Blog : The rise and fall of the large French car

William Meek

Citroen C6


Once upon a time, if you were looking for a big, comfortable, fairly well equipped, often quirky, usually reasonably priced car, French was the default option.

Since then, in the UK and Ireland at least, choices of big French cars are dwindling. Citroen have axed the C6, and rumours abound that the C5 will not get a replacement – the crossover DS5 being the defacto successor, Peugeot has merged its 60x and 40x lines into the 508, and Renault won’t sell a hatch/saloon larger than the Megane/Fluence.


Citroen CX

Since the early days of car manufacture, French brands were known for their large luxurious cars. Citroen, pre-war, concentrated production on the Traction Avant. Later variants of this included Hydropneumatic suspension on the rear wheels, something that would be applied to all four on the DS.

The DS, needless to say, is an icon of French motoring. Effortlessly elegant, it must have looked like a spaceship when launched in 1955. It is the kind of car that, when US TV shows want to portray a Parisian scene, they find a European-style cafe on a film set, plonk a DS in front of it, and show the Eiffel Tower in the background. Such was the purity of design, that the car lasted 20 years with minor facelifts, though by the ’70s it was looking a little dated.

The CX was a modern take on the ’70s executive car, inspired by the BMC 1800 design from Paninfarina. Ultimately, the CX was launched during the 70s fuel crisis, development nearly bankrupted Citroen and Peugeot took over their sister company – for better or worse, depending on which enthusiast you ask. The XM was the successor to the CX, a return to Citroen’s core values, with just enough quirkiness to keep the hardcore fanbase, fearing a watered down proposal, happy.

Peugeot was known as the French Mercedes-Benz, back in the ’70s. The 504 and 505 were compared to the W123 in terms of ruggedness, the latter often being used as a bush taxi in Africa.

Renault, post-war, had focused on small cars. In the ’60s it tied up with Nash and sold the Rambler Classic as it’s Luxury car, though not for RHD UK. This was the initial shoots of the AMC tie-up. Later they had some success with the 20/30 range, which led to the 25, a Robert Opron-designed executive hatchback, with a wraparound rear window giving a notchback shape. The 25 chassis later lent itself to the Eagle Premier, from which the Chrysler LH platform was derived, and it could be suggested that the Chrysler 300/Lancia Thema 2 are successors to the 25…


Renault Vel Satis

Towards the end of the ’80s, the CX, 25 and 505 were getting long in the tooth. The XM, while futuristic when design and launched in the late ’80s, aged very quickly, especially when during it’s lifetime the likes of the Ka and Focus moved car design forward into the 21st century. A plan was afoot to facelift this, with C5/Xsara facelift style googly headlights. Luckily this never saw production, but the interested can see the result in the Conservatoire.

The 25 was replaced by the Safrane, which many felt looked too close to the Laguna. Similarly, Peugeot launched the 605 which could be mistaken at first glance for a 405. Most mainstream manufacturers had abandoned the E segment altogether, leaving that kind of thing up to the Germans. The French pushed on, with the C6, 607 and Vel Satis. Quirky choices, comfortable buses.

Though they were getting overly complex.

AROnline’s Richard Kilpatrick detailed his C6 woes. It wasn’t just the car, but the dealers who were by now corporate entities used to servicing the lower end of the range. Buyers were scared off by what they saw as overly complex suspension, which on models of the second generation C5 wasn’t fitted. If rumours are to be believed, the C5 wont be replaced. Initial talks with GM around basing the next generation model on the next generation Insignia platform fell through, PSA wish to promote Citroen as both a budget brand, and the DS brand as a premium brand, leaving the DS5 – a crossover-style car with harsh suspension, as the ‘big car’ offering.

The 607 was a bit of a mish mash, it looked like an elongated 307. It drove well enough, and while it would not be mistaken for a 406 or 407, sales were slow. The effective replacement was the 508, which also replaced the 407.

Renault in the UK tried to sell the Vel Satis to little success. Buyers weren’t sure what to make of the sub-MPV tall saloon car looks. They have now left the E and now the D-segment here, having withdrawn the uninspiring third-generation Laguna. Interestingly, it does offer an E-segment saloon in France – the Latitude, which is a re-badged Renault-Samsung. Talks with Mercedes-Benz about creating an ‘Initiale Paris’ luxury sub-brand, with a Mercedes-based saloon fell through. The name shall now be a specification on Clios. Renault, through it’s tie up with Nissan, can push buyers towards Infiniti models to fill this gap.

What can be done?

Citroen DS5

The traditional big French car is now represented by the DS5 and the 508. Other manufacturers are pruning their D-segment saloons, though Peugeot is having some sales success to fleets. The DS5 represents the future of this market – crossover inspired cars moving away from the traditional three-box/fastback low sleek saloons and hatches. Renault is rumoured to be looking at Nissan’s success with the Primera replacement Qashqai.

Brands and Sub-Brands are getting realigned too. Renault shall now sell small, basic cars as Dacias, leaving the main brand to move upmarket. PSA wishes to move Peugeot upmarket, Citroen as the budget badge, but also the DS sub-marque as a premium brand. Future DS models shall probably follow the DS5 lead.

What of a comfortable big car though? These models are trying to emulate the Germanic sales success by compromising ride comfort to focus on Nurburgring lapping handling. This was a complaint of the last Laguna and the DS5. There is one manufacturer though, which does still focus on comfort: Jaguar.

The new XJ has been compared to the SD1, but I see a bit of CX/C6 about it too. The 508 has been accused of aping the XF. Jag use the PSA HDi engines, as found in Citroens and Peugeots. So, you want a big car with traditional French qualities? Buy British.


Keith Adams


  1. The 508 is nothing like an XF – more like a 2013 Cortina.
    The DS5 is a peculiar design, with lots of “added on bits” like the windows ahead of the doors – at least it avoids the heavy A pillars which are far too common these days. That high rear to the bonnet reminds me srongly of the original ID/DS.
    The 604 was a classic design – possibly the best-looking square box ever.

  2. Alas overly complicated electronics, poor quality and massive repair bills are what did for big French cars in the end. I could imagine a Vel Satis to be worth even less than a City Rover now as no one is prepared to go near one due to the huge running costs.
    However, I’d sooner look back to an era when the Citroen CX provided a far more satisfying and cheaper alternative to a Mercedes 200. This really was a car that looked classy, radical, and fresh all at the same time. Yes there were some rust issues( well Jaguar weren’t immune either at the start of the eighties) and the quality wasn’t quite Germanic( you could live with that, but what you got in return was a fantastic looking car with brilliant ride quality, excellent performance, loads of space and a dashboard like a spaceship. You know, I feel like I want one.

  3. As I already said, this is an epic blog, pat yourself on the back mate. I absolutely adored the 505, the 504 was a bit of a legend too, and the 605 was a nice looking waftobarge. The CX was seriously funky too. Sadly now if it aint made in Germany, it doesn’t matter, and really tbh, quality on them isn’t 100% either

  4. The 508 is about as inspiring as a cardboard box with some ropey styling details, as well as having no road presence..

  5. When Peugeot adopted the ‘basking shark’ grilles to all models, I knew then that the plot was well and truly lost. What were they thinking?

