February 06, 2012

Citroën Activa

A little history

By the Eighties, Citroën had felt into some sort of lethargy. Apart from some “real” twin-chevron models, the BX and the ageing 2CV and CX, production now comprised a large share of cars that were either rebadged Peugeots or closely related to vehicles from the Sochaux company. Still, Citroën was bold enough to present two concept cars within two years, and therefore was able to demonstrate that its traditional spirit of innovation was not totally gone.

The first one was the Activa, presented during the 1988 Paris motor show. A striking pilarless four-door saloon (with “suicide” rear doors) penned by Dan Abramson, the Activa prominently featured a complex suspension system. Based on Citroën’s customary hydropneumatic suspension, it was controlled by a “Regamo” electronic system and called “Hydractive”. It succeeded in eliminating the important roll in fast turns that had been demonstrated by all hydropneumatic-equipped Citroëns since the DS and, furthermore, it could adjust the car’s handling by changing ride height and damping depending on the way the Activa was driven. Citroën didn’t only focus on suspension, though: its Activa enjoyed a fighter jet-inspired “head-up” holographic data display, four steerable wheels that allowed for a very tight turning radius and sideway parking, and a full-time four-wheel-drive transmission through a four-speed automatic gearbox. Even the seemingly conventional devices received loads of electronics. Its engine, a 3.0-litre V6 rated at 220 hp, looks rather conventional in comparison. Among all of these new systems, the Hydractive suspension proved the most successful one, as no later than the following year it found its way into the new Citroën XM.

Two years after the first Activa, Citroën unveiled the XM-based Activa 2 coupe, again during the Paris motor show. The Hydractive suspension and 3.0-litre engine (now limited to 200 hp) were carried over from its predecessor, while the centre console received an advanced electronic navigation system that was ahead of its time. Yet, the Activa 2 was a much more reasonable car overall, for Citroën seriously considered its production as an heir to the famed SM. In the end, PSA management deemed its manufacture too risky, Citroën lacking the image necessary to sell a car that would have competed with well-established German brands. For the anecdote, the body of the Activa 2 is often but erroneously thought to be from Bertone: as its creditor, Citroën had indeed the Italian company settling part of its debts by building the car, but its involvement stopped here – the design of the Activa 2 was an in-house job, its lines having been drawn once again by Dan Abramson.

Though the Activas did not beget any production vehicle, the name was later applied to the active suspension system available on a variant of the Citroën Xantia.

About the model

Model: Citroën Activa 2
Year: 1990
Maker: Universal Hobbies
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Atlas as no.66 of its Passion Citroën press series
Acquired: new with neither box nor stand (probably a production overrun or quality control reject), in February 2007, in Hong Kong, S.A.R.

Universal Hobbies offered a pretty model of the Activa 2 through Atlas’ press series (the Activa 1 was also released, but I don’t have it yet). My rating is 14/20. Note that I hadn’t glue the side mirrors into place when I took these pictures. By the way, I just noticed they’re way too dark! I’ll replace them as soon as I put my hands again on this model.




Anonymous said...

Its nice to see the real history written down for Activa showcars.

Activa 1 cost too much for Citroen to repeat the deal so...

We worked hard on both and Bertone owed work to Citroen so we shipped the fullsize Activa 2 model to Italy where Marc Deschamps and his team took molds and built the car. Very nice experience and the real car was an excellent driver that inclined into curves.

Thanks, Dan Abramson

lorenzo721 said...

Needless to say, comment and testimony such as yours are deeply appreciated. I should be the one to thank you for the added information - and for having given us such lovely automobiles in the first place!