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Bijou the English 2 CV

2CV Index




10 February 1961

Slender pillars and large glass area provide excellent visibility. A rubber strip forms the seal between the frameless door window, the fixed side glass and body

ONE of the most remarkable successes in the French motor industry, during the years since the last war, has been that of the Citroen 2 c.v. This is the cheapest four-seater car produced in France and, although something of an ugly duckling in appearance, its practical virtues and operating economy have made it an extremely popular model. When last road tested by The Autocar at the beginning of 1953, the engine size was 375 c.c. and subsequently this was enlarged to 425 c.c. Although assembly of the standard 2 c.v. has ceased in England, a special version named the Bijou was introduced at the 1959 Earls Court show, and this was aimed, the manufacturers claim, at motorists who wish to add a second Citroen to the family garage. The basis of the Bijou is the platform-type chassis of the 2 c.v. and all mechanical components are the same,with the exception of a few made in this country.

A glass fibre body of British design and manufacture has transformed the appearance completely, making it acceptable in British eyes, although the tail-up attitude, when unladen, remains. In this form it is a two-seater saloon with a rear seat for children; alternatively, it would be possible for an adult, sitting across the car, to use this seat for short journeys only. This better equipped body weighs nearly 2cwt more than the standard one.

The admirable hammock-type front seats of the 2 c.v. saloon are retained, but they are trimmed in a stiffer material, a p.v.c.-coated cloth. This makes them a little less resilient but nevertheless they are very comfortable, being broad and giving good support in the small of the back and at the shoulders. They are adjustable fore and aft by pegging the frames into a series of holes in the floor and they may be lifted out of the car for use when picnicking, or on the beach.

The Bijou has right-hand drive, and a single spoke 15in. dia. steering wheel, of the Citroen DS type, has been fitted. This wheel is set at approximately 45deg. in a rather high position.

Gone is the starkness of the 2 c.v. saloon. The interior is fully trimmed and there is a conventional instrument panel placed high on the facia. Under the front carpet there was a layer of felt‚ 1in. thick and on the front passenger’s side a double layer of felt at the toeboard, which reduced leg-room by 2in., making the front compartment cramped for a passenger of average height. Sound deadening material on the engine side of the bulkhead would seem to be more practical.

Visibility is very good for the driver in all directions and the screen pillars are unusually slender for a glass fibre body. The screen is deep and well raked and has considerable wrap-round at the ends, where there is slight distortion. Side windows are deep, giving a good view upwards, and the mirror provides a fair view through the large curved rear window.

Brake and clutch pedals have well curved pads but they are too close to the floor so that contact is made below the ball of the foot. The brake pedal is very close to the steering column. Because the floor pivot of the organ type accelerator pedal is placed too close to the driver, the right leg is not supported by the seat cushion and it is also tiring to hold the pedal in the full throttle position.

When at rest, first gear or reverse may be engaged without depressing the clutch pedal, as a centrifugal clutch is fitted. As the throttle is opened and the engine speeds up, drive is taken up automatically and reasonably smoothly.

There is no need to declutch when coming to rest. Naturally, with the choke in use and the engine running at fast idle, this practice cannot be adopted. The clutch is very light and has a short pedal movement; the operating cable failed during the test.

Forward ratios of the four-speed gearbox are so arranged as to give the car an ability to climb steep hills and also to cruise at low engine speeds. First and second gears are therefore very low, while third and top are high. In first, the Bijou would restart successfully on a 1-in-4 gradient, albeit with some wheelspin at the lightly laden front tyres on a dry road, although of course this was only made possible by letting in the clutch at high engine speed, thus overriding the centrifugal action.

The gear change is very pleasant, and although the positions for the gears are rather unconventional they are learned quickly. They are engaged by a straight line fore-and-aft movement of the lever, which is twisted to the left for first and reverse, is spring-loaded into the vertical position for second and third, and is given a twist to the right before engaging top. The action was very smooth and precise, and synchromesh on the upper three ratios was excellent, so that only when snatching the lever from one position to the next could a noisy engagement be made. As there are, of course, three fore-and-aft planes of movement, there are also three neutral positions; when coming to rest, changing from top to first requires more manipulation of the lever than with the conventional arrangement as a result.

