Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale – test drive – diesel power of Citroen

2014 Drive-My

Test-drive Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale series 1 1980. Estate version of the Citroen CX range with eight-seater capacity on three rows of seats. Choice of 2347 c.c. M23 petrol or 2500 c.c. M25-629 diesel engine, each with four – or five-speed gearbox and diesel five-speed manual tested here. Familiar Citroen layout of front wheel drive and hydraulic power system for suspension, steering and all-disc brake operation. Four-door body with one-piece tailgate extending down to low platform unencumbered by spare wheel.

Diesel motoring is rather like being in a secret society. When you travel abroad, meet other holiday makers from Britain and hear them complaining about the expense of petrol, there is an evident air of disbelief when you reveal how relatively little the diesel car has cost to cover the same distance. Equally surely it can be presumed that the general motoring public are quite unaware of how much more civilised and practical the modern car diesel engine has become, as exemplified by Citroen’s CX 2500 D.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Citroen offer the 2500 diesel engine for the saloon with Super or Pallas trim, and for both versions of their estate car. The Citroen CX Safari estate and Citroen CX Break estate is the big load carrier of the range, with a folding bench rear seat, behind which there is immense space for luggage.

For this test, though, we have used the Familiale model, in which the rear bench is replaced with three individual seats. The outer one on each side readily tips forward bodily to allow easy access to a third row of seating. This comprises a folding bench farther back in the car. The car is thus designed to seat eight: two in front, and three on each of the rear rows of seats.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Taking advantage of its carrying capacity and economy, the Familiale was used for an extended Continental tour through six countries and covering nearly 3,000 miles. Although the car was very heavily loaded it coped with the weight and the added drag of a well-stacked roof rack with impressive ease, and climbed without apparent effort over the Grimsel, Furka, Gotthard, Plocken and Gr. Glockner passes. In a different sort of motoring – sustained high-speed cruising – it also proved outstandingly good, covering 628 miles in 81/4 hours, to give an average running speed of more than 76 mph.

Performance – much quicker than the figures suggest

Just to look at the performance figures of the Citroen may give a wrong impression that the car is not very quick, with a time of 17.2 sec to get from rest to 60 mph. But in ordinary long journey driving there is no suggestion of sluggishness at all; much more to the point is the impression that this diesel seems to cover the ground swiftly and in deceptively eager and relaxed manner. The nature of the engine, coupled with a cheerful lack of concern as to how much fuel it consumes – it’s economical even when driven hard – lead one to use much more of the available power than one would with an equivalent petrol car.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Citroen actually offer the estate diesels with only a four-speed gearbox, but although the five-speed version is some £140 dearer it would be false economy not to specify the extra ratio. Not only does it benefit the already impressive economy, it gives much more refined fast cruising. Indeed, as one makes the change up to fifth, the low-revving note of the engine becomes as relaxing and unobtrusive as the background throb of the engines in a big boat.

The gear change doesn’t like to be hurried too much, tending to go through with a dull thud if it is, but it is delightfully smooth and easy to use if the change is made in slightly more leisurely fashion. In moving off, there is sometimes a trace of clutch judder, but this can be avoided by a little care in feeding it in progressively with the right amount of engine revs. The spacing of the gears is ideal, giving maxima of 22, 40, 58 and 76 mph. As with all diesels, engine speed is limited by a governor, and it says much for the choice of gearing and the adequacy of the performance that we never once reached the governor limit point on the road, even when storming over mountain passes.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

In fifth gear, the acceleration is quite acceptable so that it is not always necessary to change down to fourth to regain speed on a motorway, though fourth is often valued to cope with some of the fairly steep gradients sometimes experienced on German motorways. Maximum speed in fifth gear is 94 mph, which is by no means slow for a 2.5-litre car of this size. Although there is a feeling of “unburstability” about the diesel, which gives the impression that it would go on for ever at full throttle, the car tends to settle down happily to cruise a little slower than this, with 90 indicated in the window of its strange speedometer – a true 85 mph.

Although the engine note is certainly audible all the time, it is not obtrusively loud. There is much more noise outside than is heard within, and the steady clatter of the engine at tickover proclaims the car as a diesel to all around.

Economy – almost too good to be true

In this extended test, with a great amount of weight on board for most of the distance, the 2500D Familiale returned almost exactly the same consumption as the 2500D Super saloon – 30.5 mpg, against the Super’s 31.5 mpg. In spells of light running, economy improved to 34 mpg, and in contrast, sustained fast motorway cruising gave the lowest figure returned during the distance – a still very creditable 27 mpg.