  6. I am sick of weird looking cross over cars that are neither 4 wds nor family cars. Can’t we go back to the era when a large four door saloon or fastback represented upmarket motoring? This is why a Jaguar XF has far more presence than some weird beard mixture of a Nissan X Trail and a Ford Mondeo. Also the wood, the chrome, the leather, make you feel like you’ve made it as well.

  7. Funny business the motor trade…

    I have a couple of questions to throw into the pot:

    1)Why are small saloons (c/d segment) only appealing to developing nations, but if they are German, they appeal almost everywhere in the world?

    2) If the big, non premium saloon is now dead ( cx/ xm/ 605/ safrane/ Omega/ Scorpio etc) , why is it that the Skoda Superb is quite a good seller yet it is neither German, nor has a premium badge….?

    Would love to hear others thoughts!

  8. Ive always had a soft spot for Citroen, My Parents had a GS1220 for years and I later had a an ID19, and then a DSuper 20. I nearly bought a 2400CX but decided I had had enough of trouble. it goes to say then…. other good thing (if it is a good thing)about Citroen is that they make British cars of the 70’s look reliable. There are a couple of C6’s in New Plymouth where I live and there is a very enthusiastic Citroen dealer here (we don’t have many “oddball” dealers here in New Plymouth (only Toyota Hyundai Kia Mitzi VW Suzuki Ford GM – the main stream ones in other words – no JLR / Merc/ BMW etc). The C6 is a grand looking car its absolutely beautiful. alex

  9. I guess car designs fall very broadly into two categories – decided by the marketing men and bean counters even before they ask the design studio to ‘come up with something’.
    Do we want to think out of the box – to do something radical (Renault 16, Citroen DS, CX,) or just make something that will sell and won’t stretch our thinking in any way at all (Ford Granada, almost all Peugeots, older Nissans) etc.
    In answer to the question as to why the bigger Skodas sell we’ll – I have nothing to offer other than it appears ‘trendy’ to buy one right now despite the fact that all larger Skodas look very 80’s. There is a smaller one called a Roomster or something that was clearly design by a bloke not wired up right (bless ‘im) and the little Fabian thing I borrowed one Sunday was so bland the only thing that kept me awake was the low rent interior – I was waiting for bits to fall off (they didn’t though). I was so happy to get back in my Bini that evening. I only had to borrow the Skoda ‘cos I needed to carry 3 grandchildren in the back and BMW tell me I can’t upgrade my Cooper Clubman from a four seater to a five seater. Not at any price. (Bless them as well).

  10. @6 – Why cant we go back? It would be a brave manufacturer who tried to buck the market and stop building the cars that people actually wanted to buy!Both Rover and Jaguar continually tried to go back and look how that turned out. Rover dead and buried and Jaguar only now starting to emerge from intensive care.

  11. The Skoda Superb probably sells well for its value for money plus the fact it is not a large saloon… its a large hatchback with an extra opening like on the BMW 5 GT.

  12. Just as BMC we’re adverse to sharing doors (land crab et al) the Peugeot 504 and 604 also shared each others doors!

  13. I like the DS5, it makes a statement. The owners isn’t frightened to be different, just as the first Citroen ID/DS drivers must have been seen.

    The DS5 isn’t the technology advanced machine the ID/DS was but is it different to main stream (german dominated) pack.

  14. You could write a simialr article on large Italian saloons, they too have abandoned the UK market; where the sucesssors to the Fiat 130, Alfa 164/166, Lancia Gamma/Thema?

  15. DS5 is beautiful in the ‘flesh’, pleasingly stylish inside too, I would definitely be interested, but it’s all ruined by poor ride, and poor handling, how could Citroen get that so wrong?

  16. It’s not Citroën, or even Peugeot who really were masters of the art of steel-sprung chassis in the ’80s and ’90s – it’s the customers. The C6 was flawed by being too… determined to be sporty. It inevitably tried to match the very purpose-designed BMW 5 & 7 despite being planted on a lighter, smaller Peugeot 407 chassis AND sprung with the wrong hardware for that original design. Low profile tyres, ‘sports’ emphasis… it’s what the buyers demand apparently.

    The C3 Airdream+ we have has normal wheels and tyres and has very good ride quality and handling for a small(er) car. It’s predictable, if a bit understeery and uncommunicative thanks to the usual safety and EPAS setup, but very pleasant. The DS3 does not share those qualities, apart from the muffled steering.

    On the whole though – cars are too good. The DS5 looks different only in detail to the many other SUV-style things – there’s no clear technological lead in any manufacturer that I can think of, and less so clearly shown in the styling – for that I think we need to look to the Honda Insight (original) as a clear recent example.

  17. @13
    I can see a good article brewing here on shared doors….
    I seem to recall the Peugeot 205 and 309 shared doors, as did of course some of the Type 4 exec saloons from the 80s.

    Are there any others?

  18. I’m really sorry, but try as I might, I just can’t muster any love for the C6. The last ‘real’ Citroen for me was the Xantia – everything since has just been a disappointment for me. I mourn big, daft, overly complex French waft-mobiles with burping and clicking hydro-pneumatic suspension, silly dashboards and quilted exec arm-chairs for seats. The C6 just looked like an ungainly, overly wide, squinty-faced pretender to the Traction-Avant, ID/DS, SM, CX and XM legends……

  19. @15 Alfa 166 – now that was a fine car I’ve had the pleasure of driving – wonderful motor

  20. The trouble now is (God I sound old!) that people who buy larger cars want:

    1. A German car, so everyone who makes a large car is sither German, or makes the car to be like a German. There’s nothing wrong with any of them it’s just that they’re all the same (yes, even Jaguars a very Germanic)

    2. A 4×4

    Recent large French cars have been way off the pace on everything, frankly, but like the loss of Saab and Rover, the world is a much poorer place without their alternative take on what a large car should be.

    The Citroen DS was simply the greatest car ever built.

  21. It’s not just the demise of big French cars that I mourn, the big Italians were great too (up to the 164). Mercedes also moved away from their core values, quality plummeted with the W210 E-class, and they have subsequently got relatively cheaper and more sporty. BMW has also moved away from the highly compromised sports saloons with marginal rear seat space of the 80s.

    Not sure today’s Jags are really the successors to French cars of old, or even old Jags. They aren’t any cheaper than the Germans, and they aren’t of notably lower quality. It seems like every manufacturer is converging on a cod sporty, reasonably well built median. Bring back real choice I say, then I can choose between a wafty Citroen or a BMW that just wishes it was on the track not the commute.

  22. Forty years ago the buyer of large luxurious saloons, who couldn’t quite afford a Jaguar or a Mercedes, often chose the highly competent products of Rover and Triumph, who were the kings of the two to three litre class( the Granada was rapidly catching up, though). Cars like the Triumph 2000 with its refined and powerful small six, its Michelotti styling and large interior were the car of choice for many middle class buyers, while the Rover P6, while getting on by 1973, had as large a following. Sadly the demise of Rover, Triumph( a travesty in my eyes), big Fords, Vauxhalls, the death of Saab and the French and Italians largely abandoning the large car market means most of the choices are German now, overpriced and overrated cars. Give me a Jaguar or Volvo any day.