Raising the hinged nose section reveals engine, transmission, brakes and steering. Also accessible are battery and headlamps and other electrical equipment. Heated air from the engine cylinders passes into the car through the large flexible ducts. Wings are removed easily

Economical and Flexible Engine

It would be unreasonable to expect a lively performance in view of the low power output of the two-cylinder horizontally opposed air-cooled engine which develops 12 b.h.p. maximum at 4,000 r.p.m. and has a maximum torque of 17.4lb ft. at 2,500 r.p.m. Nevertheless, if free use is made of the indirect gears, brisk progress can be made. When accelerating hard on full throttle there is a fairly high level of noise inside the car and a transverse shake of the power unit develops.

Hills have a considerable influence on the car’s performance. When climbing a main road gradient speed is reduced rapidly, and if the hill is sufficiently steep to require 2nd gear, the car may climb at about 20-25 m.p.h. only. However, when making full use of down gradients to work up speed, over 70 m.p.h. was seen on the rather optimistic speedometer on a number of occasions.

Once in its stride, the Bijou will cruise on the level in top gear at 40-45 m.p.h. reasonably quietly, and in an effortless fashion. Flexibility of the little engine is so good that if top gear is retained and speed is allowed to fall to 20 m.p.h. it continues to pull smoothly. In 3rd gear a true 50 m.p.h. was reached, almost exactly the same as the highest speed obtained in top. Top gear, therefore, has the effect of an overdrive ratio and it is possible to drive with full throttle indefinitely without jeopardizing reliability.

As the Bijou is underpowered compared with the majority of other small cars, the tendency is to use a fully open throttle most of the time. Driven in this way there is some resonance in the body as well as the floor, which is an integral part of the platform chassis. Considerable efforts have been made to overcome this with the sound insulating material under the carpet already mentioned and with foam padding in the roof.

A compression ratio of only 7 to 1 and the use of small valves and ports (which results in a low volumetric efficiency) enables the Bijou to run satisfactorily on a regular grade of fuel - another factor in the low cost of motoring with this car. During the test distance of 1,021 miles, most of which was covered at full-throttle running, the fuel consumption was 49-2 m.p.g., which is very good by any standard. On a journey of 94 miles of continual full-throttle motoring, with two up and road test equipment, 53.7 m.p.g. was recorded. It is therefore quite difficult to bring the figure below 50; this entails much climbing of hills in a low gear or negotiating very heavy city traffic.

The fuel tank is carried beneath the floor of the luggage boot, and has an unusually long neck to the filler placed in a rear wing panel. No fuel gauge is fitted, but a red light comes on when one gallon remains in the tank. To check fuel level, therefore, it is necessary to push a stick down the long filler until it reaches the bottom of the tank. Even then only a rough indication of the amount of fuel can be obtained. On the standard car, a dipstick, housed in the filler, was provided. It is likely that a gauge will be fitted in due course on the Bijou.

Ride comfort is undoubtedly the strongest point of the Bijou, for which the unique suspension is responsible. Front wheels are each located by a long single forward-facing arm, and the rear wheels have similar trailing arms. A single horizontal coil spring at each side of the chassis serves both front and rear arm on each side of the car so that the two systems are interconnected. Springing is exceptionally soft, and very bad surfaces can be rushed without serious shocks being felt by the passengers, and this gives the car an unusually good ride on unmade roads or even where no road exists. Interconnection of front and rear suspensions helps considerably in achieving this.

Comfortable hammock-type seats are quickly removable. Beneath the large parcels shelf are the controls for heating and demisting, the handbrake and on the far side a hand wheel for adjusting the level of the headlamp beam. Intended primarily for children, the rear seat is well upholstered, and there are cavernous lockers in the body sides.

The rear seat squab folds forward for alternative access to the luggage boot and enables longer loads to be carried. Jack, tyre pump and tools are housed beneath the rear seat

Vertical motions of the car are slow and gentle, and only on the very worst stretches of a particularly deeply potholed track did the front suspension reach the bump stops.

When it did so, because of its nose-down attitude, the front number plate was bent beneath the car. The possibility of damage to the car is remote because of the perfectly flat underside to the chassis, and the ground clearance is very generous at 7.5in. This rough riding ability, combined with the use of front-wheel drive, enables the car to clamber about on rough, muddy surfaces in a surprisingly agile manner.

