Sweet sixteen endangered species. Survivors worth saving. Only 26 left. Sacrificed to make 205 GTis go faster or simply left to rot, just 26 Citroën BX 16vs remain. But does its rev-tastic four-pot and mind-boggling tech make it worth saving? We strap in and find out. Words Nathan Chadwick. Photography Neil Fraser.
Citroën BX 16v Why this endangered species needs saving.
A screaming engine, space-age driving dynamics and brutal Marcello Gandini styling that could really have only been signed off in an era when the puffed-up, angular look applied as much to ladies’ jackets as it did to cars – welcome to the Citroën BX 16v, the Lamborghini Countach of hot hatches.
Gandini’s hand is everywhere; covered rear wheelarches, a hard-edged body in profile but subtle curves up close and exquisite detailing. Both have roots in the 1970s (Citroën bought an unused 1970s prototype design from Gandini), but they actually seem to fit the 1980s better. The BX could easily have starred in Blade Runner, and when the hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension rises up when setting off, you feel like Rick Deckard driving a spinner too.
But it wasn’t just the styling that was forward-looking. Early BXs (now known as phase Is) used plastic in the tailgate, bonnet and bumpers, and would have used more had it not been for PR concerns that the car wouldn’t feel premium enough. This made the BX light and economical, but it didn’t take long for sporty versions to appear. The GT and GTi used a variant of the Peugeot 205 GTi’s 8-valve 1.9-litre engine. But it was 1987’s GTi 16v that got contemporary road testers frothing at the typewriter.
The 16v not only gained eight extra valves but also a Peugeot 205 T16 Group B rally car-derived alloy cylinder head topped with a magnesium cam cover. That meant a 0-60mph sprint of just 7.4 seconds – impressive considering that the BX hits the top of second at 54mph, interrupting proceedings with another gearchange.
This didn’t add up to big sales. Too pricey to tempt Cavalier drivers out of SRis and too unrefined to sway execs away from German sports saloons, the BX struggled to find a market. Numbers dropped when modifiers harvested BX 16vs for 205 GTi engine swaps. Just 26 GTi 16vs are left on UK roads today. Worth saving? Let’s find out.