  23. I loved the bonkersness of the Aventime and Vel-satis, but they were clearly own goals, with massive depreciation, as well as Renault’s legendary fragility.

  24. @26 – Quite frankly – NO. If I wanted to look like a gangsta I’d take to carrying a violin case……

  25. @24 I still feel that with some investment and a continuation of the fantastic Dolly Sprint and 2.5 models, a modern-day Triumph range could show BMW a thing or two about sporty saloons for mere mortals. How much would I love to be driving around in a 2012 Dolly Sprint rather than a 320D!

  26. i keep seeing lodas of that new Lexus hatchback thingy. It isn’t a looker shall we say, especially in white!

  27. Along with the French it does not help that the larger saloons from Italy (Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Fiat), Japan (Mitsubishi, Mazda, etc) and Britain/Europe (Ford, Vauxhall / Opel / Saab, Talbot) either ended up having anonymous / oddball / ugly styling, unsuitable engines or yet another soulless crossover that is occasionally hit with the ugly stick.

    Then there those carmakers with lots of past emotional & sporting pedigree that in a moment of madness seriously believe they can somehow take the fight to their executive/premium rivals via FWD(despite their rivals from BMW / Mercedes / Maserati / Jaguar largely remaining RWD) or gradually lost its identity over the years thanks to badge-engineering (e.g. Lancia being merged with Chrysler).

    If Carmakers are so obsessed with crossovers, they should at least have a good look at the 1993 Subaru Sagres and more recent Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo concepts on how to do a sleek properly styled crossover that blurs the lines between a saloon and a sports estate

  28. The decline of the large French car has as much to do with changing attitudes in France as anything else. French culture has changed dramatically over the past 50 years, even their thirst for wine has plummeted.
    It’s the large Citroens that I will miss, with their bonkers styling, loaded with advanced technology and an air of relaxation missing from any other large car currently in production.

  29. I really liked the C6 because it was individual.The DS and CX arguably led the way in comfort and technology at thier time.
    The 508 is nothing.What a shame as well,Peugeot are way more capable than this car and most in thier range,i hope the downsized yet roomy 208 turns the tide somehow,the french should stop trying to make germanic cars like the not brilliant looking C5 and start rediscovering flair,like the stunning SM and XM.

  30. Peugeot is a zombie brand, they no longer have any desirability or reason to make large cars. Not even Peugeot management knows the current direction of the brand…

  31. Recalling the late 70s when my first experience of a big French car was a 604 manual that was really for nothing then and so few were seen on the road. Nothing wrong with it as it looked good and drove well with arm chair seats, i think people then as now prefered a BMW or Jaguar something that ssemed safer and easier to repair and had a value when you came to sell it.
    This went the same as the late 80s Renault 25 in both 4 and 6 cylinder engine form and also the 90s 605 which looked like a scaled up 405 as well as the Safrane and XM, both cars over engineered and frightning for most able mechanics. The later offerings such as the 607 and C6 seem to be in the same vein. Nice to drive but horrendous repair bills and lead ballon depreciation.

  32. The rot set in a long time ago. Do the car park test!
    Find a photo of a car park in 1965, one for 1985 and consider the scene today. The 80’s photo will be similar to day except that everything looked like a MK 1 Golf or a Talbot Solara. In fact (and as a post-vintage car man I’m going to shoot myself in the foot here) everything looked like a Ford Y model in the 30’s (even my 34 Wolseley Nine was hardly breaking new ground stylistically).
    The 60’s were the greatest period of individuality post the Edwardian era.
    No Morris ever looked like a Vauxhall, no Rover looked like a Ford and no Hillman ever looked like an M.G.
    We must never say never but it’s hard to imagine such individual thinking ever returning to the industry. There have been odd-balls of course – the Fiat Multipla and Chrysler PT to name but two.
    If you get back to a dark car park late at night and can’t quite remember where you left the car, there are only two vehicles that are easy to find – a RangeRover/Disco or Bini.

  33. #21 I think your right. DS. It was without doubt the greatest single leap forward in car design of all time. Lancias both pre and immediate post-war would come a close second but their consistency in leading the field puts them in a different category.

  34. @40, you forgot the Datsun Joke, that is soooooooooo easy to spot, and I think that has to really have come from Renner not Datsun. You are right though, the eurobox look, which I feel was started by Ford with the Sierra, now most cars look nigh on identical. It’s not helping when the likes of VAG just nail a different badge to the front so you have identical VW’s SEAT’s & Skodas!

  35. Not mentioned in the big French category, but it was made in France, the Talbot Tagora. OK sales were low, it looked like a widened Solara and had an awful interior, but the Peugeot based V6 was both smooth and powerful( no old Simca engines in these),interior space was massive, it rode well and was excellent value for money.

  36. @40 See the changes in colour. 1960’s car park: lots of pastels and two tone colour schemes. 1980’s car park: not as bright and/ or gungy as the 1970’s and with lots of metallics coming in. Car park now: dull dull dull: black, grey, silver, graphite, with the odd white. Where has all the colour gone? So neutral and…..dull.
    @43 I always thought an estate version of the Tagora would have been a big hit. French used to do those big estates really well. It would have looked like a French Volvo 740 estate (before there was such a thing as a Volvo 740).

  37. Car park test: Recently been in south of France where the car parks are much more colourful. Noticed this from the air iat Perpignan airport and then shortly afterward was delighted to walk past a Citroen SM, Peugeot 604 and Chrysler 180 on my way to collect the hire car. All were in good, regularly used, condition.
    There has been a large, succesful French car, even in the British market: the Renault Espace. Despite all the traditionally irritating and dissapointing Renault niggles (ludicrous parts prices, simple maintenance made difficult and expensive for no reason, greedy service centres, depreciation) the Espace has been tremendously successful. Buy a ten year old Matra built one now for next to nothing, and another for spares. No rust, ever with a hot-dip galvanised shell under composite panels. Space, the best luxury!

    Moi? looking for another Avantime, Java green please.


  38. Rory @ 45, a Chrysler 180, well I never, the last one I saw of these was in about 1987 and even in France it wasn’t a huge seller.

  39. Glenn @ 6
    “I am sick of weird looking cross over cars that are neither 4 wds nor family cars. Can’t we go back to the era when a large four door saloon or fastback represented upmarket motoring?”

    Agreed. These cross over types hardly have an excutive, luxury image.

    Is the general increase in vehicle size not a contributing factor to the French pull out of the E sector?

  40. The hatchback & saloon market is on it’s death throws. Even VAG are getting close to abandoning it, as they are bringing out yet more platform sharing SUV’s which will carry both VW and Audi badges. It seems the Range Rover Evoque is the current must have for the middle class monied set, which is keeping Brits in work…

  41. I dont agree,hatches are here to stay,the Tiguan has no chance compared to the Kuga or even a Juke.
    Do you really think VW would commit industrial suicide by dropping the Golf? people still want sensible cars to go about thier business,they may throw the wife in a crossover for the kids or whatever.
    I agree the market is growing for these things but the hatch market need not worry,besides,with europe in complete financial meltdown and on a slow death maybe the time will come when few can afford such indulgencies.

