Last week we took a look at Nissan’s vision of an ultra-practical family car for the ’80s – the vertiginously styled Prairie. Today we’re moving a little way back in time, a little way North in latitude, and a little way south on the price lists.
This week’s subject car really does go back to basics. In fact, it’s only a little bit more refined than the even more humble car it was based on. The year is 1970, and we’re looking at the Citroen Dyane – the upscale sister to the iconic Citroen 2CV. Welcome back to The Carchive.
(click on the pics to enjoy the Dyane in glorious enormovision)
“Dyane is for those who don’t want a problem car. Dyane has a simple, long proven engine. Her electrics are even more simple, and she has an alternator in place of a dynamo. She always starts, she needs minimum maintenance, and she doesn’t spend her time in garages”
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like pretty much the ideal car to me. How times have changed.
The Dyane was developed from the 2CV as a delayed response to the 1961 launch of the Renault 4. The idea was to offer something a little less rudimentary than the 2CV, which began life with its famous ‘tin shed’ nickname. The Dyane was given a smoother look, with its headlamps integrated into the front wings, a slightly more angular profile than its understudy, and a proper hatchback tailgate.
The mechanical package was pretty much pure 2CV, with a choice of 435cc and 602cc air-cooled flat twin engines, producing 24 or 32bhp. The suspension design was carried over, too, and was interconnected front to rear with remarkable articulation possible. It meant a soft, loping ride and a good degree of rough-road capability, combined with the possibility of some astonishing lean angles without the doorhandles scraping the tarmac.
“For those who like the occasional picnic. A few easy movements, and Dyanes seats are on the grass. And your seats are free of ants!”
I don’t know why MPVs aren’t sold this way. How many Mercedes Viano-owning families take a trip to the great outdoors and then haul the chairs out to relax when they get there? Perhaps more people would if the removal of seats from today’s MPVs didn’t usually involve a hernia followed by tumultuous swearing as you later attempted to re-fit them.
The Dyane was a properly versatile machine, with storage in the doors, a big boot, and you could fold the rear seat if you didn’t remove it altogether. The headlamp beam could be adjusted from inside the car if you really were determined to carry massive loads.
“Dyane has been made for those who like life as well as driving. For those who like driving to be second nature to them”
Would a car like the Dyane sell today? Well, Citroen itself offers a model that has a little bit of the Dyane’s character in the shape of the C3 Cactus. OK, it may be just as lavishly equipped as any other modern-day hatchback, but it does offer strong hints towards robustness. It’s relatively affordable, too, but it’s a far cry from the dirt-cheap Dyane.
In fact, I reckon the closest match today is the Dacia Duster, especially the entry-level Access model that comes without such 21st-century excesses as air-conditioning and a machine to play tunes with. It really is pared back to the bare essentials, and its price tag reflects it, yet it doesn’t miss out on today’s vital safety equipment.
Very few Access models get ordered, though. It seems that people would rather pony up a few hundred quid more for the kind of niceties that were totally alien to Dyane drivers. And for that reason, noble as the idea might be, I reckon the days of nuts-and-bolts motoring are pretty much over.
(All images are of original manufacturer’s promotional material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of PSA Group. As I’m sure Mike Harrell will remind us, though, the Dyane and even the 2CV were positively ostentatious compared to certain other Gallic delights. For authentic French simplicity, you need a KV Mini )