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Week ending 1 January 1977 Autocar Long Term Report

CitroŽn CX2000 Safari (17,000 miles)

Long suffering camion

By Stuart Bladon

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IF EVER there was a year when it suited me personally to have a spacious estate car, 1976 was the one. With a move of house tackled in mid-summer, and all the subsequent constructional works which resulted, the Citroen Safari proved its worth over and over again. If it wasn’t the occasion for moving the enormous mountain of debris that results when you dismantle a fireplace, it was on the countless other operations when cumbersome materials such as three-metre lengths of pipe had to be carried, that it came into worthy service over and over again.

When the needs of the weekend were not too space-demanding, the Safari was quickly wrested from me, frequently by Andrew Shanks to use as support car for his racing activities, and on one occasion by photographer Peter Cramer to use as a sort of motor caravan. Would you believe that two adults and four children of varying ages up to 11 can and did sleep in the back of the Safari?

We took delivery in April 1976 and the first trip of any length was a drive over to Droitwich for the launch of the new Rover 3500 a couple of months ahead of its introduction. A rare sight in those days, the enormous body of the Citroen Safari was source of considerable interest, as it has been ever since although many more of them are now to be seen around.

Running-in restrictions limited it to 4,000 rpm, which meant that 75 mph was permissible, but the loss of that quite important span from 4,000 to 5.500 rpm made it very difficult to overtake anything. I confess to being rather dismayed in those first few weeks at the lack of performance confronting me for the next few months. Partly, I think, it was the abrupt transition from my BMW 528, and partly, too, it was that I had not then adapted to Safari motoring. You soon learn that you have to build the speed up where you can, and are then able to keep it going quickly by making the best of its outstandingly reassuring and manageable cornering. Also. if the occasion calls for a burst of acceleration to overtake, it is surprising how well the Citroen responds once you get the right gear, rev the engine and give it a chance for the second choke to open.

Sensibly spaced gear ratios help one to make the best of the available power, but two litres really is not sufficient for such a big car. In all other respects it served admirably as a tow-car when used to pull a Bessacarr Denaby caravan to France in the summer, but the falling-off of speed on every gradient and an accumulation of frequent strings of vehicles wishing to go faster, was an embarrassment I have not previously suffered. At the time, only the 2000 Safari was available, but since then, the diesel and the 2400 petrol versions have been added. The 2400 costs getting on for £500 extra, but is to be recommended.

Fairly high gearing and a good aerodynamic shape contribute to very good economy. The CX 2000 Safari has frequently returned more than 27 mpg on a run, even when cruising at more than 80 mph as we did on a September trip to Germany and France. Even when towing a caravan or large trailer, it gives better than 20 mpg.

In conjunction with a 15-gallon fuel tank, this gives a terrific range. It has proved an everyday occurrence to do well over 300 miles without refuelling, and few occasions we even stretched the distance between fill-ups to over 400 miles.

Standard modification when the Safari is equipped for towing is to duplicate the electrically-driven cooling fan. After this was done one was rather conscious of the roar from the front on the odd moment when low-speed work caused the fans to cut in, but they certainly deal with the heat build-up very competently. In all the hard work to which the Safari has been subjected, there has been no problem with overheating, nor has a single drop of water had to be added to the cooling system.

Its oleo-pneumatic suspension system with automatic self-levelling is one of the most outstanding features of the car. The ride is magnificent in all conditions, and the suspension is never caught out by any sudden dip in the road or hump back bridge taken fast. One of the joys of Citroen driving is that one can treat those sleeping policemen with the contempt they deserve, noting that the disturbance reduces the faster_they are crossed!

Only two slight problems emerged with this suspension system, both concerned with the way in which the level collapses to its minimum position when the engine is switched off. The first is that if one is parked with the tail hanging over a high kerb or other protrusion one returns to the car to find it firmly aground, as though the; tide had gone out while you were away. It takes about 15 seconds of fast idle to pump everything up again. The second snag is that when towing, the slight collapse of the rear end, on switching off the engine, can make it difficult or impossible to disconnect the trailer. One soon remembers to leave the engine ticking over for unhitching. These are small snags to set against the advantage of superb, level ride comfort in all conditions and regardless of load - in fact, the greater the weight, the more impressive is the car’s behaviour.

