13 August 2009

Eyes on a Citroën

Walt and I have decided we need a new car. Well, not a voiture neuve, but a nouvelle voiture — a used car, une voiture d'occasion. For the small amount of driving that we do — 6,000 km, or 3,600 miles, over the past 12 months — we don't need to buy a new car and suffer the depreciation costs.

What we need is a slightly bigger vehicle than the Peugeot 206. We've been thinking about a station wagon — a used Renault Mégane Estate, a Peugeot 307 SW, or a Citroën Xsara or Xantia wagon, maybe. Out here in the country, I think it's better to stick with a French car, because all the mechanics know how to work on them and parts are easy to find.

The other body style that would be appropriate would be what they call a monospace here in France: a Renault Scenic, a Citroën Picasso, or an Opel Mériva, for example. There are a lot of Opels, a German make, on the roads in France. And VWs, for that matter. The monospace vehicles are a sort of minivan or station wagon — they are bigger than hatchbacks. I think examples of this kind of car available in the U.S. might be the Toyota Matrix and the Nissan Versa.

I'm leaning toward buying a Citroën. In fact, in 2003, when I bought the Peugeot 206, I really had already decided I wanted a Citroën. But the Peugeot is the car I found, and I needed to buy a car fast, because the rental car we had was costing us a lot of money. The 206 was a used car, and it was just sitting there on the lot at the Garage Danger in Saint-Aignan. It had a one-year warranty on it, and the price was reasonable given its relatively big diesel engine, automatic air conditioning and windshield wipers, and general good looks.

My nine-year-old Peugeot is a little hatchback and the back seat is a tight squeeze. There's almost no leg room. It's really a two-seater, as my mechanic said to me. So what we want now is a real four- or five-seater car, with greater cargo capacity. We think we might try to start going camping again in the summertime — in California, we did that a lot — and we don't see how the Peugeot 206 could accommodate the dog, ourselves, the tent, sleeping bags, coolers, clothes, groceries, water, wine and all the other stuff we'd want to haul along on a camping trip.

I want a Citroën just for the fun of being able to say I drive one. For a lot of Americans, Citroën is synonymous with the old 2CV, but the fact is that Citroën makes a full line of modern, innovative vehicles. The company was bought out by Peugeot years ago, so a lot of Citroëns and Peugeots share engines, transmissions, and other components.

My mechanic has had a very nice-looking Citroën Berlingo on his used-car lot for a few days now. He's closed this week for his annual vacation, so I haven't been able to talk to him about it yet. But it looks like the ideal vehicle. I've been reading about it and reviews say the Berlingo drives and handles more like a car than like a truck. It's definitely spacious for its size, as you can see from the pictures. It sort of reminds me of the Jeep Cherokee Sport W. had in California, but it's smaller. We loved that Jeep and kept it for 11 years.

One of my requirements for a car is that it have a diesel engine. A majority of French cars do nowadays. My Peugeot 206 is a diesel and I like it. Diesel engines are poweful, with a lot of torque for getting up hills at low speeds. They are much cleaner, quieter, and peppier than they were 30 years ago. Diesel fuel (gazole or gasoil in French) is available everywhere, and it's 20% cheaper than gasoline/petrol (essence in French). A diesel engine gets 25% better mileage than an equivalent gasoline engine. And a diesel engine will last about twice as long.

When the garage opens for business again on Tuesday, I'll be going over there to talk to the owner. We're leaning toward keeping the Peugeot and becoming a two-car household again, as we were from 1983 until 2003.


  1. I like the look of the Berlingo. I've also had my eye on the new C3 Picasso, but for all the reasons you mention, don't like the "new" part.

  2. I think I see a new car coming your way. That Citroen Berlingo gives off the same aura as the old Peugeot 4L you liked so much. It's also a CITROEN...makers of the world's most idiosyncratic, ugly, and beautiful vehicles for umteen years. They deserve to have you buy one of their cars. Google for Citroen images and click on the C-airlounge and you'll see that they're still up to it. The Pluriel is really a wonderful crazy car. My favs are the old DS models...gorgeous to me!

    Verification word "hunco"...parent company of "The Hunny Bunch Biscuit Company"?

  3. We have a Peugeot "Partner" -- which is the "twin" of the Berlingot -- since 5 years and 150 000 km ! And we still appreciate it a lot!
    It's perfect for our life in the countryside (close to Cheverny). Big volume inside, to carry all we need for the garden or the house, ... or the kids ;-)

    Bill, 4L is (was!) a Renault car, not Peugeot!

  4. You definitely need a car that has room to take a good supply of wine on your camping trips!


  5. You bought a car from the Garage Danger?!!

    WV: "grakin" = the sound of a car on its way out....

  6. Ken,
    Of course, but I hadn't had my coffee yet this morning. Brain calling fingers and getting an "Our hours are..." message.

  7. I can still remember my first ride in a 2CV.

    The Berlingo looks really roomy and nice. I hope you can make a deal with the Danger people! Keep us posted.

  8. we drove a Picasso rental when we were in france a few yrs back...only in France would they name a car after an artist! We liked the voiture.....

  9. Keir, the car I wanted when I got here was a Picasso, but at the time the dealer told me there would be a three-month wait to get a new one. Then I found the second-hand Peugeot and went for that, thinking I wouldn't keep it if I didn't like it. Well, I did like it.

    And yes, Patrick, I did buy a car from the Garage Danger. Thierry Danger gave me a pretty good deal, I thought at the time. It's fun having Garage Danger painted in little script letters on the back of the car.

    Thib, thanks for the comment. J'ai l'impression de voir moins de Peugeot Partners sur les routes de Loir-et-Cher que de Berlingos. Mais ce sont des jumeaux...

    Bill, I hadn't thought about how much the Berlingo resembles the 4L. Now I want one even more.

    BettyAnn, :^).

    Evelyn, this one won't come from Thierry Danger's dealership. The new garage doesn't have a very French name: it's First Stop! I like the service there, though, and the car looks like the right one for us.

    Melinda, we had a similar rental car once, a Renault Scenic, and enjoyed driving it to and around Provence, then back to Paris. I wanted a Picasso but I've never driven one. The monospace cars are spacious, that's for sure.

  10. I know it's probably impractical, but if I lived in rural France, I would definitely try to find a 2CV.

  11. Starman, given enough garage space to keep two or three old cars, I'd like a 2CV also. Or even more, a Renault 4. But leaving cars outdoors in the wintertime in our rainy, cold climate greatly shortens their lifespan.

    An old 2CV or R4 is really just a collector's item. They aren't practical as cars. You wouldn't go far in one. If you know how to work on one, it might be fun to have one. Otherwise, it's probably just a lot of trouble.

  12. The Berlingo looks good Ken. Heaps of space for Callie and wine!
    I drive an Xantia here in Australia and love it. We have leased 2 Citroen C3s and a C4 in the last few years and have enjoyed them all.


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