  42. #42 – Yes – forgot the joke. Sorry.
    #43 – Yes – The Talbot Tagora – what a car! The subject of a ‘Car’ Giant Test it was just so quick compared with its rivals. I actually consider this car totally unique – no other car on the planet has ever been so undesirable – and yet I would love one. I probably need some kind of help don’t I?

  43. #42 Your right about the modern version of badge engineering with the Germans but that leads us to consider the past masters of the art.
    From absolutely any angle there was a distinct difference between an Austin Cambridge Farina and a Morris Oxford Farina (side bars, wheel trims, grill, tail lamps, fin shape on later models) and the interior/dash. The Wolseley was easier to spot from a mile away with a different bonnet, grill, dash/interior (leather of course), tail lamps, side bar, twin tone colours and even this was distinct from the Riley version with everything above very different again. The great thing was that this distinction was obvious and not just a slightly different grill and badges.
    I know we can’t go back…………I’m just saying how it was.

  44. I can remember thinking (as a young lad) that the Tagora looked rather good, distinctive. Maybe not quite executive class but certainly a step above Cortina, Solara territory.

  45. To be hounest, I think you are forgeting something…

    The biggest reason for declining sales in many parts of europe for the French brands was it’s inhouse competitors called “Espace” and 806/7 – Evasion/C8 in my opinion…

    Just mentioning…

  46. David @52, Cumbria Constabulary used two for motorway work in the early eighties and a few ended up as taxis as the engines proved to be the most durable part of the car. The Tagora was one of the sad tragedies of French car history, had it been styled better and the interior made more upmarket, it could have done well.

  47. Could it be that the decline of interest in large French cars is partly due to the increase in demand and interest in Crossovers & SUV’s of all nationalities?

    I would still prefer a large saloon/Hatchback to a Crossover, but guess I am in the minority now?

  48. I’m full of admiration for the gentleman that demands a booted Focus or Megane. They must stand their ground in the showroom “I know you have 104 hatchbacks in stock but I’m not leaving here until you promise to get me one with a boot.”
    #55 Just a thought – is it actually the demand or the manufacturers telling us what we need. Remember when all TVs were silver and then within 6 months they we all black? Did we the public demand that?
    I haven’t got the definitive answer – I’m just asking the question. It’s the same logic as why I can’t buy an ordinary rough service 60w light bulb – someone has decided I don’t need one because I should be using a low wattage, earth friendly, warm feeling in the tummy thingy. But I don’t. I want my bloomin’ rough service bulb what B&Q tell me I can’t have.
    I’m sulking now.

  49. @56 Wolseley Man, yes you have a point, Manufacturers literaly “steering” us towards a particular style of vehicle these days. Agree with you about lightbulbs too. I have similar views about camera film. Although I use digital, I still like using “traditional” film, but the market for that is becoming smaller too.

    Ditto the situation with Movie filmstock makers (Kodak, Fuji) and the cinematograph processing labs… sorry I digress from the main topic!

  50. Thanks all for your comments! Unfortunately I was off the grid this easter.

    Some good points raised.

    Big Italian cars are another casualty of the market.
    Though the reputation of ‘having character’ might be enough to put buyers off, depreciation like a stone means that they don’t make fleet lists.
    The last big Fiat, the Croma 2, sold in such small numbers that made the Vel Satis look like a sales success! It wasn’t sure what it was – hatchback? estate? people carrier?
    Generally, if people want a drivers car they tend to go to bmw.
    Alfa bucked the trend with the moderately successful 156 and 159, both of which were attractive propositions.
    A new Guilia is on the way geared towards the US market – though I’m not sure how the 8C/MiTo style headlights would translate on such a big car.

    The Skoda Superb, Chrysler 300 and the big Lexus(Lexii?) are good alternatives, though the Skoda is often featured in taxi/minicab fleets and some Lexus designs can be hit or miss. The 300 is a nice prospect, though it looks like it would suit being parked in front of the Sears tower than the Eiffel tower.

    Did the MPVs cannibalise ‘big car’ sales of French marques?
    A very good point. Chrysler Europe/PSA turned their nose up at the prospect of the Espace, Renault ran with it. The previous buyer of the big estate with the rearward facing seats now had the option of buying a large airy spacious car with 7 forward facing seats set in the footprint of a ‘regular’ car.

    This got to the point where Peugeot tied up with Fiat, offered the 806/807. The smaller MPVs, as per the Scenic and Picasso, later replaced these. So the type of person who might have once bought a DS Safari or a 505 estate, now possibly drove a Grand Picasso or a 5008.

    Another point was that, when I recently took a trip to Paris, there were no large French cars. Most of the domestic cars were 308s, Picassos and the likes. I don’t recall seeing any C6s and was hoping to see a Renault Latitude, but didn’t.

    The thing is, Paris evokes romantic images of sheer luxury. When people think of fashion, luxury, chic, they think of French (and Italian..). Yet somehow this does not transfer onto large cars.
    Millionaires getting chauffeured from 5 star Parisienne hotels to Michelin starred restaurants, passing by the shadow of the Eiffel tower, are doing so in S class Mercs. Business-like, yes, but why do we think German for large luxury cars, when we don’t for fashion, perfume or cuisine?

    @ The Wolseley Man

    Visit the Republic/South of Ireland. There you will encounter many saloons that the UK doesn’t get – new Focus, new Astra, Fluence (a saloon Megane only sold as an EV in the UK), Corolla, Legacy, Tiida etc.

  51. Great article Will.

    Can I argue that Mazda were (wouldn’t say they are now) the Citroen of the Japanese car makers?

    The sticking with the Wankel engine when everyone else abandoned it, and they made some interesting big/luxury cars before abandoning the market like everyone else.

    In the UK you had the Xedos 6 with the small 2.0 V6 engine and the Xedos 9 which I think is the only car ever to have a Miller Cycle engine for sale.

    And in Japan they had the Eunos Cosmo, I’d love one of these –

  52. A very interesting article Will.

    I see more than one reference being made to that great lemon, the Chrysler 180. I seem to recall that there was also a Chrysler 2 Litre – a few more bhp amd a vinyl roof to boot.

    It’s amazing how the wrong name can break a car’s potential. I have always thought that this Chrysler lemon may have sold better in Blighty if the 180 was called a Humber Hawk and the 2 Litre a Humber Super Snipe. I digress, Humber is hardly French is it?

  53. The slump in mid range cars from volume manufacturers has also badly affected the French, when you consider how successful cars like the Xantia/405/406 and Laguna 1 and 2 were. This has a knock on affect on the large cars as well, as cars like the C6 are only viable if they can share much of the C5/508 platform.

  54. @26: I have one. In spirit, it’s sort of replaced a C6 – in that the previous ‘big luxury car’ I had was a C6 2.7 HDi Exclusive. Now I have a 5.7 300C Touring.

    It’s not the same sort of beast, remotely. The 300C is a very ‘pure’ design despite the Mercedes-derived components. It’s unashamedly low-rent inside, thoroughly unpretentious – in fact it feels like many of the owners in the UK are disappointed by the car’s lack of ‘show’ and insist on shoving all manner of bling onto it, even B logos in an attempt to pass it off as a Bentley, inevitably with 3.0 diesel powerplants. The C6 was almost painfully like a spotty young art student trying to impress the master; some flourishes here and there, but no real coherent language or flow.

