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Citroën Visa. The BNR podcast and the atmosphere of a real strong holder

ER Classics Desktop 2022

During episode 186 of BNR Petrolheads it was discussed again: the Citroën Visa. Carlo Brantsen and Bas van Werven paid attention to the fun Citroën and the trigger was the car memory. For this regular section of the entertaining car podcast, listeners submit beautiful car-related stories, which are alternately recited by Brantsen and Van Werven. During and after the memory in podcast 186, the Citroën Visa on offer. 

After the entertaining lecture, Bas van Werven told a nice story. When he was in college he had an orange “650”. In the way he named the displacement of his first Visa was the sheer justification of Citroëns' choice to stick to the twin-cylinder engines for a long time. And not only that. Van Werven also said that a housemate bought the Visa from him. He took the Visa with him for a holiday of several weeks in Spain. Not much was expected of that adventure beforehand, but the Visa happily returned to base. Van Werven's housemate then enjoyed the Visa for a year and a half. This showed that the Citroën two cylinders could last a very long time with a little care, attention and love.

A real one in everything Citroën

De Citroën Visa, under Peugeot's direction, emerged from the project codenamed Voiture Diminuée, after the first project based on the Fiat 127 was discontinued. Peugeot became the owner of Citroën, and wanted the Peugeot 104 as the basis for VD use, hence. But above all, the Visa was a real one in everything Citroën. The cut-out of the rear screens (which partially covered the wheels), the solution with one large windscreen wiper, the single-spoke steering wheel, the typical dashboard with control satellites, the profiling of the door panels, the way the Citroën Visa stood on its legs, the reversing lights in the middle of the bumper, that typical nose, the suspension comfort and the technology used at the Special and Club: the Visa left little to guess in terms of origin.

Bridge in program, hesitation at Citroëndrivers

De Citroën Visa also fell into the range very well. With the two-cylinder versions and the four-cylinder Super (with Peugeot X engine), the model bridged the gap between the A-type Citroëns on the one hand and the GS on the other. Nevertheless, the Visa was not initially a success. People had to get used to his extravagance. Moreover, it was launched at a time when the world was confronted with inflation, commodity crises and sky-high interest rates. In expensive times, the 2CV6 and the Dyane were Citroën program price-wise attractive alternatives to the two-cylinder versions of the Visa. In addition, A-type Citroëndrivers (in black and white) are less likely to switch to a Visa Super with a four-cylinder engine. And the GS rider didn't just say goodbye to the hydropneumatic comfort. In addition, the Visa was also a bit lower in the tree in terms of class, the model was significantly smaller than the GS. But above all: people generally did not like the Visa.

Color and freedom

As a young boy I did like the Visa, and I still do. The design indicated that Citroën still presented individuality in a way that only Citroën that was possible. I remember from that time, the end of the seventies, how you were in a Visa. My parents drove Citroën (a GSpécial and a 2CV4). Shortly after the Dutch introduction, they tried out a Visa Club (652 cc) and a Visa Super. The first was undersized for a GS rider, but the Super was a great alternative. In my memory I breathed freely in those carts, they drove superbly and comfortably, and were different from their competitors in everything. And that eccentric laissez-faire atmosphere was also present in the Visa. He gave the impression that it had been put together with the loose wrist. I was crazy about Citroëns, they gave color and freedom to life.

Quick facelift

Not long after this, the Visa was tackled by Heuliez. The facelift not only gave the Visa from 1981 a much more serious character. The changes also brought color to the Visa sales technically, the Visa was embraced. What helped was that the Visa buyer of the XNUMXs could choose from an increasing number of models and engine variants. There was also a diesel, and the Citroën Visa made a technical leap in its image thanks to the arrival of fast versions (Chrono, GT, GTI) and rally participation. On the other hand, the first dashboard disappeared in the mid-1988s in favor of a more general variant. But the Visa still retained a lot of individuality, and it lasted until XNUMX. That was the year that Citroën production ceased after nearly 1.3 million units built. During the eighties, the Visa, together with the BX, was therefore an important stronghold for Citroën. And a sympathetic one too.


