The Recent History

Please follow the links below to navigate to the different models of the Recent History.

AX - Launched in 1986, the AX eventually replaced the Visa and LN/A. From family runabouts to fast GTis.

ZX - The ZX filled the gap between the new Xantia and AX with technology such as passive rear steering.

Xantia - Launched in 1993, the Xantia replaced the popular BX with a range of engines from 1.8 to 3.0 V6.

Saxo - The Saxo reached legendary status amongst hot hatches from modifiers and tuners.

Xsara & Xsara Picasso - A car and people carried sold on "quality, comfort, safety and driving pleasure".

Synergie - The XM never had a 7 Seat "Familiale" option unlike the CX, so along came the Synergie.

C5 (I and II) - A car packed full of computer controlled technology. Brakes and steering were not Hydraulic.

C3 (I) - Heavily heralded by the press as a "new 2cv", presumably due to the vague similarity in outline.

C2 (I) - Following 2002's launch of the C3 to replace the five-door Saxo, 2003 saw the launch of the C2.

C8 - Following the success of the Synergie, a more sophisticated replacement came along in 2002.

Berlingo & Multispace (Mk1) - In 1996, it broke the tradition in the small van market.

C4 (I) - Advertised by Citroen as "alive with technology", the C4 packed a number of innovative features.

C6 - Argued by some as a classic as soon as it was launched, the C6 harked back to it's predecessors.

C-Crosser - The Sport-Utility Vehicle market continued to grow, and PSA and Mitsubishi joined forces.


The 80s and 90s - The rise of blandness, or resurrection of a tarnished brand?

Citroen's newfound sales success, the BX, didn't sit easily in the range in the early 80s. The 2cv and Dyane sat beneath the LN, with the GSA looking increasingly out of place next to the higher end of the Visa range and lower end of the BX range. Above the BX sat the CX - magnificent, but selling slowly and tarnished with a reputation for rot and fragility. The commercial vehicle range consisted mainly of the truly ancient H-van, with the large C35 above it.

The H, GSA and Dyane didn't last long, all disappearing within a year of the BX launch.

The plans for the mid-range car that had been replaced by the Visa were dusted off, and the Axel appeared. Using the GSA engine, but conventional torsion bar suspension and a body that looked like an over-inflated 3-door version of the 5-door Visa, it never sold well in France, and never appeared in England. However, in it's homeland - Romania, where it was a joint venture with the Ceaucescu government - the Oltcit was about the only option to the ancient Renault 12 built by Dacia.

The true flavour of New Citroen, though, came with the Visa's replacement in 1988. The AX was small, very light, and extremely economical. Again making heavy use of plastic panels, the lightness was often mistaken for flimsiness, but the AX was as tough as old boots. The ZX filled the gap between AX and BX nicely, being more conventional than the BX, but equally well built. The CX was replaced with the XM, and the make-over was complete.

As well as building Citroen's reputation, much of Peugeot's reputation for fine chassis was built on these cars. The 205 used the Visa's enlarged 104 platform, the BX spawned the 405, the AX the 106 and the ZX the 306. The Lion's gloss wasn't universal, though, as the XM's 605 twin lacked good looks (think overweight 405) and it definitely lacked sales volume. Most significantly, it lacked the XM's clever computer controlled 'Hydractive' development of the hydraulic suspension, which made an XM a very comfortable limo as well as an extremely competent large sporting saloon. In the 3.0 24v v6 version, the XM was the fastest production Citroen to date, by quite a margin over the thoroughbred Maserati-powered SM.

As the BX aged into the early 90s, the Xantia arrived - Citroen had grown into a real rival for the Ford and Vauxhall fleet market, and company car sales flooded from the aging Sierra and Cavalier to the Xant. Thoroughly competent, extremely well built, and very good looking, the Xantia developed the XMs hydractive a stage further into the Activa. Harnessing the rapid growth of silicon technology to hydraulics, the Activa sensed body roll and worked to keep the car's body level. This meant the tyres kept flat to the road, doing their job better, and the car handled superbly, although at the expense of ride quality.

Citroen's Commercial Vehicles - Chevrons on the front, a copy of the Sun and a thermos of coffee on the dash.
While this was all starting, the prehistoric H-van had been replaced by the C25. Also known as the Peugeot J9, the Talbot Express and the Fiat Ducato, the C25 became the standard Transit-alternative across Europe, and was the most visible fruit to date of the commercial vehicle joint-venture established between PSA and Fiat following the abortive merge of Citroen and Fiat in the very early 70s.

This joint venture started to spill into the car range in the mid-90s, as the fashion for 'people carriers' led by the Renault Espace (which Citroen had originally been offered by Matra but turned down) grew exponentially. The Traction, DS and CX had all had seven seater Familiale versions, but an XM Familiale wasn't possible, and didn't fit the marketplace. The Citroen Evasion arrived. However, it was known as the Synergie for the UK, due to the unsavoury 'income tax' connotations of the European name... With subtly different lights and interiors, it was also known as the Peugeot 806, the Fiat Ulysse, and the Lancia Tau.

As the C25 aged, it was replaced by the slightly larger Citroen Jumper aka Relay for the UK (Presumably, the breakdown-service echoes were preferable to that of a knitted cardigan?) aka Peugeot Boxer, aka Fiat Ducato. Finally, the Evasion spawned a smaller van, the Jumpy (aka Despatch for the UK, aka Peugeot Expert, aka Fiat Scudo), and the success of the commercial vehicle division followed that of the cars.

A new millenium, a new attitude
Through the '90s, the Citroen range was often accused of that most un-Citroen of attributes - Blandness. For the maker of cars that hissed and arose in the morning to be accused of making cars more beige than even Ford? Unthinkable! And yet... they sold. By the shipload. In quantities that even Andre couldn't have dreamed of.

But - the market was changing. People wanted individuality. People were paying a premium for cars that were... quirky. Unusual. Idiosyncratic. The kind of car that Citroen used to make - but these ones worked. They didn't fall apart in the first few years, either. Citroen had learned how to do that bit properly. Finally.

Then, with the launch of the C5, it started to look as if things might be becoming interesting again. Over the next few years, things gradually heated up even more. The Xsara Picasso became the best-selling small MPV in the UK. Cars that looked a bit different. Cars that did things a bit differently. Cars that had some thought in the design. Citroens. Again.

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