On normal roads, good or bad, ride comfort is superior to that of most other cars, whatever their size or price. The nature of the movement is dependent upon the frequency of passage over undulations, varying from a gentle rise and fall of the car as a whole to an equally gentle pitching motion, though usually it is a combination of both. An inertia type damper is fitted at each wheel; these do not check suspension movements as quickly as do normal hydraulic dampers. There are occasions on washboard surfaces when movements of the car on its springs build up abnormally, but not to alarming proportions. Some rumble is heard inside the car when passing over stone setts, but on bad stretches of Belgian pavť, 30 m.p.h. could be sustained in comfort, the car being free from bucking or crabbing. At all times the chassis felt very rigid and there were no creaks or rattles in the body. If a low kerb is mounted at moderate speed, the passengers are hardly aware of the manoeuvre.

When cornering, resistance to roll is low with this suspension, so that quite large angles are reached. Nevertheless it can be cornered fast when required, although accompanied by considerable tyre squeal, but the car remains very stable provided that the throttle is held open. In such cornering it understeers fairly strongly - a characteristic of front drive cars - and if the throttle is then closed it steers more tightly into the corner, unless a correction is made at the steering wheel. Tyre adhesion is very good indeed on wet or dry roads.

Constant velocity joints are now fitted at the outboard ends of the drive shafts to the wheels, and these have improved greatly the smoothness of the drive on sharp corners. A little unevenness, felt at the steering wheel, remains during hard cornering.
For a car with a kerb weight of only 11.9cwt, steering is by no means light, but the effort required at the wheel varies according to the lock applied, being lighter at large steering angles. This is accounted for by the large change in camber angle of the road wheels as they are steered. This steering is quite high geared, but is not heavy when parking, it being possible to move the wheels from one lock to the other, when the car is stationary, without undue effort. It is responsive and precise and road shocks are transmitted to the steering wheel only on very bad surfaces. There is strong self-centring action. Again, for a small car, the turning circle is larger than average, but this is controlled by the front wheel drive shafts and the limiting angle of their universal joints.

Unladen, the Bijou has a nose-down attitude, the rear bumper being 6in. higher than the front one
Considerably larger than that of the standard 2 c.v., the boot of the Bijou is nearly 40in. in length. Beneath the platform is the 4.38 gallonfuel tank which gives a range of over 200 miles between refills

Brakes require quite heavy pedal effort, 150lb. being required to give the best retardation of 0.87g, at which the rear wheels all but locked. Pedal pressures up to 75lb. are frequently required during normal motoring. They are smooth progressive brakes which pull the car up squarely and would appear to have sufficient capacity to cope with Alpine passes. After passing through deep gulleys filled with water on a cross-country track, water entered the drums rather easily, producing roughness and much reduced braking power until they had dried out. The pull-out umbrella handle handbrake under the facia was easy to reach and apply and it held the car on a 1-in-3 gradient.

Screen wipers clear a large area of the screen and are self-parking. Unless the screen was thoroughly wet, however, there was a tendency for them to slow down and for the stroke to be reduced. It would appear that a more powerful motor is required. Headlamps give an excellent range and spread of light, and the level of the beams is adjustable to compensate for changes in the car’s attitude according to load carried, by means of a control beneath the right of the parcel shelf. The usual Citroen type of multiple switch for the lamps is on the right of the steering column. Rotation of the rectangular knob switches on side and headlamps. In the sidelamp position, pushing the stalk away from the driver gives dipped headlamp beam, which is useful for flashing in towns, and in the main beam position the same movement gives dipped beam. Pressing the knob sounds the horn, which has a weak, undignified note.

Air for interior heating is obtained from behind the engine cylinders and there are individual controls for driver and front passenger, beneath the parcel shelf. A third control provides demisting on the driver’s side of the screen when all the air is directed there. This method of heating was found to be effective, but fumes entered the car when the choke was in use.

There are two flexible type sunvisors which may be swung parallel with the door windows. These are frameless and well sealed but rattle when partly open. Their winders have a rather stiff action. The excellent interior door handles with small separate release and locking levers of the type fitted to the larger Citroens are used, and there is an ashtray on each door. The doors close easily without heavy slamming. Carriage locks, operated by an ill-fitting key, secured the one-piece bonnet, and care had to be taken to ensure that these were properly locked.

The boot is of very useful size and when the rear seat squab is folded a platform length of 56in. is provided. Beneath the rear seat cushion is a locker for tool stowage.