    The dashboard was a mish-mash of cheap OEM components and stylistic intent that had no root in function, HUD aside; a self-conscious nod to the CX and DS here and there where those cars had no such baggage, and just showed what the thinking was in terms of good interior design at the time.

    The handling was that of a chassis designed for a car 3/4 of that mass. So was the longevity of the components.

    Some parts were nice. On the right motorway, it was smooth, quiet and fast. So are most cars with double-glazing. The door bins were lovely. The digital dash and HUD appealed to the inner geek, and the 2.7 HDi engine is a really nice unit – and can be found elsewhere without the drawbacks of the C6. The C6 front was awkward, gawky, the side profile beautiful, the rear forgettable. As an owner, it only got the glance over the shoulder when walking away to check if it was in the space, as the massive front overhang was a pain.

    The 300C shares the somewhat objectionable bulk, often overhanging supermarket spaces, but makes no attempt to be anything other than a big, fairly crude, lazy estate car. It has a core competence in handling that is neutered by some elements of the chassis design – relocating the rack, replacing the cheap bushes apparently transforms them – and it will never make anyone gasp with delight at the relentless grey naughahyde and plastic interior. But it’s comfortable and really quite usable.

    It’s also deceptive. I forget just how big it is and go to load up the back, then realise there is a LOT more space than I thought.

    The Chrysler does not make me feel like I should be wearing a wool coat or turtlenecks, passionate about film noir and architecture. It carries few lifestyle or status messages in my opinion. The C6 felt like it did, but in reality, it was so obscure in this country that no-one knew what it was; the CX and XM did not have that – drive a CX in the ’80s and early ’90s and people KNEW you were a bit out of the ordinary, the XM too. They got remarks and questions. The C6 didn’t.

    All anyone ever asks about the 300C is “bloody hell, that must cost a fortune to run”.

    And I would happily have had any colour other than silver, but they’re rare and Chrysler didn’t offer the range of colours they did on the Dodge Magnum, so no beautiful deep red or dark green metallics for me. Black, almost black blue, grey, lighter grey, silver or a paleish and pointless bluey-green were the lot.

  55. The big Skoda, (is it the Superb or Octavia) I have ridden in them as taxis, huge boot, long wheelbase so plenty of rearseat passenger leg room, but the rear seat ride is not great, you sit directly over the rear axle, and that VW diesel engine is noisy and harsh, nevertheless they clock up 200,000 miles without too much bother.

    It is not just the big French cars which are dead in the water, The Renault Laguna, major issues with the automatic transmissions, even the wheels were £££trouble, buckling in normal service.
    The Leguna will go down on the records a big nail in the coffin for Renault in the UK.

    Looking forward to the £5995 Dacia to deliver some sanity to the everyday motoring world

  56. I have actually driven a Talbot Tagora, it cruised effortlessly at speed, the steering and roadholding superior to the competition (eg Ford Granada), that was one of the bugbears of the Tagora, the dealer admitted could not compete on price in the market, many potential buyers tested the Tagora but went on to buy the cheaper Ford

    One aspect I did not like, when in the drivers seat the dashboard my feet and the pedals were not visible, I never felt comfortable with that situation, cannot explain why but I do not feel safe, felt as if my legs were going to be crushed in an accident

  57. @63 my sister had the MK2 Laguna, clutch slave cylinder went which I believe is a simple enough job on many cars. On this car it was a gearbox out job and apparently you needed a special cradle that only Renault dealers have that supports the engine while you take the gearbox out. So we was forced to go to Renault and it cost nearly £1000. That was her finished with Renaults.

  58. Interesting comparison of the C6 and 300 touring by Richard Kilpatrick. As different as Jean Reno’s Vincent from Ronin and Tony Soprano.

    @Jonathan McCormack

    Mazda I’ve always thought of as having a sporting and occasional European character. The MX5 in particular could’ve been a Lotus or an Alfa. Mazda refined the rotary engine, tempramental from when Citroen was known for real technical innovation and broke NSU, leading to the VW takeover and paving the way for later Audis (rightly or wrongly).

    The new 6 is an elegant beast, part Alfa, part Jag.

  59. There is no real reason why anyone should buy a big french car besides being an eccentric. But there are only few eccentric characters left. After decades of faulty and bad cars, after generations of drivers struggling with lumpy quality finally the game is over.
    Take a very average car like the VW Passat and choose the optional electronic suspension control: You are just a click away from the smooth ride of a french car. You have the choice between “C” “N” and “S” so to say “Citroen”, “Normal” and “Sport”. And at the end of the road – after some 200000 trouble free miles you still get money for your car – you even sell it within a weekend. Be sure nobody really misses neither the satellite on the steering column nor the seizing Alu swing axles of CX, XM nor a suspension which enables to drive on 3 wheels.

  60. The Avantime was (as the name says) way ahead of its time. A two-door MPV/coupe sort-of-convertible crossover was bonkers ten years ago, but much more mainstream now. The Matra build quality is probably better than contemporary Renaults, but stylistically it is very much a noughties car. And the fuel economy on the 3L V6 is a bit of a challenge..

    Renault do have big cars in their range now. You just can’t buy them over here for the main part. The Megane-with-a-boot is actually the Renault Fluence (a reworking of the Renault Samsung SM3), although in the UK it is only available as an electric version. But then a Renault Samsung isn’t really French.

    I think there’s a gap in the market, perhaps one that Tata/JLR could exploit with another brand in the sub-Jag market. They own one beginning with “R” 😉

  61. @67

    I wouldn’t exactly put VW as 200k trouble free miles. I have known VW and Audi drivers who have had all sorts of issues, one had engineers logging into his car ECU at the dealer remotely from Germany, who were baffled by his car’s misfires.

    Strangely on the reliability and satisfaction surveys, Skoda scores a lot better than their VW and Audi cousins.

    I usually also find VW group seats lack in padding, especially around the sides of the base, where if you get out the wrong way, you can catch a buttock on the hard plastic! (Or is it just me? 🙂 )
    Merc W123 seats used to be CX like.


    Yep, in France you can buy a Renault Latitude (aka Safrane) which is a big Renault-Samsung SM5. Though I never saw one on my 2 recent trips there.

    In Ireland you can buy the Fluence with an internal combustion engine – it seems to be a big seller there especially in fleets, where buyers still appreciate their saloons. You can get all sorts of saloons in RoI that are not sold in the UK – new Focus, new Astra, Corolla, Legacy etc.
    Like you say, based on the Renault-Samsung SM3, which itself is related to the Megane mk3. It sits in size above the Megane, closer to where the Laguna was.

  62. @65 She was mugged then,all you need to do is lower the subframe on the nearside and have a hat stand support the engine and another for the ‘box simple 4 hour job.
    Most cars have the concentric slave cylinder(CSC) inside the box now.

  63. “Be sure nobody really misses neither the satellite on the steering column nor the seizing Alu swing axles of CX, XM nor a suspension which enables to drive on 3 wheels.”

    Well, that’s a very definitive statement that is also technically incorrect. I miss them, for starters.

