Giant Citroen’s Test – 1966 DS21 vs 1967 ID21 Break, 1973 SM 2.7 Coupe, 1981 2CV Charleston and 1985 CX25 Pallas IE

2014 Drive-My

Cruising through the Connecticut countryside in five of Frances finest. By Robert Gross and Richard A. Lentinello. Photography by Robert Gross. If ever there was an automobile company that specifically engineered their cars to possess reassuring handling characteristics in combination with an extremely comfortable ride quality, it was Citroen. These well-designed French cars were always as unique in appearance as they were mechanically innovative.

Recognized worldwide as a progressive marque, Citroen was best known as one of the pioneers in front-wheel-drive technology and active hydro-pneumatic suspension-control systems. Andre Citroen, a gear maker turned automobile manufacturer, began producing cars in 1919. With factories in England as well as France, production exceeded 10,000 units within two years. Never one to be satisfied with mediocrity, Citroen required his cars to be at the forefront of innovation, as witnessed in 1934, when he introduced the Traction Avant. This new car, which placed each wheel at its outermost corners, used front-wheel-drive, with the gearbox located in front of the engine. Traction Avants were praised for their innovative driveline and road-holding characteristics.

In 1948 Citroen introduced the 2CV, to compete with VW’s Beetle. Pronounced du-shi-vo, the new little car was an instant success, especially among farmers and those who needed cheap transportation. Other innovative milestones soon followed, including the DS and ID models in the mid-1950s. And in 1960, the new Ami was introduced/initially as a replacement for the 2CV, but the latter actually outlasted it. A sporty Maserati/Citroen hybrid coupe called the SM was available from 1970 until 1975. In 1975 Citroen stopped exporting cars to the U.S., though it remained a major force in the auto-motive industry in Europe. Such outstanding cars as the CX, GS, the BX turbo diesel, XM, Xantia and Saxo were some of the many unique cars American auto-motive aficionados would have to do without.

To discover just what the inimitable on-personalities of some of these noteworthy cars are really like, we contacted John Lobre, owner of an ID station wagon, to help us assemble a selection of models that best represent the Citroen experience. Thanks to John’s efforts, we were able to organize this owners comparison drive Report that includes a 2CV, DS21, SM, CX and John’s aforementioned ID Break (wagon); unfortunately we could not locate a Traction Avant. We convened in north central Connecticut, where the cars owners traded keys and provided us with first-hand insight into what it’s like to drive various Citroen models other than their own.

Part 1 1966 Citroen DS21 Pallas road-test

Part 2 1967 Citroen ID21 Break road-test

Part 3 1973 Citroen SM 2.7 Coupe road-test

Part 4 1981 Citroen 2CV Charleston road-test

Part 5 1985 Citroen CX25 Pallas IE road-test


Conclusion

With its decidedly rounded body, wide nose and narrow rear track, the DS21 Pallas was everyone’s favorite. Out of a perfect score of 140, the DS managed to score 124. It scored big in Styling and Character, but its Desirability and Ergonomics ranked slightly lower. Its weakest area was Performance and Handling. Only the 2CV with its 2-cylinder engine ranked lower in the performance department.

Hot on the heels of the swoopy DS was the late-model CX25 Pallas IE, down by a single point. Due in part to modern technology, the CX fared very well in the mechanical categories as well as being the most comfortable of the bunch. It received the highest rankings for Ride Quality, Handling and Ergonomics. However, its Character and Desirability ratings were quite low compared to the others.

Close behind, in third, was the SM. Naturally its strongest suit was its powerful Maserati engine. In fact, for Performance it was everyone’s favorite, scoring a total of 19 out of 20 points. It did well, too, in the Character, Desirability, Handling, Ride Quality and Styling categories, second only to the CX25 Pallas IE, but rated a fourth spot in Ergonomics. Overall, the sporty and exotic SM was well liked, but its powerful engine was not enough to rank it at the top.

Fourth overall was the highly distinctive ID21 wagon. Even with its utilitarian body it still was only four points shy of our winner. The ID scored a perfect 20 in Character, tying the DS21 and 2CV, and scored a second place in Styling, regardless of the fact that it was a wagon. Behind the DS, it was the second most desirable Citroen. Apparently our testers found the spacious cargo area one of its biggest assets. Performance and Handling were its weakest points, while its Ride Quality and Ergonomics were ranked better than average.

Last, but certainly not least, was the ever-unique 2CV. It, too, scored a perfect 20 in Character, yet tied for third in Styling. Its basic mechanical composition held the little car back; hence it scored the lowest in Ergonomics, Handling, Performance and Ride Quality. As a result of these low rankings, its Desirability score was dismally low, garnering just 12 points. But had the 2CV been tested against its real competitors, such as the Fiat 500, Renault 4V and VW Beetle, it would probably have made a strong run for first place. And, as owner Chris Ottman stated, “I might be able to get to my destination faster in the Citroen SM, but I’d never give up my 2CV.”

As always when we conduct these Owners’ Comparisons, there are no real winners or losers. Our intention is merely to provide useful insight on the various characteristics of a select group of special interest autos, as told by the owners of the cars themselves. This particular test was designed to show a study of progression that Citroen made from its dare-to-be-different 1950s styling and technology through the company’s modern-day mechanical marvels. Win, lose or draw, few car companies, even today, offer such sophistication compared to what Citroen was producing more than a half-century ago.

In summary, this Owners’ Comparison shows that if you really love the driving experience and aren’t afraid of styling that’s considered too eccentric for most Americans’ taste, then a Citroen just very well may be the old car that you have always been searching for, but didn’t know it.


If members of your car club would like to participate in an Owners’ Comparison drive Report here in the Northeast, kindly contact us at SIA, P.O. Box 196, Bennington, Vermont 05201; or e-mail the editor directly.

SCOREBOARD 
Citroen

DS21

ID21

SM 2.7

2CV

CX25 IE

Styling

20

18

17

17

17

Character

20

20

18

20

16

Ride Quality

17

17

18

14

19

Handling

16

14

17

13

18

Ergonomics

18

18

15

14

19

Performance

14

15

19

7

18

Desirability

19

18

17

12

16

Total

124

120

121

97

123

 

SPECIFICATIONS
Car

DS21

ID21

SM 2.7

2CV

CX25ie

Engine type

OHV 4 M21

OHV 4 M21

DOHC 90 V6

Flat Twin

OHV 4 M25

Displacement

2,175cc

2,175cc

2,965cc

602cc

2,500cc

Horsepower @ rpm (net)

109 @ 5,500

109 @ 5,500

190 @ 6,000

[email protected] 4,800

150 @ 5,000

Drivetrain Layout

FWD

FWD

FWD

FWD

FWD

Transmission

5-speed M

5-speed M

5-speed M

4-speed M

5-speed M

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