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NO ONE at Citroen will deny that the venerable Deux Chevaux and its closely related companion, the Dyane Six, look like the primeval links to the GSs and the CXs in their current range. Early last year Citroen launched the two Visas — cars to bridge the generation (and capacity) gap.

The Club uses an updated 652 c.c. version of the 2CV's air-cooled horizontally opposed twin-cylinder engine. The Visa Super on the other hand, makes use of Peugeot's 1,124 c.c. conventional four-cylinder water-cooled unit to bridge that capacity gap. To all other intents and purposes, the two cars are virtually identical, save for the Super's marginally less basic level of trim. The four-door  hatchback body has sufficient traits to make it instantly recognisable as one of the new Citroen family, and certainly unlike any other small engined hatchback
in existence. From the front, the most striking characteristic is the massive thermoplastic bumper which surrounds the radiator grille which, combined with the
side rubbing strips on the Visa Super's doors, gives the little car more than a passing resemblance to a bumper car.

The four-cylinder 1,124 c.c. unit is transversely mounted, with a sharp rearwards rake of 72 degrees. It is very slightly undersquare with bore and stroke dimensions of 72 X 69 mm; compression ratio is 9.2 to 1 and the single overhead camshaft is chain driven. Carburation is by a small Solex twin choke 32 PBSIA 7 unit. Poweroutput is a rather modest 57 bhp at 6,250 rpm, and maximum torque of 59 lb. ft. is achieved at 3,000 rpm.

C'est nippy

The horsepower and torque outputs hardly translate to astonishing performance, but they do make the Super a far more attractive proposition to drive than the Club (36 bhp at 5,500 rpm, 38 lb. ft. at 3,500 rpm), which makes overtaking at any speed a science requiring split second timing and a long, long road. Just to give you anidea of the difference, the Club ambles up to 60 mph in 27.9sec, while the Super can make it in 15.1sec; and the Club has to strain to rise to 70 mph, while the Super has an extra 19 mph in hand. Any further comparisons between these outwardly similar cars would be unfair, since the engines are so dissimilar. The point is that the Super has a sufficient turn of performance to make the car delightful to drive in town traffic.

If need be, it can be first away from the traffic lights to avoid a traffic bottle neck of say, three lanes into two. and the engine has a sufficiently broad band of power to enable slow moving cars to be overtaken with a minimum of fuss.

Equally, it is capable of being hammered along the motorway or Autoroute in the manner that the French reserve for their smallest cars without fear of repercussions — the relatively high top gear giving 17.3 mph/1,000 rpm, meaning that 70 mph has the engine turning over at just over 4,000 rpm — quite low for such a small-engined car.

The intermediate gear ratios are correspondingly higher than might be expected but are nonetheless well spaced, giving maxima of 33, 55 and 81 mph.

The gearchange is well sorted out, thanks to its Peugeot lineage, and ultra quick gear changes are delightfully easy, with a slick accurate movement.

The slightly heavy clutch gives a smooth and progressive take-up and stood up well to our wheel-spinning test starts. It also happily set the car in motion up the 1-in-3 test hill, but we noted that the engine would not tick-over while the car faced up the hill in neutral because of fuel starvation.

The car started readily under the limited extremes of hot and cold temperatures experienced during the test — cold starts required choke and no pedal, warm starts required the accelerator to be fully depressed.

Though the massive thermoplastic bumpers and wide rubbing strips give the Visa Super a dodgem car appearance, it still looks distinctively Citroen
Every cubic-inch of the underbonnet area is fully used; the spare wheel nestles on top of the sharply raked 1,124 c.c. four cylinder ohc engine.  Removal is unneccesary for filling and checking service items apart from access to the oil filler cap.  Oil dipstick can be seen at the front of the engine.

Fuel consumption

We surmised in our Visa Club road test that the Super might return a better fuel consumption under hard driving conditions, thanks to its bigger engine and higher gearing. In practice however, the Club's overall consumption for our road testmileage proves to be much better at 36.1 mpg against the Super's 32.2 mpg figure. Of course, there is a substantial difference in performance between the two Visas, and were the Super to be driven at the same pace as we had pushed the hardworking Club in our test, then it would easily have bettered the smaller engined model; but the Super was driven with the zest that it invited — with consistently higher cruising speeds, acceleration and lower travel times resulting in the unexceptional fuel consumption.

Our interim fuel returns from town commuting, fastish motorway cruising and even track testing were remarkably close with a variance of plus or minus just over one mile per gallon but with a little moderation a Super owner could expect returns in the higher 30s and no doubt the more economy conscious will return figures in the low 40s. Rather disappointingly, the Super retains the small 8.8 gallon fuel tank of the Club (using 98 octane 4-star petrol), which gave the Visa Super a rather lowish range of about 270 miles between fuel stops.


Peugeot's 1,124 c.c. overhead camshaft engine has always emitted a distinctively "tappety" sound, and its installation in the Visa Super has done nothing to change its character - noticeable. but by no means annoyingly noisy. Wind noise is well suppressed, as with the majority of Citroens, and even at top speed, it is well below that of its contemporaries.