The fuel warning light begins to flash when the level is down to the last two gallons, and remains on continually for the final gallon. The fuel gauge is quite accurate, and its very low rate of decline is a reassuring confirmation of the low rate of fuel consumption.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Such economy is rare in a car big enough to house a 15-gallon fuel tank, and results in a truly magnificent fuel range. On one occasion, the CX diesel covered 460 miles (true distance, not mileometer reading), without refuelling, and it is quite normal to run 400 miles on a tankful, resulting in a substantial saving of time. This massive range also enables one to take full advantage of the big difference in diesel costs on the Continent, filling up in places like France and Italy where it is cheap, and over-driving others like Switzerland and Austria where it is expensive. Sadly Italy has imposed a limit on the amount of diesel that can be exported, but enforcement of this seems fairly lax for cars.

The Citroen engine seems to have a fair thirst for lubricating oil, averaging 1,000 miles per litre. An oil level warning light is connected to a sensor in the dipstick, readily unplugged when the level is to be checked.

On the road – immense capacity

As you load up the Citroen, lying almost in contact with the road like a great basking shark, its immense capacity encourages one to put more and more in; then, when the engine is started, it pumps its suspension back up to the normal ride height and the behaviour of the car is almost the same when very heavily laden as when empty. The comfort of the ride in these conditions, without any tail sag or pitching, is phenomenal and makes the Citroen estate a load carrier of quite outstanding ability.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

The oleo-pneumatic suspension swallows up undulations and bumps impressively well, giving a level and very well- damped ride that enhances the overall comfort of travel. Little road noise is transmitted and there is a minimum of jolt or thud on bumps. When the car is fully laden, with a lot of weight on the roof, there is noticeably more body roll on corners and the driver learns to help the car round by trying to be under acceleration through a corner rather than braking, thus reducing the understeer. Even with a full load, it corners in very manageable fashion and is no concern when tackling the hairpins of a mountain pass. Early tyre squeal gives warning if the cornering limits are approached.

With its powered self-centering, the steering is like that of no other car. Release the wheel after stopping and switching off, and the steering automatically centres itself. The system is high- geared and exceptionally sensitive. At first acquaintance, the reaction of the car to movement of the wheel is a little unnerving, but with familiarity it makes the car a pleasure to handle, not least for the ease with which an arrow- straight course is held on a motorway. Considering the length of the wheelbase, the turning circle at 36ft is commendably tight, and the car is impressively easy to park or manoeuvre, thanks to the ease with which the steering is turned and the excellence of the all-round visibility.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Disc brakes are fitted all-round, and all four discs are internally ventilated. The system is fully power operated, rather than just power assisted, and there is slight lack of sensitivity so that a sudden application may be a little more abrupt than was intended; but braking response is always excellent, and a substantial safety factor for the car. No fade was experienced, either in our rather severe tests at MIRA or in hurried mountain descents. The handbrake operates the front discs, which means that it is much more effective than usual when applied as an emergency brake. Pulled on hard, it holds securely on a 1 in 3 test gradient.

Behind the wheel – remember the length

Good visibility and a very comfortable, relaxed driving position, go a long way towards making this big car very much more controllable than one might expect. Because of this, it is important not to get lured into forget-ting just how long it is. The rear wheels are a long way back from the front ones, and on corners they take the short cut, like a trailer. Well-placed mirrors give a good view along the sides, but they are not adjustable from inside by remote control.

A Citroen feature is the use of a huge centre-mounted windscreen wiper, which very effectively clears a large-diameter single arc of the windscreen. It is switched on by a trigger switch to the left of the instrument nascelle, pulled rearwards to operate the very effective screenwashers. Intermittent wipe is now provided, in addition to slow and fast speeds. At first acquaintance, the controls seems slightly unfamiliar, but any awkwardness is quickly forgotten and instead one is appreciative of the convenience of having everything within reach without taking the hands off the steering wheel.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

A large centre console houses the radio – a big improvement on the original mounting of the radio on its side – and extends down to embrace the gear change and includes a cubbyhole which can house a few cassettes. Electric window lifts are standard for the front windows but not the rear ones; and they operate quickly provided the electrics are switched on by the column lock (which would be the ignition switch on the petrol model). Farther back is a switch for the interior lamp and, on the other side, a wash/wipe switch for the rear window. When the switch is given a touch, the wiper functions about five times and then switches itself off. In rain, when continuous action is needed to cope with the swirl following the car, constant run rear window wiping would be appreciated.

Living with the Citroen 2500D Familiale

Ready provision is made for removing the rear bench seat, making the Familiale temporarily only a five-seater, and this facility may encourage some buyers to opt for the Familiale even if the full seating capacity is not needed. However, the middle row of three individual seats are positioned rather upright in order to provide adequate legroom for those in the third row. The seating position is thus not very comfortable for a long journey – like sitting on a dining room chair – and so the Safari is to be recommended instead unless the extra capacity of the Familiale really is needed.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Front seats, in contrast, are sumptuously comfortable with soft cloth covered upholstery and adjustable backrests. Headrest are provided for the front seats, with detachable soft pads so that they can serve as true headrests, rather than just head restraints, if the passenger wishes to recline the seat and sleep in the car. The headrests are readily removable to give a better forward view for those in the back.