Former colleague Michael Scarlett gave us this amusing account of a family outing in the Safari: “I say,” said his father, “I’m terribly sorry about all this smoke coming from my pipe. A minute or two passed before someone made the obvious comment: “But you’re not smoking your pipe!" They stopped to investigate the cause of large quantities of white smoke entering the car from somewhere underneath and pinpointed a hydraulic leak dripping slowly on to the exhaust pipe. Inspection of the fluid reservoir showed the level well up, so they pressed on hopefully; but in due course the central row of warning lights, including the big one labelled ‚”STOP” came on.

Above: Test check button allows the four main warning tell-tales to be tested
Below: Hydraulic fluid can be checked while driving along

Above: The engine compartment has kept reasonably clean although it is not an easy unit to wash down.  Access to routine attention points is unexpectedly good
Below: revised radio location

Citroen do not mean you to be unaware that the fluid level has dropped dangerously low, because loss of pressure would obviously affect the brakes as well as the suspension and power steering. A check button enables the driver to test the four important warning tell-tales, including that for engine temperature. There is also a check button to the right of the steering column which enables the fluid level to be registered while driving along; when pressed, it allows the hydraulic fluid to run into a little glass tube indicator, showing the level.

The fluid leak was repaired by Citroen under warranty. We were informed that it had come from one of the numerous suspension-related pipes under the car, which, as the French service manager told us, was “not well orientated”.

In view of the hard work the Citroen has been put to in its nine months with us and the high mileage covered, now nearing 20,000, its reliability has proved fair enough but we have experienced some silly minor faults. The first of these was at 2,100 miles, when the right hand sidelamp and indicator unit fell out of its bumper housing and dangled on a single wire in front of the wheel. On refitting and reconnecting, the indicator did not work at first, as though still suffering from shock at the narrow escape from being trodden on by the wheel; but it soon recovered and gave no further trouble.  Another, later on, was the bonnet release, which came undone and fell on to the floor (at 4,400 miles).

At the same time it was noticed that petrol was being lost from the fuel filler when the tank was full. A new filler cap was fitted, and provided it is fully tightened, this has given no further trouble.

Once or twice when submitting the Safari for service, I drew attention to a tiresome squeak, apparently coming from the rear seat. The Citroen service department were evidently unable to rectify it, and eventually as a two-man effort - one to drive and the other to explore - we tracked it down to the tailgate. Simple adjustment of the catch made the door close a little tighter, and stopped the squeak. But what Citroen did rectify unasked, was a faulty pressure limiting valve in the line to the rear brakes.

I had commented in an earlier report that we were experiencing premature brake locking. Citroen said it was only the third failure of this valve they had experienced on a CX, and the repair certainly transformed the braking performance - no more sliding on with locked wheels and attempting on and off footwork with the pedal; it has always stopped very well indeed since this attention. The brakes are generously big – discs front and rear-even - for a car of this carrying capacity and pedal response is vigorous and not too abrupt. The handbrake is also beefy and used to be appreciated when I lived at a house with a sloping driveway. It works on the front discs.

In recent months the little amber warning light showing a drawing of a brake pedal tended to flash on.  Handbook check showed it to mean “brake pads worn” not “brake fluid low‚ as had been suspected but service check showed the pads to be not then ready for replacement.  The light again came on with regularity though still not to any discernible pattern such as after hard braking, or when it’s wet. It is still not time to renew the pad however; at the last service a short-circuit in the warning system was repaired.

With a personal interest in car radios and tape players I tend to a little pernickety about the ICE in my own car, and was rather horrified at the standard provision of a vertical radio slot in the CX. How do you see the tuning scale when it’s mounted there, and what cassette player will work standing on its back? One or two do it but the majority don’t.

We threw the problem at the Car Music Centre of 122 Shepherds Bush Centre, London W12 SPP, and were highly delighted at the original solution they evolved – as bizarre as the rest of the Citroen interior stying. The radio – a Blaupunkt Essen - was fitted in an enclosed box attached to the side of the -instrument nascelle. It has proved a very convenient position for it, and the slight tremor of the set at tickover does not seem to have any ill effects.

Above: The standard Citroen tow hitch is very sturdy and picks up on the main chassis members

The CX already comes with front door-mounted apertures for speakers, and we had two more speakers neatly installed on the rear quarters, with a front-rear balance control. The result was impressive and has given great pleasure throughout our use of the car.

