Explained: The 2CV Driving Experience

Attempting to describe the unique 2CV driving experience is no easy task.

I've driven a 665km journey across France in a 2CV back in 2002 and also crossed the UK in a 2CV Van a couple of years later so let's say I have the qualifications even if I maybe lack the words.

It all begins when you get inside the 2CV. As you sit down, the suspension and seats swallow you like an old sofa.

The earliest 2CV models were equipped with an earth-shattering 9hp 375cc engine which was soon upgraded to a 425cc, then 435cc and finally a 29hp 602cc in 1968.

Babette sports a humble 425cc, 18hp engine typical of the 1964 2CV AZAMs.

How does this translate in terms of speed?

Well… 83kph (52mph) is reached in just under 45 seconds but that's only given the right conditions, no wind and if you find a straight road flat and long enough.

The concept of speed as we know it today is pretty much non-existent in a 2CV and you may find yourself never using the S word again.

It is possibly the slowest car you will ever drive and yet it's likely to be the most fun. The 2CV exemplifies the fact that slow can go hand in hand with exciting.

  1964 Citroen 2CV AZAM

1964 Citroen 2CV AZAM

The 2CV attracts love from some of the most serious of car enthusiasts (except Jeremy Clarkson maybe). I personally have driven supercars at Donnington Park and Silverstone including an Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Audi R8, single-seater and don’t get me wrong I love speed, but I prefer the 2CV’s lack of it balanced by all its quirks and charm.

Time somehow warps when you get into a 2CV, everything kind of slows down and voices distort a bit like in slow motion footage. OK maybe not that much but near and it has nothing to do with the petrol fumes.

About ten years ago, my mum and I drove 480 miles up from Staines, near London, to a 2CV meeting in Scotland aboard her old 2CV Van.

  My mum's 2CV Van "Fourgonette"

My mum's 2CV Van "Fourgonette"

It was just the two of us and the back packed with camping equipment. We attempted to climb some hills on the way and nearly got to a standstill. Often we had to pull over to let the queue of traffic past. But it was so much fun and 100% worth it, plus I’m not sure anyone really could be furious, that’s the 2CV effect on people: it makes them smile.

Another example is the short but ultra-steep hill leading to my uncle’s house in the woods in Dorset. Full of arrogance we attempted to climb it without momentum and in second gear to eventually find ourselves stalling half way up.

That day we discovered that with a passenger and a 425cc engine, that’s a hill you climb in 1st gear if you ever want to reach the top.

Wind, especially cross-wind, is the enemy and can make for quite a scary drive too. The 2CV is light and offers a very generous amount of air resistance, so you'll think twice before driving in windy conditions and hold-on tight when you see a lorry charging towards you.

In most situations you’ll floor it in fourth gear constantly anticipating what’s coming next. The 2CV will never tip-over so braking sheepishly as you approach a bend, when you really should not, will affect the next 2 miles of your journey.

2CVs sticks to the road like chewing gum to a shoe, so you just need to drive with fearless dare-devil confidence like your life depends on it.

If you are going downhill followed by another hill, you’ll want once again to gain as much speed as you can hoping no one slows you down just before you climb again. 

Constant planning and anticipation are required, it’s an exhilarating experience, one that never makes for a boring drive and that will make you smile like never before!

Nico