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1971 Motor brief test No 45/71

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We could start off by saying that the Citroen GS Club is a £1088 four-seater saloon with front wheel drive, a 1015 cc air-cooled flat-four engine, and ample luggage space within its distinctively styled body. Yet the GS differs so radically in character from its rivals that a “potted” assessment of this kind falls flat from the moment it starts.

The GS is not so much a typical French car as a typical Citroen.  It is well known to the most casual of motoring enthusiasts that Societe Anonyme Automobiles Citroen prefer to ignore convention and rely instead on ingenuity and clear-cut objectivity. The Dyane, the Ami 8, the D-series, and the new SM are remarkable for their individuality in design and behaviour, yet the company has never produced a failure.

The GS slots into a crucial gap in the Citroen range, a worthy competitor in the coveted £1100 class. Citroen fans who have been waiting for this model,  which bridges the gap between luxury cars for the well-to-do, and corrugated iron devices for the less well heeled, will not be disappointed. Once again, common sense has been the guiding force behind the company’s apparently eccentric attitude. To the driver who laments the conformity of the modern box automobile the GS must represent a successful denial of the conformist attitude.

After all the ballyhoo surrounding its introduction we found the GS, in the cold light of objective analysis, to be a serious threat to its rivals. While its performance is geared to achieve maximum economy in relation to French tax regulations, it is by no means the slow-coach that a first impression might suggest. Roadholding and handling are remarkable, while the standard of comfort is most unlikely to be equalled in other cars at the same price. At the same time, the car is far from being above criticism on a number of detail matters, as we shall see later.

No matter how you throw it around, the GS clings to the road with remarkable tenacity, and the handling is excellent
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Performance and economy

In France, petrol is very expensive and road fund tax is levied according to a car engine’s capacity. Compared with other countries in Europe, French roads tend to be straight, flat and bumpy. French cars as a rule, therefore have small efficient engines, high gearing for prolonged high-speed cruising, and soft suspension that can glide smoothly over bad roads.
The GS is no exception. The standing start acceleration maybe better than that of most of the cars of the similar engine displacement but at 15.9 sec to 60 mph it is below average for a car of its price. However the top speed of 93.2 mph is good especially as the GS can be cruised continuously at around 90 mph without damage or danger.
The horizontally opposed flat-four air cooled engine is extremely oversquare with bore and stroke figures of 74mm x 59mm. With a compound choke Solex carburetter and a compression ratio of 9:1 within its hemispherical combustion chambers, the  G10 engine that goes into the GS produces no more than 55.5 bhp (DIN) at 6500 rpm and 52 ft.lb (DIN) of torque at 3500 rpm. This explains the fairly leisurely standing start figures but not the high cruising speed of the car, which is largely due to exceptionally good aerodynamics.

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The cloth-upholstered seats are very comfortable and back seat passengers are not cramped. The headrests are extras.
Above: the curious spade-handle handbrake has a trigger release (hidden) and works surpisingly well. Two of the heater knobs to the left fell off suggesting skimpy finish. Below: fingertip stalks and push-button fan switches

As most people are aware, the car's drag is determined by frontal area and shape. As the air passes over the body it is important to maintain an even flow right to the back the car. A sharply dropping title permits this flow to separate from the body and this exacerbates the drag. As it is not practical to build road cars with long, sloping tails, the best answer is to maintain the ideal shape as far as possible then cut it off flat.  The GS fulfils this theory and is one of the most efficient aerodynamic shapes available amongst current saloons. Hence it can reach and hold its top speed with relative ease. The result is that in top gear above 50 mph the GS is a match for many more powerful saloon cars, and it is only on hills that it small engine reveals itself by demanding a downward change.
No doubt the ideally balanced cylinder configuration contributes to the smoothness of the engine, which is enhanced by the fact that it is as quiet as many water-cooled motors. Torque below 3000 rpm is adequate and the power increases right up to maximum revs: this is shown as 6500 RPM on the tachometer on the newly introduced right-hand drive car we tested, although the lhd version we tried in the spring was redlined at 6750 RPM. The engines on both cars were identical and Citroen offer no explanation beyond the fact that the engine can safely be read to about 8000 rpm. Although the handbook states that the rev limit must not be exceeded the tachometer needle varied between 6300 rpm and 6700 rpm on our maximum speed test at MIRA. However there is little point in exceeding 6500 rpm as a rule because the power curve goes into a decline at this point. Citroen’s claim about the engines robustness gains credence with the knowledge that the conrods are one-piece components fitted to a crankshaft that may be stripped into several separate parts. The engine certainly feels willing and unburstable. The only serious criticism was against its poor starting an slow warm-up.
We recorded an overall fuel consumption of 25.6 mpg. In the Petrometa tests steady speed fuel consumption increased smoothly as speed rose to 70 mph, although from then on the increases were markedly less severe for each 10 mph rise in speed. No doubt this is a result of the GS’s excellent body shape.

