It’s fair to say that without the Citroen BX, the visionary French company might not be with us today. As one of the first new models developed under the watchful eye of Peugeot, the BX was decidedly more conventional than many of the innovative but financially disastrous models that preceded it.
Although it took a few years to settle into the UK market, it’s comfortable ride, safe handling and great fuel economy started to win it a number of fans. With the diesel models powered by the refined and powerful (for the time) XUD engine, the hotly-contested fleet market soon took notice, and with the 1986-model facelift – complete with more yet conventional looks and driving controls – it really took off. Over its 12-year life, more than 2.3million BXs were built.
During the 1990s, the angular Marcello Gandini-styled BX was a common sight on UK roads, serving as family transport, load-lugging estate car and even high-mileage minicabs. While it was an interesting and slightly different take on the ordinary family car, the BX tended to scare mechanics who were fearful of the hydraulic suspension, leading to many tales of ‘poor reliability’.
There was some truth to it in the early days, but as the company’s quality control improved, it soon became well known for its ability to reliably cover hundreds of thousands of miles.
Which BX to buy?
The problem with buying a BX today is finding a good solid example, let alone one that is the spec you want. If you want the design purity of an early Mk1 model, then get ready for a long wait. The build quality on early examples did leave a little to be desired, however the fundamental engineering was sound. A lot of the BX’s poor quality feel stemmed from the fact that it was in fact built to keep weight down to a minimum.
The later post-August 1989 Mk2 models (which feature smoked rear lights) are generally easier to find, although low mileage cars are surprisingly difficult to find. Diesel models offer genuinely affordable classic motoring, although most prefer petrol power these days. All are incredibly comfortable thanks to the reliable Hydropneumatic suspension system.
Power steering is desirable, unless you’re looking at a the lightweight petrol 14 models that don’t need it. Thankfully most later cars, barring very low-spec diesel and 1.6 petrol models, came with it as standard. Estates have usually lived much harder lives, and are even more difficult to find in good condition. They also tend to suffer from more corrosion issues (see common problems) than the hatchback.
Performance variants tend to be the most desirable, with the GTI and 16 Valve models attracting the highest values. If you’re feeling brave, the 4x4 GTI is also an option, although the fragility of the system, and scarcity of parts does make ownership one for the more committed BX enthusiast!
The LHD-only twin-carb BX Sport – featuring an unusual and unique bodykit – was never sold in the UK, although a handful have been imported. Despite its poor competition history, the ultra-rare Group B BX 4TC road car is prized by collectors, with cars very rarely coming onto the market.
Above all, you should try to find an enthusiast-owned and well maintained example. Abused cars in need of serious work are still common, and although not hugely complicated cars, restoration and servicing can far outstrip the purchase price of a good car.
Performance and specs
Citroen BX 16v
||1905cc four-cylinder, DOHC 16 valve
||160bhp @ 6500rpm
||133lb ft @ 5000rpm
|Price when new
Dimensions and weight
• The BX had a great reputation for its rust-resistance for many years, with the car’s fibreglass and plastic body panels and (later) galvanised shell helping to keep corrosion at bay for a time. That time has sadly come to an end, and it is serious corrosion that now puts many BXs off the road.
• There are a few common areas that can cause problems, such as the front inner wings, under the windscreen washer bottles as well as the boot floor, although these are generally straightforward welding repairs.
• More difficult corrosion hotspots include the windscreen surround, a-pillars and rear subframe mounts. Replacement sills are available if needed, although a good many items are not, so fabrication is your only choice.
• Mechanically speaking, the BX is a relatively simple machine, and with most engines shared across many Peugeot (and other) models there’s little to worry about. Basic checks for burning oil should be carried out – as this is quite common on the 8-valve XU engined cars (the same unit used in the 205 GTI).
• Head gasket problems are not uncommon, although ‘mayonnaise’ under the oil cap and in the breathers could just point to a car that has been stood around or has only been used on short journeys.
• The hydraulic suspension system, also linked to the brakes and power steering, is well known by specialists and is generally very reliable. Suspension spheres are around £40 a pair, and are simple to replace. If the high-pressure pump clicks more regularly than 10-15 seconds, it’s possible the system needs a new accumulator sphere (£25), or it’s possible there is internal leakage in in part of the system.
• Pipework will most likely have been replaced by now, although some cars might still be on their original set of front-to-rears. Replacements can be made up by anyone with the correct tools, and cunifer pipes will most likely outlast the rest of the car.
• Other hydraulic components can also wear out or fail. Creaky and sticky front struts can be rebuilt. Corrosion can sometimes attack the rear cylinders, causing massive fluid leaks – the only option being replacement. Used items are easily sourced, but new items are no longer available.
• ABS was fitted to most high-spec models, and it can cause a few issues if not working properly. Sensors are usually the culprit for an illuminated dashboard light, and parts for the ATE system are no longer available. There are various workarounds, such as soldering the original connector onto similar Xantia sensors for example.
October 1982: Citroen BX launched under the Eiffel Tower, offered as a hatchback with 1.4 Douvrin and 1.6-litre XU engines. It was the slightly larger replacement for air cooled flat-four Citroen GSA.
August 1983: Citroen BX launched in right-hand drive form in the UK market. Estate model shortly followed.
November 1983: XUD-powered diesel model offered.
1986: Facelifted BX model launched, featuring more conventional dashboard and refreshed exterior looks. Fuel injected 130bhp GTI launched.
1987: Hottest GTI 16v model introduced with 160bhp.
1988: The turbodiesel model is introduced.
August 1989: BX models receive minor refresh, with extensive spec and badging changes. 16v model gets larger bodykit and grey wheels.
1993: Hatchback BX production ends, with the new Xantia replacing all but the Estate BX models.
1994: Final estate models built, as Heuliez starts production of the Xantia Break.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.bxclub.co.uk – UK-based owners’ club for BX enthusiasts
• www.citroencarclub.org.uk – Citroen Car Club UK
• www.chevronics.co.uk – Citroen specialists, remanufacturing certain BX parts
Summary and prices
The BX has a surprisingly large fan base, and it’s perhaps one of the most popular modern classic Citroens. Its stand-out looks, unique suspension system and affordable running costs have helped to keep many more on the road than equivalent rivals, but numbers have thinned out in recent years.
Realistically, prices for roadworthy cars now start from the £1500 mark, while £2500 will get you a great example. Exceptional cars might command closer to £3000, although desirable GTI, 16v and 4x4 models can command more in excellent low mileage condition.