Review and road test of the Citroen BX (1983 - 1993)
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
The BX was the first totally new Citroen to be released by the company after being rescued in the early Seventies by cash-rich rival Peugeot. Citroen enthusiasts were terrified that the traditional Citroen eccentricities would disappear and feared what form the BX might take. It turned out to be a thoroughly conventional car (for a Citroen) and an excellent one to own, unlike many of its predecessors. Owners old and new were impressed and the BX became a great success.
The British took to the BX the moment it was released. There were many people who, for years, had longed to own a car with Citroen's brilliant hydraulic suspension but had been turned off by the radical looks of the CX or GSA. The BX's styling was a break with the past yet still off-beat, but its roomy body, great handling, magic-carpet ride and sprightly performance made it a popular car like no Citroen had ever been before.
BX - 1983-1993: (1.4 Hatchback [base, E, RE, TGE, TE, E Leader] / 1.6 Hatchback and Estate [RE, RS, TGS, TRS, TZS, TXS, TXi] / 1.9 hatchback and Estate [TRS, TZS, GT, GTi, GTi 16v, 4wd GTi, TRi, TZi, 4wd] / 1.7 diesel Hatchback [RD, TGD] / 1.7 turbo diesel Hatchback and Estate [TXD, RD, TGD, DTR, TZD] / 1.9 diesel and turbo diesel Hatchback and Estate [RD, TGD, DTR, TZD,TXD])
The BX was already nearly a year old when right-hand drive production began and the first cars arrived in the UK. Models available for the August 1983 launch were the 1.4-litre base car, the 14E and 14RE, the 1.6-litre 16RS and the range leader, the 1.6 TRS. A diesel arrived in March 1984 called 19RD and it had a 1.9-litre engine. Six months later the 19 GT arrived. It was the performance model and was equipped with a 1.9-litre petrol engine. New 1.7-litre diesels arrived in late 1985 as well as an estate range.
The BX19 GTi replaced the GT in July 1986 and the range was freshened. The most obvious visible change was the adoption of clear front indicator lenses (formerly orange). The GTi received a 16-valve engine in June 1987 and in May 1988 the DTR turbo diesel hatch and estate arrived. There were various trim level revisions after this, none of them major, and model names changed to TGE, TGS, TZ and TZD, among others. A 4x4 model was introduced in May 1990 but the estate version was discontinued in May 1992, along with the GTi. One model, the 16TXi, arrived only a few months before the Xantia replaced the BX in May 1993.
What You Get
A lot of people buy a Citroen for the wonderful ride that the cars with hydropneumatic suspension provide. The BX had a relatively simple version of the system, as well as fairly uncomplicated mechanicals. These two factors made the BX the first Citroen buyers weren't afraid of.
The GTi versions are also rather quick and make excellent buys for the family-driver who wants something a little bit out of the ordinary. Savvy buyers knew that here was a car that weighed the same as a Peugeot 205GTi, and had the same engine, except with a multivalve cylinder head. This made it a veritable performance bargain. Not everyone likes the tacked-on bodykit, but for the money, the top BX offers strong performance and fine handling in abundance.
What to Look For
You don't need to worry too much about the suspension of a Citroen. There are no shock absorbers to replace for example (unlike a 'normal' car) and the system itself is largely maintenance-free (though hydraulic fluid must be changed every 35,000 miles).
Engines in the BX are all trouble-free, but don't forget to replace cam-belts every 30,000 miles or you run the risk of damage to the engine following a snapped belt.
Corrosion is not usually a BX ailment, as the body has no particular rust traps in it (the tailgate is plastic, for a start). Still, have a good look around the car, just to be sure.
(approx based on a 1989 BX 1.9 Diesel - ex Vat) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive - though they're not as cheap as some might expect. A clutch assembly kit will be around £120 and an alternator should be close to £125. A full exhaust system will be around £145.
Brake pads are around £38 a set (front) and just over £30 a set (rear). A replacement headlamp is close to £80 and a starter motor is around £170 (exchange).The price of radiators will set you back about £150.
On the Road
These really were lovely cars to drive. That amazing Citroen ride was present even in the GTi and the old bugbear of excessive body roll was only mildly noticeable. Performance of most of these cars was brisk, due to the lightweight body, though the 1.4-litre cars were not exactly swift. The GTi 16V, on the other hand, was a five-door hot hatch and these cars are only now being sought out by those whose budgets won't stretch to an equivalent-year Golf GTI.
The GTis are real performance bargains and the lesser models make great family cars or load carriers for those on a budget. Pieces of interior will come off in your hand at some point, but that's a small price to pay. Buy the youngest model you can afford and you should find you have a thoroughly sensible, yet still characterful Citroen.
Citroen BX (1983 - 1993) review by JONATHAN CROUCH