Transmission
The transaxle gearbox which drives the front wheels, sits behind the engine and just ahead of the passenger compartment. Despite this apparent ideal situation for a floor-mounted gearshift, movement of the lever through the conventional H-pattern shift is not particularly easy. In heavy traffic, the notchy feel to the change becomes rather irritating despite the light, easy clutch. The gears never fail to engage, and the synchromesh is effective, but the ‘box does not take well to quick changes. Reverse gear is obtained by depressing the lever while moving it right and forward.


There is some transmission snatch at low speed on the overrun and a more annoying jerky pickup when the throttle is opened in these conditions. It is perhaps this movement of complete engine and transmission assembly that spoils the gearchange feel.

None of the gears is direct and all of them whine noticeably. The ratios, however, could hardly be better: with speeds in the intermediate gears of around 31, 46, and 73 mph the engine is kept within its ideal power band all the time when driven hard. The slightly smaller jump to top from third is well-judged too, and in top gear maximum speed corresponds almost exactly to maximum power and maximum permissible revs.

Handling and brakes
Citroen are rightly proud of their hydraulic system which serves the suspension and braking systems. A high pressure pump feeds an accumulator with hydraulic fluid via a regulator which prevents the pressure from rising above 2600 psi. Fluid is fed to front and rear correctors and the self levelling, all independent suspension. Return lines pass the fluid back into a reservoir. A third delivery line supplies the braking force so that pedal pressure merely opens a valve against spring pressure.

Between the seats is a lever for raising the ride height of the car. There are three positions: fully forward for all normal use, a central notch for slow driving along rutted roads or through floods and fords, or fully back to assist in wheel changing or negotiating extraordinary ramps. The car should never be driven for any distance in the rearward notch as this raises the suspension to its absolute limit. There is, of course, no need to use this lever when the car is laden as it will automatically find its normal ride height.

After starting up, you must wait perhaps five seconds to allow the car to “blow itself up”. On the move, it did not take us long to appreciate the incredible roadholding of the GS. Although it does not look the part, largely because it rolls a bit, it can keep up with most expensive sports cars on corners and its limits exceed those of most other cars with ease.

Every car has its limit, of course, and for the GS this is marked by understeer under power. Should the corner be entered too fast, and the degree of understeer begins to be a alarming, the situation is easily retrieved by backing off, whereupon the neutral attitude is quickly adopted. Should this be insufficient a degree of oversteer can be induced by applying the brakes momentarily. It is quite easy to turn into corners on the overrun, braking to pull the back round a little, and then floor the throttle and drive out of the corner. We never came near to losing control while investigating these techniques at the test track. It is a remarkably stable car, far more predictable and responsive than almost any other front wheel drive car we have tried. Wet weather road holding and handling are no less impressive.

The brakes feel reassuring and powerful and did not fade during our 20-stop fade test. There is only about ľ in. of movement in the pedal and it took a few miles to acquire the necessary sensitivity to use the brakes smoothly. Even so, we found in the fade test that the braking force is prone to slight variations at constant pedal pressures. Other criticisms were the strong smell of burning from the inboard discs from the eighth stop onwards and failure to achieve a better stop than 0.95g. This was recorded with a pedal pressure of 75lb. Applying 100lb. to the pedal only produced 0.8g retardation limited by wheel locking and judder. The brakes were unaffected by the water splash.
The handbrake is an impressive arrangement which operates a second set of calipers on the front disc brakes. A strong pull on the lever at 30 mph produced a 0.36g stop; had the handbrake been better adjusted we might have achieved a better result.

Comfort and controls
All Citroens are renowned for their ride and the ease with which the suspension soaks up the worst of surfaces so predictably the GS excels in this respect. With slightly firmer suspension than that of the D-series cars, it does not give quite the same magic carpet impression but it can travel over the most alarming potholes and sunken drain covers without jolting the occupants. What is particularly impressive is the lack of rock as you sweep from one lock to the other. Very good damping helps both this and the GS’s ability to take humps and hollows in a better way than the larger cars can manage. Disappointingly, harsh thumps over sharp surface irregularities like cats’ eyes excite several minor rattles and vibrations which we found surprising in a Citroen.

The exceptionally comfortable seats are covered in non-slip cloth and have foam padding around the edges, soft springing in the centre. They offer good lateral support on corners and were praised by all our drivers regardless of their size. There is ample room in the back for two adults, perhaps three for short distances, and legroom is good once you get your knees past the thick edges of the seat. With the front seat fairly well back the backrest hinders access and you have to wriggle through the gap between the front squab and back seat. The front seats recline through a large number of positions and the optional headrest can be adjusted or removed altogether.

