Citroen Visa Club
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
Citroen Visa Club
ONE of the sad things about large combines was that any individual character within the constituent parts of the group tended to be squeezed out until only a rather grey and mundane "mere transportation" was all that remained. Thankfully the Peugeot-Citroen-Talbot group allowed its constituents autonomy, and therefore individualism, within a central co-ordinating policy.
This lesson was learnt in the 1920s when Bill Durant's General Motors collossus started falling apart at the seams because it grew too big for one man to control - try as he might. His successor Alfred P. Sloan was the man who gave incentive to each cell in his empire and bought in the best talent in the business to ensure the future of the combine, which grew to become the largest motor company in the world, and stood as his memorial.
The Citroen Visa Club was living testimony to his philosophy, for though it was built upon a Peugeot 104 floor-pan, the two cars couldn't have been more different. The same individualistic Citroen feel was present when you drove it, while its looks in traffic could never be mistaken for any other marque in what was really the age of the Euro-box. In the model line-up, the Visa sat between the Dyane 6
and the bottom end of the GS range
Hemi-Head Air Cooled 2 Cylinder
The Citroen Club was powered by a two cylinder horizontally opposed engine, with air cooling
and front-wheel drive
like the Dyane
, but the engine
was a revised one with increased bore taking the capacity up to 652cc. Valves
were push-rod operated in a hemi-head
with a 70 degree included angle. The aluminium cylinder barrels had a special coating developed during Citroen's courtship of the rotary engine, and there was a three bearing crankshaft to reduce unwanted vibration.
One of the refinements was the use of contactless electronic ignition activated by sensors at the flywheel to enhance smoothness. The neat four door body with its distinctive and practical chevron wearing thermoplastic nose section had the traditional loftiness of its forebears, while wheel-arch gaps suggested that this Citroen had all the suspension
travel expected of the breed. Certainly, a great deal of attention was paid to the creature comforts of the driver and passengers.
Great Around Town
The interior was unexpectedly roomy; width headroom and legroom for front and rear compartments was generous, even for people of above average height. The seats too were very good for the class, the rear seat squab folding to increase the space available through the wide-opening hatchback. Very little of the bonnet was visible to a driver, and the windscreen pillars though steeply raked were slightly obstructive, while the windscreen itself was wiped CX-fashion by one large wiper.
On the performance front, the Visa Club certainly tried hard. But lack of cubic capacity was always working against it. That said, the 2 cylinder engine
was a game little unit but with only 36 bhp at 5500rpm to play with it was not likely to outdrag much more than a keenly-driven milk-float. That said, with spirited driving around town, it was able to keep up with most on the road, while its narrowness of body allowed it to wiggle past casually strewn commuter traffic in a most satisfying way. The Visa was probably at its best as a town car, as when you ventured onto the open road baulking or even relatively mild inclines made their presence felt and it took a while to build up the speed again - frustrating if you were in a hurry.
Not So Good On The Open Road
Such modest performance meant that babies such as this one needed to be "rowed along" with the gearbox, and in this respect the Citroen was lucky to have a slick four speed floor change that might even be described as sporty - certainly the synchromesh
was hard to beat no matter how hard you tried. Geared at 13.2mph/1000rpm the Visa Club was flat out just above the legal limit, and flat out it was probably the way most owners would have found they used the car, which had an obvious affect on fuel economy. Driven thus the Visa put in disappointing fuel consumption figures of 35mpg or so, but with gentle driving this could be increased by about 10 mpg - provided you did not mind holding up those behind.
Rack and pinion steering
, geared at 3-3 turns lock to lock for a tight 30 foot turning circle, added to the feeling of agility and made for a car that was stable in all conditions. MacPherson strut and coil springs
with anti-roll bar
featured at the front with trailing arms at the rear of this all-independently sprung car. Importantly the Visa rode as a Citroen - a time when the Citroen was a class leader - by a long shot.
Roll angles were a little alarming to anyone without a sailing background. Even with a lightweight unit the Club's weight distribution was biased 60% to the front, so it came as no surprise to those that drove them that the car understeered, but the Michelin XZX tyres
held on so well that the Visa could be hauled round with the steering
wheel, while lifting off produced a typical tightening of line found in other front drivers. Brakes
, via outboard discs and drums, performed their task well and progressively.
Behind the Wheel
The interior of the car was designed for utility with rubber mats and plastic and painted metal trim - rather poorly finished in places if road testers from the time were right. There were oddments trays under the fascia and storage bins in the doors, the front ones of which contained red safety reflective discs. The clock and speedometer
were set directly in front of the driver in square containers with the fuel gauge between. The Citroen
people had their little bit of fun contriving the control "satellite". By various pushing and twisting motions you could switch on lamps, dip or flash them, sound the horn, and use washers and wipers, while a rockable switch operated indicators which, true to Citroen form, would not self-cancel.
All this worked surprisingly well at finger tip reach, with the exception of the horn which could not be found quickly, but it was less successful on right hand drive cars because you would be changing gear with the left hand, turning the steering wheel and trying to operate the satellite if not at the same time then in quick succession. To sum up, the Citroen Visa Club combined its role as family holdall with a dash of chic and lots of character.