It is obvious to ask the question which Visa I like the most. Of course. A TRS, Chrono, a GT, a Décapotable, a GTI and a Mille Pistes are obvious and fun choices. From that list I think the GT is the most harmonious, which is just right. But a very early Special from the first series still wins with me. Because it is this stripped-down version that exposes the original Visa concept the most, that's my favorite. In Mimosa. Blue. Or orange. With 650 engine. This is how a Visa should be for me. Exactly so.




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  1. I'll go back to the Visa for a moment. You can see in the photos how the side protection was handled: Nothing, 3 parts, 4 parts and the sporty plastic parts.
    The clock shop (dashboard) of the first and second types also differed considerably from each other. The first spatial dashboard with the satellite is shown. Then came the Normalere with, among other things, two sticks. The Chrono's had a kind of dashboard with round Jaeger gauges that were also in the sporty GS X models. Funny, there was a hole for the center vents.
    If there was badge engineering at all, it would not have been implemented to economic perfection with the Visa as it is now. Apparently there was room for personal interpretations of designers about “how things are”.

  2. The very first child from the union of Citroën and Peugeot was not the Visa, it 'only' came on the market in '78.
    Based on the P104, the LN, the smallest Citroën ever produced..
    But because Citroënbuyers were not crazy (the LN was in their eyes a rebatted P104), came Citroën with an “own” design… clearly recognizable as stubborn Citroën; the Visa.

    • The first LN had a 602cc block. I once had one too. Brave little car but can't get ahead. Especially with a headwind or uphill, even a 1CV2 was even more fierce. The successor LNA had a 4cc block (from the Visa). That went much faster. Ultimately, the LNA was also equipped with a Peugeot 650 block, which in fact had made it a 1100% Peugeot again.
      The little ones sold unexpectedly well because it was quite a handy and economical city car. And with the third door, it was also a handy and economical country wagon.
      But they weren't sales numbers that knocked you back. But neither had the development costs for PSA been.

      • That LN is really not recognizable as Citroen.
        I had to google it, but if you don't know better, it's like a Fiat from that era.

      • Idd my better half has had an LN with 34 whole cheese for her study. Bought with 21k miles. Driven 3,5k in 100 years. Then the LN started to suffer from “tilting pistons”. Sold with a heavy heart after a collision with a van from behind. The holiday with the LN to Z France to the Grand Canion proved its strength and reliability. Motorway continuous full throttle (=125 km/h). With 2pers plus full camping equipment a slope at the Verdon of 24%. (In first gear). Col du Gallibier passed at the bottom by BMW 1602. Overtaken halfway through, because of a boiling BMW engine motor Sometimes air cooling is better.

  3. The air-cooled two-cylinder boxer engine was indeed almost indestructible and that was not just a coincidence. During the development, a rough life without maintenance was already taken into account, the block was therefore designed with a number of clever ideas for the time.

    To start with, minimizing the risk of leakage. Citroën assumed that the clientele who bought a duck would not regularly check the oil every week, so what was in it had to stay in it. This was achieved by eliminating most seams and seals, and even gaskets. The motor halves simply fit together with microscopic precision. It has also been ensured that the engine never builds up overpressure, which is great when you consider that the pistons can move towards each other. This is achieved by building in a rubber “breathing valve” that is connected to the inlet, so that there is always a negative pressure in the crankcase.

    Ignition has also been made simpler and more reliable by omitting a distributor, which means that one of the spark plugs always produces a lost spark. But a duck that doesn't start is rare.

    In contrast to the poor Volkswagen engine with its overheated third and fourth cylinders, both cylinders are perfectly cooled on the duck. So nothing breaks.

    What's left then? If after a very long time the contact points are not renewed, yes, then the ignition will falter. But you can easily access it. And the valves can burn, although that never happens. And there may be too little oil in it, but because of the oil cooler it doesn't become disastrous quickly.

