Fiat 126L
Hillman Imp de luxe 21.0
Mini 850 22.9
Renault 4L 23.3
CitroŽn 2CV6 23.6
Fiat 126L 25.6
CitroŽn 2CV6 45.9
Renault 4L 37.6
Fiat 126L 36.8
Mini 850 35.6
Hillman Imp de luxe 32.4
(At constant speed - mpg)
30 mph
40 mph
50 mph
60 mph
Typical mpg 45 (6.3 litres/100 km)
Calculated DIN mpg 46.7 (6.05 litres/100 km)
Overall mpg 45.9 (6.2 litres/100 km
Grade of fuel Regular 2 star (min 91RM)

Consumption (SAE 20W-40) 2,000 mpp
Pedal 25 lb and 6 in.



True speed mph
Time in secs
Car speedo mph
Standing 1/4 mile
23.6 sec 55 mph
Standing kilometre
46.0 sec 63 mph
Mileage recorder
0.5 per cent over-reading
(with 125/15in. tyres)

12.43 mph per 1,000 rpm
9.15 mph per 1,000 rpm
6.15 mph per 1,000 rpm
3.13 mph per 1,000 rpm

Top (5.43)
3rd (7.37)
2nd (10.96)





FADE (from 70 mph in neutral)
Pedal load for 0.5g stops in lb

RESPONSE (from 30 mph in neutral)
20 lb
137 ft
40 lb
64 ft
60 lb
42 ft
80 lb
30 ft
100 lb
29 ft
55 ft
Max. Gradient
1 in 3


Between kerbs
Kerb weight 11.85 cwt (1,327 lb - 601 kg) with oil, water and half full fuel tank)
L, 34 ft 1 in.  R, 34 ft 5 in.
Distribution, per cent F, 59.1; R, 40.9
Between walls
Laden as tested: 16.1 cwt (1,802 lb - 817 kg)
L, 35 ft 4 in. R, 35 ft 8 in

lock to lock 2.5


CitroŽn 2CV6



Single dry plate
12 volt 30 Ah

4-speed, all syncromesh
35 amp a.c.

Gear ratios
Top 1.31
80/90 watt (total)

Third 1.78
Reversing lamp

Second 2.65
Electric fuses

First 5.20
Screen wipers
Single speed

Reverse 5.20
Screen washer
Standard, manual plunger

Final drive
Spiral bevel, ratio 4.125 to 1 Interior heater

Mph at 1,000 rpm 12.43 Heated backlight

Safety belts

Platform chassis, steel body
Interior trim
pvc seats, canvas headlining
Floor covering
Rubber mats
2, horizontally-opposed
Independent, leading arms, coil springs, interconnected with rear, inertia and friction dampers
Screw pillar type
Main bearings
Independent, trailing arms, coil springs, interconnected with rear, telescopic and inertia dampers Jacking points
2 each side under sills
Cooling system
Air, ducted fan
74.0 mm (2.91 in.)
Rack and pinion
70.0 mm (2.76 in.)
Wheel dia
15 3/4 in.
Fuel tank
4.4 Imp gallons (20 litres)
602 c.c. (36.7 cu. in.)
Engine sump
3.9 pints (2.2 litres) SAE 20W-50.  Change oil every 12,000 miles
Valve gear
Overhead, pushrod and rockers
Make and type
Lockheed, drum front and rear
Gearbox and final drive
1.6 pintd SAE 80EP
Compression ratio
8.5 to 1.  Min octane rating 90RM
4 points every 6,000 miles
Solex 34 PICS 4
F 7.9 in. dia. 1.3 in. wide shoes
Valve clearance
Inlet 0.006 - 0.008 in. (cold)
Fuel pump

R 7.1 in. dia. 1.3 in. wide shoes Ignition timing
8 deg BTDC (static)
Oil filter
Gauze strainer
Swept area
F 64.5 sq. in R 58.0 sq. in.  Total 122.5 sq. in. (152 sq. in./ton laden)
Spark plug
Type: AC42F or equivalent, Gap 0.027 in.
Max power
28.5 bhp (DIN) at 6,750 rpm
Tyre pressures
F, 20; R, 26 psi (all conditions)
Max torque
30.5 lb. ft. (DIN) at 3,500 rpm
Pressed steel disc, 3 stud fitting, 4 in. wide rim
Max payload
706 lb (320 kg)

Tyres Michelin radial ply tubed 125/15 in.


3,000 miles
6,000 miles
12,000 miles
Routine replacements
Time hours
Time Allowed (hours)
Brake shoes - Front (2 wheels)
Cost at £4.30 per hour
Brake shoes - Rear (2 wheels) 3.10
Engine oil
Exhaust System
Gearbox oil
Clutch (centre + driven plate)
Oil Filter
Dampers - Front (pair)
Air Filter (mesh type) -
Dampers - Rear (pair) 0.65
Contact Breaker Points
Replace Drive Shaft
Sparking plugs
Replace Alternator
Total Cost:
Replace Starter
£1.72 £29.70

Interior looks, and is, something of a shambles even though the actual driving position is well planned.  One soon becomes used to the odd-looking single-spoke steering wheel but the gearchange takes a little more sorting. Handbrake is low down and too far away.

In conclusion

It is easy enough to put the 2CV into perspective: there is simply nothing else quite like it. We chose our competitors for the comparison tables on the basis that they were minimum-cost motoring, but none of them have the same kind of personality - though all have personalities of their own.  If you want the same kind of car, the only alternative is to stay with CitroŽn and spend another ķ90 on the Dyane 6 to gain better styling and seat comfort, but sacrifice some minimal running costs.
It is running costs which remain the basic raison d'Ítre of the 2CV's existence. On the evidence of this test, direct operating costs are about as low as you will find on four wheels. Purchase price is low, but it remains to be seen if the car can establish a sufficient market for itself to hold a reasonable second-hand value. Apart from that, how does it rate as a car? Remarkably well in most respects. If there were two areas where we would look for improvement, it would be in wind noise and seat design. But as it stands, the 2CV is the archetypal car of the age - the answer to the energy crisis.

S. A. Andrť CitroŽn, 133 Ouai Andrť CitroŽn, Paris 159, France
CitroŽn Cars Ltd., Trading Estate, Slough, Bucks
Licence £25.00
Basic £850.00 Delivery charge (est) £15.00
Special Car Tax £70.83 Number plates £6.60
VAT £73.67 Total on the Road (exc  insurance) £1,043.10
Total (in GB) £994.50 Insurance Group 1
Seat Belts (static, est) £12.00 TOTAL AS TESTED ON  THE ROAD
© 1975 Autocar/2015 CitroŽnŽt