Since the Citroen CX estate first appeared, the ventilation has been greatly improved, with cool air outlets now added to the centre console in addition to the eyeball outlets at each end of the facia. But even with the addition of these, the through-flow is rather limited and the car tends to get rather warm inside on a hot day if speeds are too high for windows to be opened. At more modest speeds, the front windows can both be fully down without causing unacceptable wind noise. Heating is effective and controllable, and the regulators for ventilation are conveniently positioned between the seats.

The diesel engine is inclined forward and positioned to the right of centre. Although the space is well filled, access for attention is surprisingly good. A moulded tray in the spare wheel houses the jack, wheel brace and toolkit, and has space for the standard Continental one-litre oil can.

An impressive line-up of tell-tale indicator lights caps the instruments, but their functions are soon memorised and related to the pictorial symbols.

Finger-tip switches for horn, wiper, washers and indicators are on the left side of the nascelle abutment, and on the right are the headlamps dip and flash switches, and the main lighting control. There is a cubby-hole recess to the right of the steering column, and another in the centre console.

The indicators do not self-cancel, but the audible clicking when they are on, and the easy reach from the wheel to the indicators rocker switch, make this no inconvenience. Light controls at the other side of the instrument nascelle give the convenient arrangement of main or dip, and dip or side, when the dipswitch is touched, according to position of the main lighting switch. There is a separate headlamp flasher switch matching that for the horn on the other side. First pressure on the horn button gives a gentle beep, but harder pressure brings in some purposefully penetrating air horns.

The highly unusual instrument layout comprises five windows, housing a clock, fuel gauge and an indicator for the level of the fluid in the power system to be checked before switching on. The fourth window houses the speedometer, in which the speed figures are seen through a lens, and this is illuminated all the time when the engine is running. The fifth would be the rev counter on the petrol model, but on the diesel it just has the Citroen chevron. This is also illuminated, and the brightness of both is regulated by a little thumb wheel rather difficult to find, below the control block on the right.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Above the instruments is a formidable array of warning tell tales, but all are clearly marked, and include a positive “STOP” warning for failure of the power system. Above the radio at the top of the console is the cricket ball ashtray, readily removed by twisting for emptying.

One of the big advances of diesels has been the simplification of start and stop controls to an ordinary control like a petrol car’s ignition switch. After no more than ten seconds pre-heat, usually just the time taken to get comfortable and fasten the seat belt, the engine never once failed to start first time. Indeed, the starting of this diesel is a joy, and there is never any problem with fuel vaporisation on such occasions as when starting up again after a temporary halt during a mountain climb or a spell of high-speed running.

In conclusion on the convenience and satisfaction of running the Citroen CX diesel, we can say without any reservations that it is an admirably efficient car to live with and should prove a most rewarding purchase, the more so if there is hard work to be done. The only drawback is that derv is a messy fuel; owners need to keep a pair of rubber gloves in a plastic bag in the car for occasions when they have to fill up at a self-service fuel station. Because the Citroen CX 2500D Familiale has only one real rival – the Peugeot 504 diesel family estate – we have omitted our usual page of comparisons in this test.

The Citroen CX range

With the recent addition of the cheaper Reflex and Athena models, Citroen now offer no fewer than 19 CX models. The only diesel engine offered is the 2,500 c.c. four-cylinder, and in the saloon, Super or Pallas, it has a five-speed gearbox. The estates come with Super trim, and with choice of four-speed or five- speed gearbox. Because of the stepped roof of the estate there is no sunroof option, but air conditioning can be added.

Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale

Legroom both front and rear is exceptionally good. The front seats are luxuriously comfortable, but the middle row have their backrests a little too upright for comfort and would be much better if recline adjustment was provided.

The outer one of the central row of seats on either side tips forward for access to the third row. The back seat in turn can be folded down, cushion to squab, and then rotated through 90 deg to stand vertically giving extra luggage space — or it is readily removed altogether. A filler for the rear window washer is on the side panel.

Over an unusually extended test distance, the Citroen CX 2500 D Familiale had its load area packed to the roof, and carried a lot more on the specially tailored roof rack. The car is seen here at Heiligenblut, at the foot of the Gross Glockner pass, and opposite at the top of the pass, which it romped up in spite of the load.


