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Citroen Turns 100: Ten Cars That Revolutionised The Brand

Zig Wheels 2019-12-01 12:18:11

Citroen is all set to make its India debut in 2020 with the C5 Aircross midsize SUV. The brand has set up its base at Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu, and has strong ambitions for the Indian market. A French brand, Citroen is part of the Groupe PSA since 1979. The brand has had a long long history and wasn’t associated with cars when André Citroën, its founder set out. In fact, Citroen started out building weapons and arms for World War I. 

Andre Citroen

In an unexpected move, it started manufacturing cars post World War I in 1916. The brand hired a couple of engineers to start their first mission -- a small 10PS automobile that followed the 'function over form' mantra. 

And that’s where the Citroen Type A came in at 1919 and started its iconic journey. Fast forward to 2019 and Citroen is celebrating its centenary. The brand has been through plenty of ups and downs but despite that, Citroen is a popular name around the globe. 

Now that Citroen is celebrating its 100th anniversary, here’s a compilation of 10 cars that revolutionised the brand:

Citroen Type A (1919 - 1921) 

Citroen’s four-wheeler journey started with the Type A, which made its debut in 1919. The Type A was available in a total of four body styles with two varying wheelbase options. It was powered by a 1.4-litre engine that put out 18PS of power and had a top speed of 65kmph.

It came with a 3-speed manual gearbox with final gear using a bevel gear with herringbone teeth. The pattern on these parts was the inspiration for the Citroen logo you see. During its two-year tenure, the Type A struggled to attract buyers initially. Ultimately, Citroen sold more than 20,000 cars with over 100 being produced in a single day in 1920.

Citroen AC6 (1928 to 1932)


The Citroen AC6 was the brand’s first six-cylinder car. It came with a 2.4-litre engine that developed 45PS of power and had a top speed of 105kmph. It was available in a total of 16 different body styles back in the day. Yes, you read that right… sixteen! The AC6 was inspired by American models of the time. It was available in a smaller AC4, which came with a four cylinder engine.  

Citroen Action Travant (1934 - 1956)

The Citroen Action Travant was a four door saloon that came with four and six cylinder engines. But the Action Travant is not about its powertrains. This model set a standard for four important components and technologies that are widely used in mainstream cars manufactured today:

  • Front-wheel Drivetrain

  • Rack and Pinion Steering Wheel

  • Independent Suspension

  • Monocoque Body

The Action Travant was also one of the most visually appealing cars back then. The year this model debuted was also when Citroen encountered the first big bump in its journey -- bankruptcy. It was a result of the extreme high costs involved in the development of the Action Travant and its facility. Michelin took control of Citroen from 1934 and used their cars to benchmark its tyres. 

Citroen 2 CV (1948 - 1990)

The 2 CV is one car that gained cult status for the brand. In fact, Hitler wanted the 2CV concept version for production but couldn’t find it as French people hid it in a false wall in Citroen’s factory. During its lifespan, a total of 9 million 2CVs were produced globally and it continues to be relevant even today. The 2CV was available with four powertrain options that had power ranging from 9PS to 29PS in its lifetime. It was also known for its soft suspension and supple ride quality. Reports state that the suspension could accommodate differing payloads and alters its wheelbase minutely to ensure a smooth ride and handling. The 2CV was last produced in Portugal before the plug was pulled. 

Citroen DS (1955 - 1975) 

The DS was the first premium car to be sold by Citroen. It came in three body styles: sedan, wagon and convertible. Reportedly, the DS was secretly developed by the French brand and there were no marketing campaigns until it was unveiled in the 1955 Paris Motor Show. The main talking point about the DS was its phenomenal ride quality and the fact that it was the first car in the world to come with pneumatic, self-levelling suspension. The DS set the bar so high that Mercedes-Benz used to benchmark the S-Class' ride quality with it! The other highlight was its semi-automatic transmission wherein drivers needed to shift gears via the stick without a clutch! It was also the first mass market car to come with disc brakes. Clearly, the DS was one car which set a strong foundation for Citroen. It became so popular that DS is now a sub-brand of Citroen and has its own set of cars. The carmaker is testing the DS7 in India and you can read all about it here.

 Citroen Mehari (1968 - 1988)

Another iconic car to roll out from Citroen is the Mehari that was sold for 18 years without a generation change! The Mehari is mainly known for its anti-breakable plastic bodywork and foldable roof. The Mehari was powered by a meagre 602cc two-cylinder engine. But the lightweight 535kg plastic body would have made the Mehari a scorcher. It was available in either rear wheel or all-wheel drive guise. A huge success, Citroen manufactured 1,44,953 units before the plug was finally pulled. Many manufacturers tried to fill the gap it left then but none succeeded. 

Citroen Activa (1988) 

Most of you know the Activa as a popular two-wheeler. But in the 1980s, this name was associated with a Citroen car. The Activa didn’t make it to final production but rather showcased the technology, which will make it to future Citroen cars. It came with electronically controlled hydropneumatic suspension and introduced the much talked about adaptive damping system that’s found in several luxury cars. The Activa also featured a four-wheel steering wheel, Anti-locking Braking System (ABS), as well as traction control. Truth be told, these were all high-tech features back then and many carmakers have implemented it only recently. 

Citroen C2 (2003 - 2009)

A mini hatchback, the Citroen C2 was popular among young car buyers. This was due to various reasons. The C2 was a pocket rocket that scored high on the fun-to-drive factor. It had plenty of variants with multiple diesel and petrol engine options to cater to varied consumers. Its mini size also ensured that the hatchback was easy to putter around town with. The hatchback also scored an impressive four stars in the Euro NCAP tests back then. Despite its poor marketing, the C2 won the 'Best European Hatchback of 2003' in September 2003.  A total of 6,90,800 units were produced before the plug was pulled on this one.  

Citroen C5 AirCross (Coming To India!)

Well, the Citroen C5 AirCross hasn’t set any records but we decided to include it here because it’s the first crossover the brand will be launching in India. The C5 Aircross will take on the likes of the Jeep Compass and the upcoming Volkswagen T-ROC. Citroen claims the crossover will be the most comfortable ride in its class and we’re positive going by its track record of over 100 years. The C5 AirCross is expected to be priced from Rs 17 lakh to Rs 25 lakh (ex-showroom pan India). You can check out the C5 AirCross in detailed images.  

Which Citroen car do you like the most? Let us know in the comments section below.