Talbot Horizon 1.9LD

Some trivia for you – which car was the first to be powered by the near immortal Peugeot-Citroen XUD engine?

That’s right, the Talbot Horizon…

Saving the best for last

The almost-forgotten Talbot Horizon is one of those cars with a confused upbringing. It started out as a Chrysler UK styling scheme that ran on French underpinnings. As international cars go, it was certainly up there – an American parent company, Chrysler, British design input (ex-Rootes Group in Coventry boosted by US money) and French engineering thanks to Simca.

Initially known as the C2 project, the Horizon’s design process was instigated around the same time as the launch of the VW Golf in 1974. Just how much Roy Axe’s team was inspired by the German hatchback is plain to see – although one or two design features (the flared arches, for instance) were added to meet the needs of the US market.

After four years in development, the Horizon burst onto the scene, instantly impressing the motoring writers enough to win it the 1979 European Car of The Year award (in an admittedly quiet year). It immediately went head to head with the likes of the Golf, Renault 14, and Fiat Strada – and proved successful. To begin with.

However, Chrysler in the USA was in deep financial trouble, and needed to dump its European arm in order to stay afloat. After a initial conversations with BL, the Americans decided to sell its entire European operation to the Peugeot – for the nominal sum of one dollar. The following year, the entire Chrysler range was re-branded Talbot.

Now under French control, Talbots went head to head with their Peugeot and Citroen counterparts – a situation that couldn’t continue indefinitely. That made their future prospects appear tenuous, just months into the marriage. However, the Horizon hadn’t helped itself either by being less good than the sum of its parts – and although it was assembled in the UK, British buyers couldn’t fall in love with a car that was powered by such rattly (if willing) engines, and proved so tiresome to drive thanks to heavy undergeared steering.

However, things would get better, and Peugeot took great advantage of the Horizon’s status as the group’s best selling mid-liner. The seminal XUD 65bhp 1905cc diesel engine made its first appearance under the Horizon’s bonnet to create the 1.9LD in October 1982; and was met with instant critical acclaim.

Although the car was aging rapidly and remained dowdy to drive (power steering improved it a lot though), it went head to head with the all-conquering Golf diesel… and gave it a bloody nose. The engine, it seemed, had transformed the Horizon into something of a player. Given that it was smoother and more punchy than its petrol counterparts, it was hard not to be impressed – a fact not lost on Peugeot.

In the end, over 7.5 million of these engines, credited with introducing diesel engine motoring to a huge number of previously sceptical motorists, were built, revolutionizing the public’s perception of compression ignition engines once and for all – and cementing Peugeot’s position as a diesel front runner.

Hard to believe that it all started with an Anglo-French hatchback that time has almost left behind…


  1. I knew PSA’s mighty 1905cc XUD9 was first used in the Horizon and its funny, if not strange, that the engine that made it big time for PSA was first used in a rather half-baked Chrysler design!

    I don’t know if the following story is true or not but makes sense as to why PSA first used the excellent 1.9D in the Horizon – not one of its own at that point.

    A man who used to run a small business re-building engines told me that when PSA commissioned an engine design specialist company (don’t know the name) that PSA wanted a 1.7 litre unit.

    However the company in question thought that a 1.9-2.0 capacity is what they would prefer and they did so with the advanced swirl design that made the XUD7 & 9 world beaters.

    So perhaps that is why the best small diesel engine of the time (and ever will be, regarding longevity – later diesels are all weak in comparison because of emissions) ended up as a trial run in a Talbot!
    Now people generally say a VW is better than a Peugeot. Okay fair enough BUT as far as the longevity of engines is concerned the Pug beats the VW by a long long mile.

    The first actual Peugeot with the XUD was the P305 with the XUD7, the 305 didn’t get the XUD9 until about 1.5 years later.
    So the 1768cc XUD was the Peugeot 305 SLD (or SRD in higher trim form as most were) where as the later 1905cc was the 305 GLD (or GRD in high trim – but for the 1.9 most were low trim.)

    Funny that! You’d have thought that ‘S’ would mean the more powerful engine, not so though! Yes sure the SRDT was the XUD7 with the turbo.

    If the story about the designers basically ignoring their customers capacity specification is true then the designers disobedience did PSA one heck of a favour!

    I have ran manys a diesel Peugeot; 305, 309’s, 405’s and a 306 1.9SRDT (made in Ryton) which was in the family for over 10 years. The 309 GLD (no turbo, just the ‘straight’ 1905cc) was in my opinion a really nice driving super economical car, seemed faster than a straight 306 for some reason and more spacious.
    The rear axle was the weak point on the 309! I had a red (weren’t they all!) diesel 309 with a strained axle which I fitted with 405 wheels on the rear to rise it back up! Handeled the same as far as I could tell.