  64. @67 Methinks you paint a rosy picture of German cars which can be exploded ever so quickly by dipping into the Audi/VW/BMW and Merc chat pages.
    Apart from anything else they are all so terribly boring! I have the unfortunate task of riding in a new A4 and Golf quite often. I’m not sure which is more nauseous – the complete lack of design flair or the low rent plastics with little bits of tinsel imbedded in it.
    Gosh! I hope my best mate never reads this.

  65. @70 That’s interesting, I had my doubts at the time that someone out there couldn’t think of a way of doing it using good old fashioned engineering ingenuity but she went to 2 or 3 local small self-employed mechanics and they all turned the job down. On my car (MK1 MX5) luckily it’s a simple 20 minute job.

  66. @73, The 6 speed Laguna ‘box is heavy thats all.Hardly any worse a job than a 75,easier than a CDW27 Mondeo.

  67. I have 2 DS, a DSpecial and a DS23 Safari – both Australian delivery specification. I also have a late ’65 Morris Mini Deluxe – Australian build roto dip etc.
    Ive just covered 1300+kms trip over Easter into rural New South Wales in a DS. Its really an effortless drive nearly 40 years after it was made. They are very long legged and eat the big country ‘miles’ like no other car.
    Never again will we have cars like this. The modern Australian product all jumping like jack rabbits over the roads (not motor ways) and generally getting in the way! Give me a big Citroen to cover this island continent anyday.

  68. The Hyundai Genesis seems to have a reputation in the US for being a very competent big soft cruiser. But that’s another one of the “Things that the Koreans build but you can’t get over here” category. But even then, it’s got about as much sex appeal as a pair of thermal socks.

    Perhaps the next wave will be the Chinese? Great Wall have started a CKD operation in Bulgaria. And then of course there’s MG Motor..

  69. I for one miss the suspension of my old Xantia. The roads seem to be getting worse, that suspension was able to soak up anything.

    Renewal – if you can change 4 oil filters, you can change 4 spheres!

    @Dynamoo – The Americans still like their big cruisers, the Toyota Camry and their Accord (I own the coupe version of the late 90s model) are big wafty things. The Genesis also spawned a good looking coupe, like a big version of the last Hyundai Coupe.
    I reckon Chinese cars shall be the next big wave. Just as Japanese and Korean cars were before them. The likes of Geely own Volvo and Manganese Bronze and so are getting experience of what makes European cars.
    Great Wall and MG are just early to the party.

  70. A lot of the ‘Real’ citroens issues are I belive down to the dealers ‘mechanics’ being confused by anything more complex that a potato. In truth they are not complicated at all, yes they have a hydraulic system, thats not that complex, just differnt. I have a 150K mile XM, its a UK market car, sold originally in devon but lived most of its life in Batley, yorkshire and Geneva, Switzerland. The owner during this time had it servcied at a citroen dealer just the other side of the swiss/french border, as a result it has never seen a citroen UK dealers service bay. The cost comaprision of certain jobs is also amazing, the cam belt change at a main dealer remaber cost 628 french francs.. that translated to £62.80 at the time in 1998. I did the job myself in 2013 (its second belt) and given how easy it was thats about right. The car has been no real trouble while I have had it, and looking at the history it has never been any trouble to its previous owners. The only unplanned mainanatce during my ownership has been repalcement of the turbine housing and manifold gasket. It is due to receive a new cat (repalceing the original which has rusted away) centre exuast section and the rack pinion seal. Everything works on it and it startes every time

  71. @Ford Prefect

    Good point.

    I think a lot of family dealers are dying out, those that are left are faceless corporate dealers who only know the bottom line on a spreadsheet.
    They pay peanuts for mechanics and so get monkeys. Servicing work is dealt to apprentices, fresh out of technical college. I’ve done a night course in basic DIY servicing at such a place, the cars they train up with were pretty old – a Sierra, 1993 Corsa, 80s Aerodeck. Then let them loose with a new V6 HDi C6?
    I’ve known a Vectra VXR owner who left his car in and it came back in a state with non-functioning instruments. Presumably baffled as it wasn’t the usual fleet diesel.

  72. I have a confession…I own a C6, and I absolutely adore it. I love everything about it,I guess most of all I love the complete eccentricity of it. I really respect Richard Kirkpatrick’s writing on here, but I have to differ about the C6..mine has ( until I just jinxed it ! ) has been perefectly reliable and a joy to drive. I really doubt that there is a better car around for long touring holidays and trips etc.

    I only came to the C6 ( well also via a long term hankering for an SM or CX Gti Turbo !) as Lancia and Alfa ceased building cars I desired. I loved my Alfa 156 and GT and the Lancia Delta, HPE and Prisma I owned before, hopefully the new Giulia will tempt me back.

    Such a shame we are all obsessed by bl**dy BMWs and Audis, how could anything ever made by a German firm ever come close to the beauty of a Fiat 130 Coupe or a Gamma Coupe ???

    • @GTS: SM – now you’re talking…

      Such a shame we are all obsessed by bl**dy BMWs and Audis, how could anything ever made by a German firm ever come close to the beauty of a Fiat 130 Coupe or a Gamma Coupe ???

      The Glas V8 is a pretty close match to these two – just a decade ahead I would think.

  73. Glas V8 is nice in profile, though the front looks a bit like a squashed Austin 3 litre grille with a strange nostril.

    Frua one of the little heard of designers these days, sadly passed in 82.

  74. @Will, did you know the Lord Mayor of Belfast has a 607 at his disposal as one of the official car fleet? The main car is a BMW 740Li but the 607 is the backup/Deputy Lord Mayor’s car for official functions.

    Lisburn have a Audi A8 (4.2 I think) and I think Newtownabbey have a VW Phaeton (possibly a diesel).

  75. @80: Kilpatrick, not Kirkpatrick…

    It’s good that you’re happy with the C6 – you’ve probably been supported by better dealers than my experiences! It has good points, but coming to it from a long history of HP Citroëns I find Hydractive III+ very inadequate, I suppose like the difference between a Yamaha DX7 and a classic analogue synthesizer.

    I wanted one after 7 CXs, 4 XMs, Xantia and 4 BXs. I had definite expectations for ride quality, handling, roadholding and overall comfort. But the dealer was the make or break part for me – it is still, in my opinion, superior to many ‘conventional’ cars, but the flaws outweighed the benefits. Something I never felt with the XM, a car which as a design seemed to be almost ideal for what I wanted.

  76. (In fact the nail in the coffin for it was getting a £500 Xantia 1.8 estate. V-reg. The Xantia’s steering behaviour and feedback, and ride quality, felt more integrated and cohesive – and strip away the pretty trims and ‘prestige’ status, the Xantia felt like a better car).

  77. Sorry Richard, Kilpatrick !!

    Yes I think I an quite lucky with the dealer, although to be fair they haven’t had much serious to deal with…long may it continue!!

    I suppose I was /am slightly disappointed with the ride, it is no where near as “magic carpet” as my dad’s old BXs in the eighties, but on the other hand it is vastly better than any other car I have driven recently. I expect, as has been said, it is a reflection of the current apparent obsession with having suspension set ups to tackle the Nurenburg Ring and not for us average drivers who need to drive over the UK’s dire, pot hole and road hump strewn roads.

