Citroën C15, Renault Express: but why do the French love them so much?

In rural areas, Citroën C15, Renault Express and other utilities from the 80s are still very popular. Why do the French refuse to get rid of dirty, slow and noisy cars?

They became symbols of the countryside. No, we are not talking about rutted roads (we might have!) But the famous French cars of the 80s and 90s. And there is one that alone represents almost all the rural landscapes of France. Obviously “He” is the Citroën C15, this “backpack” Visa launched in the mid-1980s by Citroën, which quickly made a name for itself with this inexpensive utility vehicle. Sold for around 60,000 francs, it was hyper competitive in a market that also consisted of the Renault 5 Express., a logical continuation of 4L F6. C15, for the PTAC (1500 kg) of an engine that quickly gained the reputation of an indestructible tool.

The only thing that can really overcome the C15 (especially in the XUD diesel version) is rust! If the hull dies, the mechanics are broken. This probably explains why today we still find a group of C15s but also Renault Express in our countryside: simple, light cars, so in difficult terrain (thanks to the reduced weight and narrow tires ) and above all easy to fix. Today, 90,050 C15s are on France’s roads (November 2022 figure). The information sent to us by AAAData will prove one thing: 1% of the total production of C15s in history, all markets combined, is on our French roads alone!

There are more foreigners than you think

The Renault Express is still common in rural areas, although they are gradually being replaced by the Renault Kangoo I© Renault

But why are there so many old-fashioned commercial vehicles on our roads? It is all the more surprising that these machines would be denied access to French cities so quickly upon the establishment of the ZFE. But in reality, there are more French people “outside the ZFEs” than you might think.. Recently, INSEE updated its population census method. The rate of rural people suddenly went from a quarter to a third in France!

The share of the population living in rural areas increases with this change in methodology: it means that part of the population is classified as urban due to buildings until now, but lived in very sparsely populated territories. As a result, this fringe of the urban population is now counted as rural. Using this new definition, 14% of the population lives in “autonomous” countryside, 9% in a rural universe under the weak influence of a pole and 10% under strong influence. What seems to be a point of method is central. Yesterday, it was considered that a quarter of the population was rural, but only 5% lived in an isolated rural community. The proportion of people who have little relationship in cities is greater than that“(Source)

In other words: many motorists will not actually be in the EPZ and will therefore not be affected by the restrictions. And those out there can drive an old one with an unfiltered diesel engine. Finally, “allow”, this should be clearly stated quickly because it is often the result of a tight budget, more than anything else. So, here’s part of the explanation for the strong presence of old diesel utilities spewing their particles into the countryside. But it is not necessarily the only one.

We found a first generation Renault Express owner quite by chance in an area that is decidedly rural, but very close to the Swiss border and therefore close to big cities with relatively high purchasing power. His venerable diamond-shaped utility having had a broken engine, he will have every interest in opting for a more recent second-hand Kangoo. But he opted… for a standard engine swap. Why? He explained that he prefers to keep his Express easier to maintain and operate, while being economical. The engines of the past may have been less efficient than today, but they had at least 300 to 500 kg less to drag. Therefore, the consumption is not necessarily higher! Certainly, let’s not dream either, in case of an accident, it’s better to have a Kangoo than a C15. However, simple cars, easy to repair and above all light, are what some French motorists hope for. And right now, few manufacturers listen to them except maybe Dacia.

Published on 23/12/2022 Updated 23/12/2022

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