Never one for convention, it’s more than 40 years since Citroën’s unique take on the large saloon and estate hit the market. Here’s what to watch out for when choosing one today
Citroën never played by the standard car design rule book, and when it came to the CX, Robert Opron and his team kept that book firmly locked in a desk drawer. The DS was a difficult act to follow, though the CX is considered the last true Citroën prior to Peugeot’s involvement. But its replacement is as striking today as it was back on its launch in 1974, something that accounts for its strong following among those who appreciate design flair.
It’s also affordable, so what do you get for your money? Space, for one thing, especially if you opt for one of the cavernous Safari estates that could also be had in eight-seater Familiale form. There was plenty of room in the saloon too, along with a typically quirky cabin – Series 1 cars have rotating drum instruments, replaced by normal dials for the 1985-on Series 2.
The performance of the early diesels was leisurely, but there was plenty else to entertain, including the magic carpet ride quality provided by the hydropneumatic suspension. There was also the novelty of the DIRAVI self-centring steering fitted to most examples, along with a semi-automatic C-Matic transmission that arrived in 1977. Engines improved over time but for real pace buyers had to wait for the 168bhp CX GTi Turbo in 1985. By 1989 saloon production ended to make way for the XM, and the estate disappeared two years later. Today, the CX remains as fascinating as ever and for relaxed, comfortable and charismatic classic motoring it’s almost unbeatable. It’s not without fault – corrosion and parts scarcity are bugbears – but try one and you’ll be hooked.
STRONG STOPPERS? GALLOPING GALLIC RUST AVOID GROT BENEATH HEALTHY SUSPENSION Properly maintained, the all-disc brakes are powerful and effective, so anything less points to issues. Rear calipers can corrode and stick through lack of use, and check the front-acting handbrake – deteriorated cables weaken it. Later models benefitted from ABS although flaky wheel sensors and ECU glitches can be difficult and costly to sort, so be wary. As for the DIRAVI steering, it’s brilliant once you’re used to it, and although setting it up properly is for experts, it’s essentially reliable. Build quality improved after 1981 but corrosion is a constant threat so examine the inner and outer wings, leading edge of the bonnet, and bottoms of the doors and boot lid. Check around the sunroof where fitted – repairs here are awkward and potentially expensive. Also check the hinge area of the estate’s tailgate and for A-pillars turning frilly. Rust bubbling at the back of the rear door shuts is bad news, and be sure to examine the edges of the boot floor where the rear subframe mounts are located. The front floorpan seams and inner/outer sills are problem areas and terminal rot in the latter can be hidden by stainless steel or plastic trim on some models. Avoid cars with crusty subframes or signs that the main chassis longerons have been compromised by clumsy jacking or accident damage – major repairs are unlikely to be cost-effective. Obtaining replacement parts – both body and mechanical – can be difficult. There is a supplier in Germany but parts can be pricey. Finding a solid car is important. Assuming that the hydraulics are fine, examine the suspension mountings for corrosion, and ensure that ball joints, bushes and track rod ends aren’t worn as replacements aren’t cheap. Creaks from the rear suspension or uneven rear tyre wear will be failed rear arm bearings, which cost around £200 a side to replace. Replacement metric TRX tyres fitted to some models are also rare and pricey, so check their age and condition.