    Seven CXs ?? Sounds great, I have always wanted one, like I said either a Turbo, or maybe I should really go for the ultimte expression and go for a Prestige…..

  78. @ 81 & 82

    Yes the Glas is a fine looking car, but I’m not sure it really counts as they were not really a volume manufacturer ( although they may have sold more V8s than 130 & Gamma coupes combined !!!)…oh and also weren’t they finally taken over by the evil empire in Munich…

    Frua is sadly a bit forgotten, I always loved his AC of the late 60s & early 70s…

  79. @Jonathan McCormack

    I did not know that!

    All I seem to see are chauffeured armoured Skoda Superbs and what remains of the Vauxhall Omega fleet.

    I’ll have to keep my eye out for the 607 in the news or if the lord mayor is ever up the science park.

    I recall Newtownabbey used to have a big Lexus LS, numberplate NBZ 1. Did they transfer that to the Phaeton?
    Now there’s a nice big motor, understated. Nolan has one too.

    @Richard Kilpatrick

    The Xantia to me was Citroen’s highpoint, when they got the basic reliability of engines, electrics right and the quality of the thing put together with proper rustproofing. Seemed to get a bit overly complex after that with the mk1 C5 – the one I test drove a couple of years ago kept flashing error messages up onto the MFD like a stock market ticker.

  80. Saddest thing about the AC428 is how many have had the body chopped up and some crappy cobra body dropped onto them

  81. Thank you for that article…it’s hard to imagine that in the late 30’s and even in the 50’s, French cars were renown for their quality and refinement. I think the troubles happened in the 80’s…the building quality was very poor and reliability could be quite hectic…

    On the other hand, Renault sold R4 and R25, then Twingo’s and Safrane at the same time…while the cheapest Mercedes was a classic C-class. The image of the brand is as important as the inner qualities of the car. Look at Audi’s: the image is enough to sell what remains a more expensive Skoda with a slightly different body…yet the engines and components are shared… you buy a car for the image, the social status…

    French car makers tried to take different ways, to try other alternatives to the classical boxes but they didn’t meet the customers’ expectations… Only Jaguar succeeded with its incredible looking XJ range…but it was a Jaguar. Though they went through troubles, you first bought a Jaguar and not a Jaguar with Ford components ( who cared? except for the X-class)….

    We should see what the DS Range will become, same for the Initiale Paris which is likely to be sold… Perhaps people will forget the C4 or 308 underpinnings….

    To everything…

  82. @Sébastien

    I own an X-type (X-Class?!?) And I can asure you that there are more VW parts in a Bentley then Ford Hardware in an X-Type… The X shares a low 18% of it’s parts with Ford (most of it from the Mondeo…)

    It’s strange that journalists critisezed it’s for it’s front wheel drive when at the same time the wrote that Ford made the best driving car in it’s class with the Mondeo…, How can the best of Ford not be good enough for a Jaaag…

    BTW, it’s the S-Type that has more Ford components, (or actualy the Lincoln LS…) then the X-type, and no-one even complained about that…

    Journalists just don’t like FWD I guess, well… Even seen a Horse pushing a carriage instead of pulling it? So how bad can it be 😉

  83. #86 – The BX (16RS Estate) was one of the best of my 80 or so cars – I so need it now with all these wretched potholes that have done-in four Alfa wheels and threaten the very sole of my Bini Clubman! In three years of ownership all I ever did was screw in 3 new spheres and replace an accelerator amplifier (or some such thing).
    #87 – Frua – what a guy. Definitely not forgotten. Car magazine loved him.

  84. @Sébastien

    Thank you for your comments. Some good points that the French manufacturers have always had a 2 pronged effort, with the likes of the 4 countering the 20/30 and DS sold alongside the 2CV. I guessed that perhaps it was a part of the French sense of ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’ that the Janitor and the CEO can both buy vehicles from the same manufacturer.
    When my Citroen collecting friend was in France undertaking some work, he told me that when he turned up in an XM people were surprised to see he wasn’t the boss.
    Peugeot were probably the odd one out in this regard, before the 104 the 204 was probably more of a small family saloon. After the Simca/Chrysler takeover they really got into small cars.
    Whereas the Germans traditionally had 3 sizes of the same large saloon, and only now are breaking into the small car market, as trendy urban types seek the badge in a small easy to park package.

    I’m watching with interest the DS marque, though it does seem like a range of small ‘premium’ hatchbacks into premium crossovers like the DS5. The DS9 looks intriguing, but chances are it’ll be a China-only model.

    Renault’s tie in with Merc (see Merc Citan) was supposed to herald the launch of the Initiale Paris luxury car brand, but from what I’ve been reading no agreement was reached, the name is going to be used as a trim level on Clios, Infiniti is to be pushed as the Renault-Nissan flagship brand, with Dacia at the other end.

    The X type argument always cracks me up. The motoring media are fine with FWD Audis sharing much componentry and platforms with VWs and Skodas, yet when Ford try and platform share (which Antigoon suggests was as low as 18%), they go on about “Jag Mundano! LOL!”. Similar situation with Saab – yes they’re based on GM platforms.

    @The Wolseley Man

    My Alfa was the same, low profile tyres and sporting suspension on the GTV meant it was always in for tyres and bushes. The Xantia just shrugged and soaked up the potholes. Some of the roads in the country village I now live in are a disgrace, and have gotten worse after the recent blizzard and thaw.

  85. I sat in/explored a DS5 this week. It’s a funny thing.

    About 4.5m long, it doesn’t fit into my idea of “BIG”, but it certainly has a feel of ‘ungainly’ when wandering around one in a showroom. The inevitable tinted reae windows disguise massively heavy pillars at the back, and from the driver’s seat the forward visibility is atrocious.

    Externally the design is just fussy and confused, like someone had an idea for a shape and then let everyone have a go with it – vents, slashes, redundant details. Some neat aerodynamic touches, but little in the styling talks about the engineering.

    Sadly the interior borders on beautiful for a scifi geek. Overhead console, glass roof, displays, buttons, swooping console. It’s very appealing, if only it were underneath a 1960s super-thin pillared glasshouse.

    And it’s got a four cylinder engine, and is £30K with a few options on. It does not feel like a substitute for a C6 – in fact, I want to try one but my gut feeling is that it would be unbearable on the road, simply because of the position of the driver and limited visibility.

    The Hybrid, 4WD option is interesting. Yet I’m unconvinced that this is ‘luxury’ any more than a Chinese high-specification plastic iPad-clone is ‘advanced technology’.

    Still, it makes more sense than the DS4, which has a mishmash of design language (almost clamshell bonnet, semi-coupé looks with non-opening rear windows, the most feeble effort at a ‘panoramic’ windscreen I’ve seen yet…) or the DS3 Cabriolet which may as well just have a nice Webasto top and keep the hatchback.

  86. @Richard Kilpatrick

    Thanks for your insights, having experienced it first hand.

    I do think the exterior misses the elegance of the C6/XM/CX/DS, or even the Xantia/BX/GS, looking more like a crossover version of a C4 Picasso.