However, we landed in trouble with Citroen, who said that removal of the console to house the radio’s separate stereo unit, had resulted in disconnection of the ventilator outlets. Our complaint about lack of output from the central vents resulted in a bill for £20 for putting it all back together correctly.

Quite apart from this, I must confess that I find the ventilation the least pleasing aspect of the Safari - and, indeed, of any CX. In the long hot summer it was always a difficult car to keep cool enough without opening the side windows, which results in a lot of noise at speed; and too much heat always seemed to seep through the console. Now that winter is with us it is a car that is slow to warm up and needs the heater full on most of the time. Also, hardly any air at all comes through the heater unless the fan is kept on at least at its low-speed setting.

The electric windows have been appreciated and it seems a logical economy to mix electric front windows with manually-wound rear ones. The electric motors have a cut-out to prevent overload, such as when the windows have become frozen; and there has been no trouble with their operation. The electrical problem we did experience resulted from a short-circuit in the line to the roof lamp switch.

Andrew Shanks was using the Safari as tender for a race meeting at Snetterton at the time, and in endeavours to isolate the fault, which kept blowing the fuse, he plucked more and more switches out, trapping their wires with loops of paper so that they did not disappear beyond recall into the bowels of the car.

You get two wipers with the Safari, and with typical Citroen logic they are positioned one at each end. The front wiper copes extremely well and although it leaves quite large areas unswept in the upper corner of the screen on each side, they are unimportant, and wet weather view is good. On its vigorous second speed, it clears heavy rain adequately well. Sometimes embarrassingly, sometimes conveniently, it chucks the water off sideways on to the adjacent car if the washers are used while waiting in traffic.

On my first journey with the Safari I used the rear window wiper, and then spent several miles trying to switch it off. I had not learned then that it automatically ends after 15 sweeps, and in attempting to switch off I kept re-energising the “on” switch. However this system does not work well. On wet roads, even if it's not raining, there is so much spray blowing up in the swirl at the back of the car that the rear wiper is needed continuously and it should have a positive on/off switch for constant running. Both front and rear washers operate on a pulse system (the rear one at the same time as the wiper is activated), and this works well and tends to conserve the water in the reservoirs.

Power steering is also standard with the Safari, and helps to make it very easy to berth this great length of car at the end of a run. Like the suspension, it takes a little while to get going fully after the first start of the day. At speed on the straight there is some trace of fidgety movement out of line, but the lesson here is not to be tempted to correct it. If the wheel is held straight, the car holds its course very well. I have often been astonished to step out of the car at the end of a run and find a strong wind blowing, when the good stability and aerodynamic shape had left the Safari almost totally unaffected.

It has always been part of my motoring upbringing that it was wrong to force the steering round while the car was not moving, so it comes as a contradiction of this way of life to run a Citroen CX, whose Varipower steering automatically self parks in the central position, even after you have switched off. The moment you release the wheel, if the steering is locked over, it promptly self-centres. The car thus always looks tidy, with its wheels pointing straight ahead - but is it good for tyres, steering linkages, and so on?

An early misadventure with the Safari left me glad to have a laminated windscreen as standard fitting. Accelerating away from a roundabout into a curving dual carriageway, I saw an oncoming lorry shed a load of stones which bounded across the rigid centre strip. Most of them I managed to avoid, but one caused a large star at the base of the screen. At first it looked as though we might get away with it, but during the heat of the day a large crack spread remorselessly across the glass. Owners would be wise to check that their insurance covers windscreen breakage, since a new one for the Safari costs some £100.

Opinions vary about the highly original layout of the CX facia. Personally, I don’t like the digital speedometer and rev counter in which the figures move through a little window. It reminds me of the 1937 Morris 8 on which I did much of my early driving, and the speed cannot be gauged without looking at the instrument, in the way that is possible out of the peripheral vision with a large needle-on-dial speedometer. A small thumb wheel is located just under the nascelle on the right, for varying the “always on” illumination of rev counter and speedo.

I value greatly the finger-tip controls for lamps, wipers and washers, all within easy reach of a hand still holding the wheel. The lighting arrangement is good, using the dipswitch to give choice of dipped or side lamps for urban streets, when the main lighting switch is at the side lamp position. They are halogen lamps and give good range but are restricted when dipped. Indicators which do not self cancel are an old Citroen tradition which l find no hardship. At least they don’t self-cancel when you don’t want them to in response to some small movement of the wheel.