Although the usual normal-looking brake pedal is used to operate the usual floor button it is still virtually impossible to make a heel and toe down change - its advantage is that it is easier to hit in an emergency. The accelerator is rather high off the floor, dictating a rather uncomfortable ankle angle on part throttle - astute bending of the pedal rod should improve both.

Some of our drivers disliked the neckrests for their intrusion on three quarter rear visibility as well as for the claustrophobic effect on those in the rear, but for reversing they are low enough to clear the eyeline to the base of the rear window. Reversing is easy when you know that the chopped off tail ends only 8in. beyond the back window. Visibility is generally good with large glass areas and the thick screen pillows subtending only a small angle at the driver’s eye - the fallaway bonnet line isn’t always easy to aim through gaps, though. With the rear view mirror at the top of the screen, and less body movement, you can see following distant traffic more easily than in the D-range cars.

Our initial sampling of the GS suggested that its gearing was far too fussily low for quiet high speed cruising. However, although the engine is turning over around 5000 rpm at 70 mph, it is only the rev counter that makes you aware of this -aA good reason for not having one. The engine is still audible and fussy at high speed, and perhaps thrown into prominence by the almost complete absence of wind noise.
We didn’t have much chance to assess the heater as levers for two of the three controls fell off, but from our earlier assessment it was judged effective and controllable, particularly for a car with an air -cooled engine, although ram effect is poor below about 50 mph. Two levers control hot and cold air flows which together adjust temperature and the third horizontal lever is for distribution. Face-level eye-ball fence give an adequate throughput.

Fittings and furniture
To keep the price of such a sophisticated car down to a very keen figure, some of the fittings are perhaps rather cheap. The grey facia is flock sprayed, the heater outlet ducts still have slivers of plastic where the ducts have been cut, and the fit is generally poor. However the “British” facia layout is much better than that on the “French” cars. Nice round dials are easily seen through the single-spoke steering wheel and the warning lights and tell-tales are all intelligently labelled. Fingertip stalks control the lighting, flashing, washing and wiping, while switches are required for the two heater fans, one hot, one cold, and the optional rear window demister.

The neat door handles are separate from the armrests which can be used as grab handles. Oddment space is provided by shelves at each end of the facia, but the rather deeper, more useful one on the driver’s side unfortunately has no lip. The but overall space adequate. The boot is extremely large by any standards and took 10.4 cubic feet of our Revelation luggage; the lid hinges up easily, once you remember that the centre part of the bumper comes up with it, to give a nice low loading platform.

Cloth upholstery is never the easiest to keep clean but the handbook gives instructions on removing stains. The door trims and headlining are in pvc.

Servicing and maintenance
Servicing is required every 6000 miles and can be done by the average competent mechanic, but it pays to get this type of vehicle seen regularly by experts as emergency repairs soon get beyond the scope of the average garage. The toolkit allows for the unique Citroen system of wheelchanging but little more. Access to the various ancillaries is comparatively easy and complete once the spare wheel and air filter have been removed.


Make: Citroen. Model: GS Club.
Makers:
S.A. Andre Citroen, 133 Quai Andre Citroen, Paris 15e, France.
Concessionaires: Citroen Cars Ltd, Trading Estate, Slough, Bucks.
Price: £869 plus @219.12 equals @1088.12. Headrests £22.50. Heated rear window £22.50. Radio £45. Total as tested £1178.12
Performance tests carried out by Motor's staff at the Motor Industry Research Association proving ground, Lindley. Test data: World copyright reserved; no unauthorised reproduction in whole or in part.
Conditions
Weather: Dry with light wind to 10 mph
Temperature: 66 - 72 F
Barometer: 30.0 in Hg.
Surface: Dry tarmacadam
Fuel: Premium 98 octane (RM) 4 star rating
Maximum Speeds


Brakes

mph
kph
Pedal pressure, deceleration and equivalent stopping distance from 30 mph
Mean lap banked circuit
93.2
150
Best one way 1/4 mile
96.9
156
lb.
g.
ft.
3rd gear at 6500 rpm
69
111
25
0.49
61
2nd gear at 6500 rpm
43
70
50
0.89
34
1st gear at 6500 rpm
27
43
75
0.95
31 1/2
"Maximile" speed (Timed quarter mile after 1 mile accelerating from rest)
Handbrake
0.36
83
Mean
90.0

Fade Test
Best
91.1

20 stops at 1/2g  deceleration at 1 min. intervals from a speed midway between 40 mph and maximum speed (= 67 1/2 mph)
Acceleration Times

mph
sec.