A comprehensive set of hand tools is provided, together with a jack and tyre pump, grease gun and a starting handle. Inside the car there are large pockets in the body sides level with the rear seat, and a deep parcel shelf beneath the facia. Bumpers are of polished aluminium, but as they are bolted directly to the glass fibre body they would do little to protect the car from anything but a very light blow. In view of their height variation with load, overriders would seem to be necessary. Four greasing points require attention at 1,000-mile intervals.

Altogether the Bijou is a very practical car, easy to maintain and cheap to run. It provides relaxed motoring in outstanding comfort, against which must be set the relatively high noise level of its little two-cylinder engine. Although its powers of acceleration are low, it will cruise briskly on long open-road runs and offers an altogether different, leisurely style of motoring which some find very appealing.

07.jpg DATA
PRICE: (basic) with two door saloon body, £358
British purchase tax (post budget,  1962), £135 5s 3d
Total (in Great Britain), £493 5s 3d including heater
ENGINE: Capacity, 425 c.c. (35.93 cu. in.)
Number of cylinders, 2.
Bore and stroke, 66 x 62 mm (2.6 2.4in)
Valve gear, overhead, pushrods and rockers.
Compression ratio, 7 to 1
B.h.p.: 12 (gross) at 4,000 r.p.m. (b.h.p. per ton laden 16.1)
Torque, 17.4lb.ft. at 2,500 r.p.m.
M.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear, 12.18
WEIGHT (with 2 gal fuel): 11.9 cwt (1,330 lb)
Weight distribution (per cent) F, 59; R, 41.
Laden as tested, 14.9 cwt (1,666 lb)
Lb per c.c. (laden), 3.92
BRAKES: Type, Citroen hydraulic, leading and trailing shoe
Drum dimensions: F, 7.87in diameter; 1.41in wide. R, 7.09in diameter; 1.41in wide. Swept area: F 70 sq. in; R 63 sq. in. (179 sq.in. per ton laden)
TYRES: 135-380 mm. Michelin
Pressures (p.s.i.) F, 15; R, 17 (normal)
TANK CAPACITY: 4.38 Imperial gallons
Oil sump, 3.5 pints
DIMENSIONS: Wheelbase, 7ft 9.5in
Track: F and R: 4ft 1.6in
Length (overall), 12ft 11in
Width, 5ft 1in
Height, 4ft 10in
Ground clearance, 7.5in
Frontal area, 18.3 sq. ft (approximately)
ELECTRICAL SYSTEM: 6 volt, 57ampere-hour battery
Headlamps 43-35 watt bulbs
SUSPENSION: Front, single leading arms and coil springs in compression
Rear, single trailing arms and coil springs in compression, interconnected with front suspension
Scale 1/4in. to 1ft. Driving seat in central position. Cushions uncompressed


BRAKES (at 30 m.p.h. in neutral)
Speed range, Gear Ratios and Time in Sec. Pedal load in lb
Equiv. stopping distance
in ft.
5.71 to 1
7.5 to 1
12.56 to 1
25.91 to 1
10 - 30
20 - 40

From rest through gears to:


20 m.p.h.

7.1 sec.


30 m.p.h.

15.0 sec.

40 m.p.h.

31.3 sec.

FUEL CONSUMPTION (at steady speeds in top gear)

Standing quarter mile 31.6 sec
20 m.p.h
79.1 m.p.g.

30 m.p.h.
71.7 m.p.g.



40 m.p.h.
62.3 m.p.g.


50 m.p.h.
46.4 m.p.g.


Overall fuel consumption for 1,021 miles, 49.2 m.p.g. (5.7 litres per 100 km.).
Approximate normal range 43-60 m.p.g. (6.6 - 4.7 litres per 100 km.).
Fuel: regular grade

TEST CONDITIONS: Weather: Dry, 5-10 m.p.h. wind, air temperature, 48 deg. F.






TRACTIVE EFFORT (by Tapley meter)

Pull (lb per ton)
Equivalent gradient

STEERING: Turning circle:
Between kerbs, L, 34ft 4in; R, 34ft 3in
Between walls, L, 35ft 6in R, 35ft 5in
Turns of steering wheel from lock to lock, 2.25
1 in 18.7


1 in 13.9


1 in 8.6


Car speedometer

True speed

© 1961 Autocar - thanks to GH