    No, a duck engine hardly breaks down. The gearbox is more likely to give up the ghost.

    • The ignition was electronic. Probably to solve the maintenance problem of the dots. There were two sensors on the gearbox housing: 1 for the low rev range and 1 for the high rev range. In those early years of electronics, those sensors sometimes broke. If that was the low speed sensor, the car wouldn't start. Both sensors were technically the same.
      Solution: swap sensors (spanner size 17?) and then you had a homecoming with the low revs.
      My key mate at the time had a spare sensor in his Visa so that he could continue driving completely normal in 5 minutes at Malheur.
      Eventually this risk disappeared as the sensors were improved.
      Now one would probably use a 123 ignition.

  4. 1,7 diesel without any luxury. And yet a perfect “boss car”. My very first. With a gray license plate, so without a rear seat. You could plank all day and was also economical and smooth AND good dummy test to drive. Due to lack of weight. Changed lanes shortly after and the Sierra on gas was the complete opposite in everything.

    Isn't it also delivered as an Axel with a GS engine??

  5. Bought a visa 85 re in 1100 and drove a lot of pleasant km with it, then bought a visa van C15 diesel for the business and when I see another one driving it gives me a warm feeling.
    At home in display case, models of the visa and the C15 are in 1:33 scale

  6. I would like to have a visa 1,7td!

    But just a correction...
    It was initially canceled by Peugeot. As a result, the Visa moved to an Eastern Bloc country to be born there as Oltcit.
    Then again under the flag of Citroën.

  7. Not only fun, but also seriously strong. I had the dubious “luck” of having a serious accident with it. At more than 50 km/h there was suddenly a car in front of me, just out of an exit. I had borrowed my parents' just three-month-old Visa Super. It was immediately a total loss, but thanks to that spare wheel in the front and the apparently sturdy cage, I was able to open the door. Some cracked ribs, but nothing else. My next two cars also became Visas! Never regretted it.

    • After my 1st dyane in '98 I had a white visa 650 ('84) for around €500
      Where that 2 cylinder in the dyane was wonderfully economical and relaxed, I found it a bit undersized in the visa. I think the 1100 was more suitable for that.
      Also very reliable. Up and down to the Costa Brava was no problem
      Then another C15 D and that was a great orderer (1 year)
      My 2nd Dyane made me happy again.
      Visas give a nice 70s image, especially in orange.
      I'm glad I drove it every day!

  8. Another beautiful article written Erik!
    My first and also new car on my 18th…..the GT version that I later traded in for the BX GTI

  9. Recognizable story, my parents drove GS and initially the Visa was quite an odd duck…. the Heuliez version was a bit more popular and my dad initially thought the Super E was a bit light but bought a beige with camel upholstery in November 1981 and a burgundy 1985RE with that beautiful cream upholstery in April 11. The latter also put together a lot better, but unfortunately the characteristic dashboard with that pepper bus on the left and long slide on the right was replaced by something typical Peugeot from that time. When I just got my pink paper, I was allowed to go out with the Visa from time to time and it just drove very nice, very manoeuvrable and certainly not slow. The later AX's and Saxo's were a bit faster and wobbled less, but were also much less expressive and stubborn. If I were to go into European I would like to try to pick up a GT that is still running, but they have become really rare. Combo 1360cc suitcase engine, good in the stuff and without additional plastic makes it a nice whole.

    • My dad got me in a Visa leader, which he has never regretted. After this loyal Citroenrider frustrated (about the service of Citroen) had switched to SAAB, I thought that was a great achievement on my part. From a solid 2 liter to a whizzing 1130. He has never regretted it.
      I had mounted two (round 14 cm) spotlights on the bumper. In addition to the enormous light output in dark rides, the Visa also suddenly looked sporty. If that was included in the facelift, many more would have been sold
      Two things worth knowing about the quality: my dad drove with policy more than 1 in 18. The car was traded in on an AX with 360.000 kilometers. The next owner has enjoyed it for years to come.

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