A detail dislike is its ashtray which proves difficult to empty and is almost designed to lose its little spring so that the lid won't stay closed. Cold weather also drew attention to a problem with the door locks, that they are prone to freeze up and become very difficult to turn without risk of breaking the key. It’s a nuisance, also, that the front passenger door can't be locked from outside without using the key.

These are all minor points which detract little from the overall-impression of a sturdy. reliable and long-suffering workhorse which asks to be driven hard. Chafing marks on the door mat in the back tell of the amount of load carrying we have done with the Safari; but the car has stood up well, and the lack of underbody corrosion noted is most impressive. For any potential buyer who needs the space, my advice would be that the CX Safari is a choice that certainly will not be regretted - but, you do need the extra power of the 2400.

Right: Awkwardly placed filler for the rear window washer reservoir

Above: Just part of the maze of pipework related to suspension and brakes
Below: Vertical vanes at the front channel cooling air into a scoop which leads it to the front disc brake on each side

Above: Looking rather like a police evidence picture of 'where the body was found' this view of the Safari shows the scene after one of our staff used the car for a sans-tent family camping trip

Above: The ashtray that will no longer stay closed because the spring has gone Above: Trim pulling away from the side seal in the load compartment
Above: Glove box awkward to close

Maximum speeds

mph kph rpm

Staff Saloon Staff Saloon
Top (mean)
Top (best)
6,000 6,000
6,000 6,000


True mph

Staff Saloon Staff Saloon















Standing 1/4 mile
20.3 sec 69 mph
18.8 sec 73 mph

Standing KilO (sic)
37.0 sec 79 mph
34.7 sec 93 mph


Staff Saloon Staff Saloon Staff Saloon



Overall mpg:
23.6 (12.0 litres/100 km) Staff

23.1 (12.2 litres/100 km) Saloon
Note: "Saloon" denotes performance figures for Citroen CX 2000 saloon tested in Autocar of 10 May, 1975.  (Safari not tested so far)

Cost of ownership

Running costs
Life in miles
Cost per 10,000 miles (£)
One gallon of 4-star fuel, average cost today 80p
One pint of top-up oil, average cost today 38p
Front disc pads (set of 4) at £16.90 inc VAT 20,000
Rear brake linings (set of 4) at £11.55 inc VAT
Michelin XVS tyres (front pair) at £37.64 each (average)
Michelin XVS tyres (rear pair)
See note
Service (main interval and actual cost incurred)

Running cost per mile:

Approx. standing charges per year




Price when new

Trade in cash value (approx)

Typical advertised price (current)

Total cost per mile (based on cash value)

*Insurance cost is lowest figure obtainable from Quote! for average driver of clean record paying £25 excess, and after deduction of full no claims bonus, and with car garaged in Hertfnrdshire.
The spread ofinsurance quotes given by Ouote! is narrow, with a maximum after-NCB payment of £88.
Tyres were measured at 75,600 miles and found to be still reading over 8mm at the rear, against the original new depth of 8.7mm Rear tyre wear can, therefore, be regarded as negligible and it would be logical to alternate them with the front tyres, effectively doubling the life there.


4cyl, 86.0 x 86.0 mm (3.39 x 3.39 in)
1985 c c (121.8 cu. in.)
CR 9.0 to 1
One Weber carb
102 bhp (DIN) at 5,500 rpm
Max torque 112 lb. ft. (15.5 mkg) at 3 000 rpm
Front engine, front drive.
Overall ratios 3.82, 5.39, 8.73, 15.12. Top gear mph/1,000 rpm 19.2.
ifs transverse arms, oleopneumatic
Rear, independent, trailing arms. oleopneumatic.
rack and pinion (power assisted).
Disc front and rear (servo)
10.2 in. front discs 9.3 In rear discs.
Wheelbase, 10 ft. 1.75 in. (309.25 cm)
front track 4 ft. 10in. (147.3 cm)
rear track 4 ft. 5.5 in. (133.4 cm)
Overall length, 16 ft. 2 in. (492.8 cm)
width 5ft 8in. (112.7 cm)
height 4 ft 9.75 in. (146.7 cm)
Turning circle 36 ft (109 m)
Unladen weight 3053 lb (1388 kg)
max. payload 1510 lb. (686 kg).
Tyres  185SR-14 in.; 5.5 in. rims;
fuel 15 galls (68 litres).

© 2015 CitroŽnŽt/1977 Autocar