    For people in a rural/semi-rural location the Pug diesel took off. You would forgive the crappy dashboards and front bushes that never lasted for the economy and toughness of the engines. Oh the MK1 309, that dashboard from MFI!

    Anyhow back to un-loved disregarded ‘Talbot.’

    I wish PSA dropped the XUD9 into the Avenger & Sunbeam, yeh I know Linwood was already shut by the time the XUD was born. I do know though that us country boys would have liked the XUD9 in a more straightforward all coil sprung RWD.

    Not that combination (with a 5 cog box) would have left, ‘Talbot’ with a very different image!

    • Great engine.

      Had a couple in ZXs, the ugly sister of the 306. Economical, reliable, but the non-turbo one was not quick at all. The trick was to build momentum.

      Many a rural NI motorist swore by their XUD, even today the boy racers love their 306 TDs.

      The engine found its way into such exotic machinery as the R8 (and Concerto sold in some European markets, purely badge engineered R8 – same lights and grille etc.!), Toyota Corolla (the ugly bug eyed 90s version), Suzuki Baleno and Vitara.

      We will never see its like again, as you say the trend for low emissions has made diesels ever more temperamental compared to the ignorant lumps of old, and future regulation for cities may make diesels – other than hybrids – an unattractive proposition. I tried a 406 HDi and wasn’t impressed by the engine, and have heard horror stories of other HDi (and, indeed VWgroup TDi!) owners.

  2. @ Will M

    Aha very good Will! Your car radar detected the tint of Irish motoring, you are 100% correct.

    Horsing a P309 around buck-shee mountain ‘roads’ with half a tank of what could sometimes be described as actual diesel!

    Funny how the P306TD still is in vogue with the ‘culchies’ (means red-neck, rather like the colour of…) I see the latest fad is to turn up the governing screw on the pump so the exhaust farts out a cloud of black smoke upon hard-from-rest acceleration with a turbo whistling like the gypsy rover!
    When I first noticed a young fella in a D-Turbo polluting the main street with a whistle and fart I thought it was a worn engine, then after speaking to a few of them I discovered that its the trend! Uuuhhh?

    You say the ZX was not quick, funny but I could swear the 309 was quicker than the 306 (I mean in non-turbo form) maybe the Arizona, (ohh for the craic get a 309 and stick a Talbot badge on the lid!) maybe the 309 was lower geared? I don’t know.

    Would be fun to tart up a 309 in the worst taste possible and wind out the screw to annoy the young fellers!

    I’d like to drop an XUD9 into an Avenger or Sunbeam and drive it to PSA’s HQ. ”..hey a**ho**s here is all ye had to do to keep us happy..thanks for those useless torsion beam axles and p-bushes..” Gits!

  3. Thumbs up from another N Ireland XUD fan. Learnt to drive (legally) in a Pug 205 Style D (driving instructors) Then thrashed my dad’s Pug 305 GLD Estate and mums 205 GLD and GRDs. On getting a real job I was commuting from Belfast to “Culchieville” and had firtly a Peugeot 405GLD saloon then a GLXDT estate then another GLDT saloon. Reliable, robust cars that Peugeot hasnt bettered. (None of their current range appeals at all).
    I too laugh at the ridiculously lowered 306s that scrape along our roads with the entire back obliterated in a haze of black soot, clearly being fuelled solely on damp coal or maybe even turf?

  4. Very true Gav, Peugeot lost the plot after the x05 & 6’s they were about as near to the ideal car for rural N.Irl motoring as you could get, just those damn rear axles and too light front bushes let them down. The Corolla 1.9D (about 1995-1999) was the XUD too but corollas were never much of a driving car as well as uncomfortable on out lumpy bumpy wee boreens.

    Funny you mention turf, I heard a story (of which there are so many) about turf being used for things! Say no more!

    Its mad the posse of lowered 306’s – sure the roads are in no state of repair to take a car that low to the ground! I’ve often commented on how many VW’s and Seats are too low at the front for our rather organic (haha) roads.

    Oh well the peacock spreads its feathers to impress a potential mate, hard to imagine how a cloud of diesel (or whatever the mix is) smoke is attractive to a female, but there you are!

    I wonder what the 306 harriers would make of a Horizon.

    As I said before the Avenger and Sunbeam were close to the ideal bumpy road rural high mileage driving in the 1970’s and early 80’s. What if PSA opened a shed at the back of Peugeot-Talbot Ryton to make diesel Avengers? I reckon we would have loved that car!

    Imagine the conversations at Ryton if that were so;

    ”..so they like the XUD9, which injector pump should we use, the Bosch or Roto-Diesel?..”
    ”..whichever works the best with a Derv/kerosene or TVO mix!..”

