Why you’d want a Citroën BX
With Ford Sierra-matching aerodynamics, low weight, powered all-disc brakes and hydropneumatic suspension with variable ride height, the BX maintained the Citroën tradition of distinctive, advanced cars with a superb ride.
Cleverly packaged, it had more interior and boot space than a Sierra despite compact dimensions.
Unlike some of its predecessors, the BX wasn’t let down by a pedestrian engine – thanks to the PSA takeover, most had light, lively new units.
Early cars had idiosyncratic instruments and controls, especially the drum speedo and strip rev counter; market resistance led to the fitment of more conventional equipment in Mk2s from 1986.
There are c1300 BXs left in the UK, but a much smaller number on the road (many of them diesels), including maybe a dozen Mk1s, so it’s best not to be choosy on models when buying or you could be looking for a long time – there were 62 different variants offered in the UK over the 11 years that the BX was on sale here.
Citroën led the high-performance, refined diesel-engine revolution with the CX Turbo-D, and was quick to offer the class-leading PSA 1.9 diesel in the BX, with 50mpg – optional power steering was a wise investment with this heavy motor.
With turbocharging from 1988, the diesel gained performance to match its economy. Hotter petrols were later added, using uprated suspension and engines shared with the Peugeot 205 GTI and others.
Motor said: ‘With the GTi 16v, Citroën have produced one of the great contemporary production car chassis… none of the relaxed, fluid poise has been lost but a great deal of precision and bite has been gained.’
Most mechanical parts are available: much was shared with 205/405/ZX/Xantia; the early 1.4 ‘Douvrin’ engine was also used by Simca, changing to the 205/AX unit for 1987.
The 16v engine is really buzzy and performance-oriented – a proper hot hatch with bespoke wheels, brakes and other parts that are hard to source now.
Rust is often hidden deep in the structure, requiring many hours of labour to access and repair properly: the front scuttle and rear axle mounts are worst.
The plastic bonnet, rear hatch and bumpers kept weight (and corrosion) down, but are difficult to repair if damaged and paint can fade badly. Some very early diesels had steel bonnets, as did some late production cars.
Images: James Mann
Citroën BX: what to look for
See above for what to check when looking at Citroën BXs for sale.
Most BXs had the PSA Group’s new XU engines, which were light, powerful for their size and economical, putting the lightweight BXs ahead of many of their peers for both performance and economy.
Checks include head-gasket leaks and cambelt replacement intervals, plus carbs are often poorly set up or worn.
Check for leaks in the hydraulic suspension, strut corrosion, creaking when it rises and excessive negative camber (indicating arm bearing failure).
The BX’s ride and super-sharp brakes depend on ‘LHM’ fluid, a high-pressure pump and nitrogen-filled spheres (here a front sphere and the accumulator in the above-right image).
With so many variations, rare trim such as the GT’s is extremely difficult to find, so check it is all in good order and correct for the model and year.
The Mk1 dashboard used wacky ‘PRN’ dials, though the GT’s are from the CX. Later cars have more conventional controls. Check everything works.
Citroën BX: before you buy
Manual transmissions can give trouble: check for weak synchromesh on second and third, and for jumping out of gear. Linkages can be improved if they are sloppy.
Citroën fitted many different gear sets to give ideal gearing for each model and engine: if the car feels under- or over-geared, or the ratios are too widely/closely spaced, it may have had a ’box swap with a different model.
The diff on the 1400 is weak and can break up. Rare 4x4s can strip gears in the transfer box, and parts for these models are incredibly hard to find – even the exhaust is unobtainable.
The first BXs had metric-sized wheels, for which tyres are very expensive – but these earliest cars are scarce.
Raise the suspension to its full height – if it staggers, the front struts are dry; new ones are rare. Listen for a ‘tick’ showing that the system is fully charged – if there isn’t one, there may be an internal leak, but if it is frequent (every few seconds) it may indicate a worn hydraulic pump or a flat accumulator sphere.
Turn off, and the car shouldn’t sink too fast: the rear drops first, but the front can stay raised for up to 24 hours. Hold the brake on with the engine idling: if the rear sinks, then the Doseur valve on the pedal needs attention; if it rises, there’s air in the system.
If the suspension is hard, the spheres have failed; if the car feels wallowy, it probably has the incorrect spheres.
Clunky suspension suggests worn bushes and balljoints – and the strut tops can also fail.
If the car is fitted with power steering, check the nearside steering gaiter (RHD): it’s a nightmare to replace.