lb.
0-30
4.5
Pedal force at beginning 26
0-40
7.2
Pedal force at 10th stop 29
0-50
11.2
Pedal force at 20th stop 30
0-60
15.9
Steering
0-70
22.7
Turning circle between kerbs
ft.
0-80
34.7
Left
29.7
Standing quarter mile
20.1 Right
28.8
Standing kilometre
38.2
Turns of steering wheel from lock to lock
3.75
mph
Top sec.
3rd sec
Steering wheel deflection for 50 ft. diameter circle
1.1 turns
10-30
-
9.7
Clutch
20-40
12.7
8.6
Free pedal movement
3/4 in.
30-50
12.6
8.2
Additional movement to disengage clutch completely
3 1/4 in.
40-60
13.3
8.9
Maximum pedal load

20 lb.
50-70
16.0
-
Speedometer
Indicated
30
40
50
60
70
True
30
39
48
57 1/2
66 1/2
Indicated
80
90



True
76 1/2
85 1/2



Distance recorder
1 % fast

60-80
21.3
-
Fuel consumption


Touring consumption midway between 30 mph and maximum less 5% allowance for acceleration 29.6 mpg
Overall
25.6 mph (11.0 litres per 100 km)

Total test distance
870 miles

Weight
Kerb weight (unladen with fuel for approximately 50 miles)
17.0 cwt
Front/rear distribution
64 1/2 : 35 1/2
Weight laden as tested
20.8 cwt.

Engine

Block material
Light alloy
Head material
Light alloy
Cylinders
Flat-4
Cooling system
Air
Bore and stroke
74mm (2.93in.)
Cubic capacity
59mm (2.32in.)
Main Bearings
1015 cc (158 cu.in.)
Valves
Single ohc per bank, toothed belt
Compression ratio
9.0:1
Carburettor
Solex 28CICM twin choke
Fuel pump
Mechanical
Oil filter
Disposable cartridge
Max power (net)
55.5 bhp at 6500 rpm
Max. torque (net)
52 lb.ft. at 3500 rpm
Transmission

Clutch
7.06in. s.d.p.
Internal gearbox ratios

Top gear
1.12
3rd gear
1.52
2nd gear
2.38
1st gear
3.82
Reverse
4.18
Syncromesh
On all forward gears
Final drive
Spiral bevel 4.38:1
Mph at 1000 rpm in:

top gear
14.3
third gear
10.6
second gear
6.7
first gear
4.2
Chassis and body

Construction
Unitary
Brakes

Type
Citroen hydraulic discs front and rear
Dimensions
10.6in. dia. front
6.9in dia. rear
Suspension and steering
Front
Independent by double wishbones with hydropneumatic struts, self-levelling
Rear
Independent by trailing arms hydropneumatic, self-levelling
Shock absorbers: Front and rear integral with hydraulic suspension
Steering type Rack and pinion
Tyres
145 x 15 Michelin ZX radials
Wheels
Pressed steel disc
Rim size
4.5 x 15

Coachwork and equipment

Starting handle
No
Tool kit contents
Jackstand, wheel brace, screwdriver
Jack
Adjustable stand
Jacking points
Under sill
Battery
12 volt negative earth, 30 amp/hr capacity
Number of electrical fuses
8
Headlamps
SEV Marchal 40/45W
Indicators
Non self-cancelling flasher
Reversing lamp
Yes
Screen wipers
2 speed electric
Screen washers
Electric
Sun visors
Two, 1 vanity mirror
Locks:

With ignition key
Steering lock
With other keys
Doors and boot
Interior heater
Fresh air
Upholstery Cloth seats, pvc headlining
Floor covering
Carpet
Alternative body styles
None
Maximum load
915lb.
Major extras available
Radio, heated rear window
Maintenance

Fuel tank capacity
9.5 galls
Sump
7.5 pints SAE 20W/50
Gearbox transaxle
3 pints SAE 80EP
Steering gear
None
Coolant
Air
Chassis lubrication
None
Minimum service interval
6000 miles
Ignition timing
29 degrees btdc at 2000 rpm
Contact breaker gap
0.016in.
Sparking plug gap
0.026in.
Sparking plug type
Marchal 34S
Valve clearance (cold)
Inlet 0.08in.
Exhaust 0.08in.
Rear wheel toe-in
Parallel
Front wheel toe-in
0 to 0.08in.
Camber angle
0 degrees
Castor angle
1 degree 30
Tyre pressures:

Front
26 psi
Rear
28 psi
Above: the unusual boot is a large symmetrical oblong hole, reached through a high-lifting tailgate, supported by struts. Right: the boot swallowed a respectable 10.4 cu. ft. of our test luggage.
Below: the engine bay also houses the spare wheel and battery, leaving the boot free of these space-consuming ancillaries.  Little can be seen of the flat-four engine itself which is buried down on the floor.



© 1971 Motor/2017 CitroŽnŽt