Road Behaviour
Little rock, lots of roll

The little Citroen's all independent suspension gives an excellent ride that would put many mid range saloons to shame. Like Peugeot's 104 hatchbacks, the front end is
located by MacPherson strut with coil springs and at the back by a coil sprung trailing arm assembly. The car soaks up the worst of bumps and dips with good damping in typically Gallic style that prompted several passengers to comment favourably on the car's ride across the harshest surfaces, but they expressed surprise at the car's
propensity to roll considerably when cornering. All small French cars have this tendency to tilt passengers across the seat on sharp corners, and the Visa is no worse than many. One tends to drive round the problem by entering the corner at a slower speed than one might in a Mini, particularly when carrying passengers of a nervous disposition or so as not to astonish following cars. However, if you are happy to be keeled over at a large angle, then there is no reason why bends cannot be
taken quickly - the car's front heavy weight distribution will invoke increasingly large and predictable amounts of understeer as one approaches the limits of adhesion, requiring a bigger turn in the wheel to maintain the line, or more safely backing off the car's speed. The rack and pinion steering is delightfully light and accurate at
anything greater than manoeuvring speed for parking, but the car's nose heaviness does make parking a proposition more suited to those with good biceps. A harassed 'mother of three negotiating the shopping centre car park will no doubt rate this as the car's biggest (and possibly only) real failing, but it is a problem that most will be prepared to put up with.

The Michelin XZX l45SR-14in. tyres offer excellent adhesion both in the wet and the dry, but can cause a slight embarrassment with an appreciable amount of tyre squeal when cornering briskly on dry roads. The car's good aerodynamic shape drastically reduces the effect of cross winds and lorry bow waves when the Visa is cruising fast, aiding the car's already good directional stability.

The Visa Super's brakes are discs at the front and drums at the rear, and are the same as fitted to the Club. They give good response with a near linear progression in relation to pedal load, with a creditable maximum stop at 8Olb giving 0.98g retardation. Increasing the pedal load by 5lb locked the front wheels and the braking fell to 0.8g. The rear wheels were prevented from approaching the point of locking-up by a pressure limiting valve. Our brake fade test of 10 successive 0.5g stops from the car's quarter-mile speed of 66 mph showed a steady increase in fade until a hard shove of 12Olb was needed to maintain the O.5g acceleration by the eighth stop.  The two remaining stops showed that the soft pads were making a marginal recovery. The handbrake held the Citroen up the 1-in-3 test hill but the car crept slowly when facing down. Its stopping power was reduced by the forward weight transfer and the handbrake managed only 0.22g.

The Visa's dashboard is unlike any other: unconventional satellite control drum controls horn, lights, indicator and wiper / washer functions very effectively, while the single spoke steering wheel allows an unimpeded view of the instrument binnacle containing quartz clock, fuel gauge and speedometer with resettable trip, and the bank of buttons for fog lamp. hazard warning, brake fluid level, two speed heater fan and rear window demister. Knob to the left of the manual choke alters the headlight beam to compensate for varying loads. Heating and ventilation sliding controls are to the right of the steering column

Behind the wheel
Novel controls

As you step into the driver's seat the satellite control drum grabs your attention. Its visibility is unimpeded by the single spoke steering wheel, but even so, it can take a few minutes to get over the initial surprise that there are none of the old familiar spindly stalks or switches for the lights, wipers and indicators. Fortunately, the symbols used on the drum take little thought to work out: the top quarter rotates to operate the two-speed wiper (washer emits a short squirt by pressing on the top), the lower quarter also rotates to turn on the lights, the indicators are set off by a vertical rocker level, and beyond that lies the horn switch, which is pulled back towards the steering wheel by the tip of your fingers. This novel set-up means there is no need to take a hand fully off the steering wheel, but we reserve our comments for the next section. The H-shaped instrument binnacle is also easily seen through the steering wheel, with a clock and speedo with resettable trip straddling a vertical fuel gauge, the horizontal needle for which "floats"
erratically whilst the car is accelerating or decelerating.

The fully reclining seats are firm, well shaped for lumbar and side support and must be among the best made for a car in the under £4,000 category. Legroom for our tallest tester proved to be just acceptable, and the seat moves forward to adjust forthe shortest of drivers.

The convex slope of the bonnet prevents the driver from using a visual cue to gauge the car's forward length, and so the driver will have to employ a little guesswork, but the car's front is so short that any estimate will probably err on the safe side.

The screen pillars also pose a problem as they are rather wide and could obscure an oncoming car at a junction. Citroen employ their familiar, massive single-arm wiper which sweeps a satisfactorily large proportion of the windscreen.

Living with the Visa Super

We thoroughly enjoyed driving the little Citroen: its size, performance. braking and predictable (though lively) handling helped to make travelling in London's rush hour driving a much more agreeable proposition than with many larger cars, and on the occasions when we had to travel on a motorway, the car proved to be much more relaxing than some other non-French competitors. The satellite switchgear is a unique approach that fares quite well in practice. The indicators are not self cancelling, and the horn is not the easiest to reach, particularly for those with short fingers, who will have to take their left hand off the wheel (spoiling the finger-tip intention). The interior is a little less spartan than the Club in that the rubber floor mats are replaced by carpets. The heater and ventilation outlets performed the task of warming and cooling the occupants and demisting the screen quite capably, and stowage space in the passenger compartment is provided by shelves and door pockets on both driver and passenger sides, in addition to the parcel shelf behind the rear seat. The rear tailgate opens well out of the way, and the parcel shelf is either completely removable, or will fold in half to allow access to the adequately-sized

luggage area, which could be expanded to accommodate more by pushing the rear seat right forward.

A knob located on the steering column releases the bonnet, which opens on to a self-fixing stay. The spare wheel is located on top of the sharply raked engine by three pegs and simply lifts off, though all service items can be checked without moving it. Removal is, however required for topping up the oil and the filler is located right at the back of the engine; filling is retarded by the mesh filter.

The Citroen Visa Range

As we have mentioned, the 652 c.c. Club is the only other model offered in the range at £3,327, against the Super’s £3,566.

Ⓒ Autocar 1980/Citroėnėt 2015 - thanks to Richard Needham