    • TVO, now there’s something you dont hear every day, a few younger readers might be scratching their heads!

      Strange that I never had any Citroens with the same engine. I actually looked at a BX and 3 Xantias at various times but always went for the Peugeots. Always fancied an XM estate though.

      • Tractor Vapourizing Oil, TVO as used in the TVO grey Fergie tractors (which could survive a nuclear winter!) Was kerosene mixed with some sort of waste product of petrol distillation I believe. When fuel was tightly rationed during and after WW2, the TVO was the answer to a stable food supply before diesel fuel and diesel tractors became widely available.

        When people try to mix Derv with kero the joke being, ”..its running a TVO..” and the XUD was an ideal engine for that type of fuel fiddling.

        In Ireland the TVO tractors remained as workhorses well into the 1990’s – not as the main tractor on a small farm, rather they were still a useful tractor for small jobs where a bigger Ford or David Brown was too much to maneuver. Also TVO’s helped build manys a house on the 1/4 acre site, carting concrete blocks or pallets of cement around the place.
        Manufactured TVO fuel went out of production in the 1970’s and all you had to do was mix kero with petrol and add 2-stroke oil, although the exhaust fumes would be dangerous in an enclosed space!

        I have a lot of happy memories of the 1970’s and 80’s on a TVO fergie or a later red 35X. Ahh there is another word or phrase that would confuse younger readers – ‘the strangler,’ on a 35X.
        Diesel injector pumps of old didn’t have the electrical stop solenoid, so you pulled out the strangler to stop the engine. York diesel Transit vans had this on the right side of the speedometer as I recall – although getting them to start on a winters morning was one heck of a job! One guy who had enough of a non-starting York Transit had a rubber pipe run from the dashboard to the inlet manifold so he could squirt the Easy Start without getting out of the van!

        Anyhow the Citroen vs Peugeot thing. For some reason, maybe a combination of styling and fear of a complex suspension, people wanting a good diesel went for the Pug rather than its Citroen cousin.
        Pity, because the BX was not as much trouble as people thought and that type of suspension is good on rough narrow roads. The Xantia though could be more trouble on the suspension spheres (heavier body I suppose) yet more Xantias were on the roads that BX’s.

        The ZX was a 306 before the 306 was made and the ZX was a good cheap option as their 2nd hand values were lower than the 306.

        However the real bargain at the moment is the Citroen Xsara (I mean the 2 or 5 door saloon not the Picasso.) The xSara’ is a nicer driving and more comfortable yoke than the 306 and some of the 2-doors look pretty good too.

        A Xsara is a 306 with a heavier body yet is more expensive to insure for a young lad than a turbo 306. Seems wrong somehow because when the inevitable happens, young and foolish lad with his buddies go through the ditch or worse, a Xsara will result in less injury than a 306.

        I have a 2000 1.9D Xsara which is returning 48-50mpg and not much has went wrong with it. Heater works, can blast up and down the M1 at 80mph without a turbo blowing the diesel out of it. Overtakes fine too so its a keeper! The tail light pattern L-shape reminds me of me MK1 Avengers pretty rump also!

  5. I was a passenger in one of the first Talbot Horizon 1.9 Ds in February 1983. This was a revelation for a critically disliked car and one whose sales were no big threat to Ford. It kept the best bits about the Horizon, cheap purchase price, reasonable equipment level( radio, clock, lighter, considered essential on Escort sized cars by 1983), soft seats, good ride, but PAS made the steering a lot lighter and sharper, the diesel Peugeot engine was light years ahead of the petrol units and the five speed gearbox made driving more relaxing and economical. Also 55 mpg and 100 mph was very good for 1983.

  6. Love Talbot Horizon GLS. Had mine in Ecuador, in South America. Back in 1983 my dad bought it from someone that worked at the French Embassy and was leaving the country.

    Me and my friends loved my car until I sold it in 2000. Horizon GLS 1500cc. Petrol. Lovely

    • Maybe rust might not have been such a problem in Ecuador, but in Britain Chrysler/ Talbot cars until 1982, when they really improved the rust protection, were notorious for rusting quickly and many were scrapped prematurely. However, my family had three, the first two needed a fair bit of work to keep the rust at bay, although the five speed Solara from 1982 was better, and mechanically they seemed quite reliable.

  7. Wonder if the XUD could have fitted into the Maestro, which appeared not long after the diesel Horizon, and given the Maestro a mixture of economy and reliability- the XUDs were almost unbreakable- that could have helped sales. I could imagine plenty of buyers being tempted by a 55 mpg Maestro.
    Sadly we all had to wait another six years, by which time the Maestro’s sales had sunk well below that of the Astra and the Escort, and were being challenged by the Peugeot 309, British built and diesel versions having the XUD.

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