Citroën BX price guide
- Sport, 16v: £1500/3500/12,000
- GT, GT : £500/2000/9000
- 1.6, 1.9: £250/1700/5000
- 1.4: £200/1200/2500
Prices correct at date of original publication
Citroën BX history
1982 Oct BX launched in Europe
1983 Sept BX on sale in UK (1.4-litre 14, 14 E and 14 RE; 1.6-litre 16 RS and 16 TRS). Nov 1.9-litre 19 RD diesel (1984 UK)
1984 1905cc GT added (1985 UK): 105bhp, PAS. LHD-only, 124bhp twin-carb BX Sport
1985 ‘Digit’ GT with digital dash (4000 built); air-con option on top models. Sept BX estate
1986 Mk2: new dashboard, flared arches. 125bhp BX 19 GTi: stiffer damping, sports seats. GT becomes 19 TRS; 17 RD added
1987 GTi 16v: side skirts, deeper spoiler, bigger arches, alloys, vented discs with ABS
1988 DTR Turbo added: 1.8 turbodiesel; also 19 TRI estate with GTi 8v running gear; auto option on GTi/TRI; GTi 16v renamed just 16v
1990 Facelift: new bumpers, smoked rear lights; 4x4 option on GTi and 1.9 estate
1993 Hatchback ends (estate 1994)
The owner’s view
When he’s not working on TVRs, Richard Kitchen lives and breathes Citroën BXs (and SMs).
“I was into cars from a young age,” he explains, “and when Dad replaced his Opel Kadett with a Mk1 BX, I absolutely loved it.
“They’re such great-looking cars, so distinctive compared to other family cars of the time, and much nicer to travel in.
“I’ve had 20 BXs over the years; parts are hard to find, but the owners’ circle is good – full of very helpful, down-to-earth people. We restored this Mk1 GT in 2018 – at near-200,000 miles – and I gave it to Dad.
“My red 16v is a real driver’s car, but when I first got it in 2004 I was ridiculed for regarding it as a classic; now they are soaring in value.
“Mk1s are very hard to find today, but I recently added an A-reg Mk1 16 TRS with just 17,000 miles to the collection – it’s just like Dad’s first one.”
ALFA ROMEO 33
Alfasud-derived, flat-four-engined saloon and Sportwagon estate offered sporting pedigree in a front-drive package, but it couldn’t match the pace of the BX 16v. Rust means few survive.
Sold 1983-’94 • No. built 260,420 • Price now £1500-10,000*
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF Mk2
Smaller than a BX but similarly priced, the Mk2 Golf sold strongly on solid quality, yet the GTI wasn’t as quick as a BX 16v – only the rare G60 came close. Corrosion is the only real enemy today.
Sold 1984-’92 • No. built c7,000,000 • Price now £1500-20,000*
*Prices correct at date of original publication
Citroën BX: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
The Citroën BX is a distinctive, practical and enjoyable modern classic to own, but they are certainly not easy cars to restore if neglected.
Be flexible in the specification you are looking for, and aim to buy the very best-condition example you can find.
Inspect all of the common rust spots very closely, make sure that all of the components are correct for the model and year, and (on diesels in particular) check for engine damage due to overheating.
- The BX offers far more individuality than most contemporary family cars
- It’s practical, economical and all have a wonderful, magic-carpet ride
- They still command very reasonable prices
- With low values, hidden rot can render a BX uneconomic to restore
- 16v GTis are more valuable, but unique parts make repair costly
Citroën BX specifications
- Sold/number built 1982-’94/2,315,739
- Construction steel monocoque
- Engine all-alloy, ohc 1360/1580/1905cc ‘four’, single/twin-choke Weber/Solex carb or LE-Jetronic/Motronic injection, or dohc 16v with Motronic, or iron-block, alloy-head, ohc 1905cc diesel, or 1769cc turbodiesel; 62bhp @ 5500rpm-160bhp @ 6500rpm; 80lb ft @ 2500rpm-134lb ft @ 2100rpm
- Transmission four/five-speed manual or four-speed auto, FWD or 4WD
- Suspension independent, hydropneumatic with self-levelling, at front by MacPherson struts rear trailing arms; anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering rack and pinion, optional assistance
- Brakes powered 10½in (267mm) front, 8¾in (224mm) rear discs (16v vented front, ABS)
- Length 13ft 10½in-14ft 5¼in (4230-4400mm)
- Width 5ft 5¼in (1660mm)
- Height 4ft 5¾in-8¼in (1365-1430mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft 8½in (2655mm)
- Weight 1982-2530lb (902-1150kg)
- Mpg 27-50
- 0-60mph 14.4-7.8 secs
- Top speed 96-133mph
- Price new £6436-13,244 (1.4-GTi 16v, ’88)