Citroen CX 2500D Familiale 1980



Wind 17-25 mph


11° F (-11° C)


32.0 in Hg (1086 mbar)


Damp tarmacadam



4 in line / M25-629 Citroen
Bearings 5 main


Cast iron


Cooling Water, Electric Fan


2500 cc (152.5 cu in)

Bore (mm)

93.0 (3.66 in)

Stroke (mm)

92.0 (3.62 in)

Compression (to one)


Valve gear

OHV, 8 valve

Cam drive chain


Injectors, CAV roto-diesel, BOSCH


Power (DIN/rpm)

75 bhp /4250

Torque (DIN/rpm)

111 lb ft/2000



5-speed manual, all synchro
Ratios and mph/1000rpm




Reverse drive(R)

Final drive



Unitary  steel, with steel frame


Phosphating; electrophoretic dip primer before main paint coats. PVC underbody coating. Wax spray in body cavities.

Front suspension

location Independent, double wishbones  springs Hуdгоpneumatiс

Rear suspension

location Independent, trailing arms springs Hydropneumatic units dampers Integral  anti-roll bar


Assisted rack and pinion, DIRAVI varipower

Turns lock to lock


Turning circle (ft)


Pressed steel disc, Rim width 5 ½, Size/pressures F31 / R32 psi (normal driving), Tyres – make –type Michelin XZX radial tubeless 185 HR 14 


Two, split front/rear 10.2 in. dia. ventilated disc 8.8 in. dia. ventilated disc. Central hydraulic pressure system. Centre lever operating front discs.



121.0 (3095mm)

Front track

58 (1473mm)


53.3 (1390mm)


195 (4952mm)


70.9 (1777mm)

Weight unladen (cwt)

28.5 (1499 kg) 3190lb

Weight as tested (cwt)

32.5 (1746 kg) 3640lb

Ground clearance

6 (105mm – 233mm)

Fuel tank (gals)

15 (68 litres)


Front headroom Front legroom

(seat forward/back)


Rear headroom Rear legroom

(seat forward/back)

Front shoulder room

Rear shoulder room

Luggage capacity (cu.ft)

330 litres


Major service time

Sump (capacity/oil grade)

Oil change intervals


Grease points/intervals Time for removing/


replacing engine/gearbox

Time for replacing clutch. Time for renewing

front brake pads Time for renewing

exhaust system

Number of UK dealers





Clutch unit

Brake disc


Set brake pads


Front damper


Exhaust system


Oil filter




Starter motor





Front door (primer)


Front bumper


Bonnet (primer)




Headlamp unit (each)





Price without extras


Price as tested


Model range price span


EXTRAS (inc. VAT) Not fitted to test car

Metallic paint £190.61
Electric sunroof


Air conditioning £546.92
Leather upholstery £655.30


Length and conditions

12months/unlimited mileage

ACCELERATION – Citroen CX 2500D Familiale – 1980


0-30 mph

0-40 mph

0-50 mph

0-60 mph 0-70 mph 0-80 mph 0-90 mph 0-100 mph 0-110 mph

5.3 sec

8.4 sec

12.1 sec

17.2 sec 24.0 sec 36.0 sec 40.4 sec

0-40 kph

0-60 kph

0-80 kph

0-100 kph 0-120 kph
17,3-17.7 sec (test)
Stand 1/4 miles 20.4 sec 66 mph
Stand 1km 38.0 sec 81 mph
SPEED IN GEARS (at 1200-4500 rpm)




0-50 20-76 25-97
ACCELERATION IN KICKDOWN 10-30 mph 20-40 mph 30-50 mph 40-60 mph 50-70 mph 60-80 mph 70-90 mph
4.3 sec 5.0 sec 6.9 sec 10.0 sec 11.9 sec 15.9 19.7
40-60 kph 60-80 kph 80-100 kph 100-120 kph
Banked Circuit (best)
97 158
Best 1/4 mile 95 153
Terminal Speeds: at 1/4 mile
Terminal Speeds: at kilometre
Terminal Speeds: at 1/4 mile
Touring (est. 

Consumption midway between 30 mph and maximum less 5 per cent for acceleration.


33.9 mpg / 8.9 litres/100 km

33.1 mpg / 9.1 litres/100 km

Fuel grade DIESEL
Tank capacity 15 galls / 68 litres
Max range
Test distance 2969 miles
NOISE dbA Motor rating (A rating where 1 = 30 dbA and 100 = 96 dbA, and where double the number — means double the loudness.)
30 mph 60 10
50 mph 63 11
70 mph 64 11

Max revs in 2nd

69 22


Speedo mph True mph
30 28
40 38
50 48
60 57
70 67
80 77
90 87

PRODUCED BY: S.A. Automobiles Citroen, 133 Quai Andre Citroen, 75747 Paris 15, France

SOLD IN THE UK BY: Citroen Cars Ltd., Mill Street, Slough, Berkshire SL2 5DE

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