    The interior does sound intriguing, overhead bins and the likes. Haven’t encountered overhead storage in a car since the mk1 Vauxhall Combo 🙂

    Did you get driving it? The reports I’ve read have said that it rides quite harshly – a cardinal sin for what should be a flagship Citroen!!

    The DS4 to me looks like they’re chasing the Juke market. With the success of the likes of the Qashqai, it is understandable why manufacturers are trying to get a slice of this pie.

  87. I considered asking for a test drive, but after looking at it I knew i would never, ever want to drive it. It’s not like the Evoque, which has a falling dash and simple pillars that make it feel spacious and airy. The big wheels look like they’d add up to poor ride quality.

    The Vauxhall Signum had overhead storage, and you know what? The DS5 feels like Signum Mutton dressed as premium French Lamb. The Signum, gawky as it was, had a fundamental honesty and purpose that really feels lacking in the DS5’s showroom/material qualities. Living with one may be different…

    I would like the idea of the DS5 Hybrid, if there were more ‘clever’ in the body – slimmer pillars, clever seating, informed use of space, but it feels more like an Insignia. Big, safe, crude hidden behind lots of (bulk-adding) cladding. I don’t recall the last time I sat in a C4 Picasso, but I seem to recall it feeling ‘thinner’ up front, more airy.

  88. If the above is the actual view from the inside of a DS5 I think I know why I have never seen a single one on the road. It seems worse than drunk driving with THAT A-post blocking the view. The C4 Picasso was actually very nice on the inside (bar all the black colour), quite airy compared to most current cars.

  89. My sleeve is blocking part of the driver’s side window, but the pillars really are like that. Also the scuttle height is high, so you really have no chance of spotting the bonnet or wings. It’ll need the front parking sensors.

  90. I saw a DS5 in a garden centre car park last weekend. It was sat between an SUV and a car both physically and height-wise – you could’ve used the 3 as steps.

    Richard’s interior view makes it look like it has that Cab-Forward dash that MPVs have, with extra A pillar windows with huge blind spots. If anything, it reinforces the ‘premium C4 Picasso’ look.

    Citroen are going SUV/Crossover chasing with their weirdly named ‘DS Wild Rubis’ –

    Maybe I’m looking at the whole thing the wrong way. SUVs are the spiritual successors to big old saloons and fastback hatches. Maybe I’m stuck with an ’80s dad car’ mindset. Certainly with the recent spring blizzard I contemplated a cheap Isuzu Trooper. With the resulting potholes I comtemplated a cheap Xantia. Maybe the new crossover class of car is the best of both world and I’ve been too ignorant/intolerant to notice?

    I just can’t get beyond the styling though. Most of these crossover/SUVs are boxes of slabbed metal. I followed a Peugeot 3008 yesterday and it was like following a bus. Peugeots of old had elegance, the old equivalent of this car was maybe a 505, 305 or 405 estate.

    @bangernomic gav

    Nice. Though I do get the sneaking suspicion that this should be wearing an Alfa Romeo grille…
    Although if part of the problem of big French and Italian cars is depreciation, and they are going all out on the premium front with the XF as a competitor, the midsize Jag holds its value well. (Too well! As a recent browse through the classifieds showed…)

  91. From :

    4. Where has French luxury gone?

    While Louis Vuitton bags, Moët & Chandon champagne, Hermès scarves and Louboutin heels continue to rack up stratospheric sales and churn billions of dollars, keeping the French economy afloat in the process, in the automobile world French luxury has gone missing. Renault Vel Satis anyone? Surely if Victoria Beckham can design the interior of a Range Rover Evoque, the French should be able to do wonders. Bonus points to Citroen for its DS range, but please, someone bring back Panhard already!

  92. i can recall the Peugeot 604, a good looking barge of a car that was extremely comfortable, powerful and refined in V6 form and cheap used as sales were never high when new. Never seen one since the nineties, but definitely an old school French luxury car that stood out and was designed for comfort.

  93. To me Peugeot made the same mistake that BL/Rover did, and lost it’s market position which was for a well built and slightly conservative quality car. The 504 and 505 were genuine Mercedes rivals, indeed like the W123 the Pugs weren’t full of toys, but rather had that solidity and ruggedness that marked them out as superior products.

    To an extent the market has moved away from such products, but Volvo have shown that there is a market for non German premium products, and that not everyone wants the “aggressiveness” of the German products.

  94. There was the ultimate oddity, the Chrysler 180/ 2 Litre, initially to be a Humber with a V6 and wood and leather to top the range, but instead was launched with a badge that was little known to British motorists in the early seventies and was made in France. It might not have sold in big numbers and was criticised for its styling and lack of rustproofing, as if it was alone in this in the seventies, but it was a perfect mix of American styling and fake wood and velour interior in the 2 litre, allied to a typical soft French ride and very comfortable seats. Also the big Chrysler was no slouch, with both models being capable of 105 mph and able to take on a Triumph 2000 or Cortina 2000 GT.
    BTW a few seem to survive in Spain and the south of France, where the climate is kinder to them, and there are some good Youtube videos for the minority of us who like the 2 Litre.

    • It was a bit of an oddball in many ways, being two projects merged into one and eventually using the Chrysler branding.

      After the mid 1970s there were hardly any styling or engineering improvements, and was quite dated by the end of production.

      The smaller 160 wasn’t sold here, but was popular in Spain as a taxi

      • By 1979 Chrysler had left Europe and hte 2 Litre lingered on until the Tagora arrived in late 1980, which ironically was even more of a flop, even if it had what the 2 Litre lacked, a V6 option, and a range topper with electric windows and central locking in common with cats like the Granada Ghia. Perhaps the car’s styling, which resembled an overly large Solara, a cheap looking interior and being launched in a recession and against several established rivals killed off the Tagora. However, it has to be said, like the 2 Litre, the Tagora was blessed with a very cosetting ride, armchair like seats and plenty of velour, which was the new leather back in 1980.

  95. Another rumour is VW to cease production of the Passat saloon, the Skoda Superb will fill the void in the product range. With the Mondeo to cease,t hat will not leave much of a choice of saloons for the car buyer

  96. With the ceasing of Mondeo & Passat ? production, perhaps the Vauxhall Opel Insignia may be under threat too. Just about every new “car” is now a Crossover or SUV. Not enough of us want saloons, hatch’s or Coupe’s it seems… Sad

  97. I can see the appeal of crossovers for the tall driving position, all round vision and interior space, but some monster SUV in somewhere like Chelsea, what is the point?.

  98. The benefit of an SUV over a saloon in Chelsea, the SUV can be driven over a speed hump at a higher speed than a saloon car.
    The demise of the saloon car, are our manufacturers copying the USA where domestic makers abandoned the loss-making saloon (sedan) market to concentrate building passenger vehicles based on ladder chassis pickups (cheap to build) but with high profits? A situation which led to bankruptcy in 2009 when fuel prices rose and sales collapsed

    • America is a different market. Pickups which are the biggest selling car stateside pay considerably less tax than cars. The growth of SUV is because it is seen as a status symbol, much like the oversized telly and the latest iPhone. Today’s culture are so fickle that if a celebrity came out and said SUVs were bad and we should all buy electric trikes, they would!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.