French automakers may be well known around the world, but they haven’t peddled their wares here in nearly 25 years. In the 1970s, Peugeot, along with Citroen and Renault, made a valiant attempt to compete with American and Japanese cars, offering such popular models as the full-size 505 sedan and 505 wagon, the latter offering more interior volume than a full-size Caprice Estate of the day. But by the 1980s, economics and a somewhat spotty repair history proved too problematic for the French, forcing them to pack their trunks and bid au revoir to the elusive North American market.
Fast-forward to 2016, with a renewed Peugeot/Citroen — flush with an infusion of Chinese cash — rumored to be thinking of making a return to the U.S. market. If one or both companies do return, here are six models we hope come along for the ride.
An Automotive French Revolution
Citroen C4 Cactus
This groovy compact wagon would do very well going up against cars such as the MINI Clubman and Mazda CX-3. Beyond its handsome styling and rounded edges, the most obvious exterior attribute is the C4 Cactus’ massive polyurethane Airbump panels covering its sides, front bumper and rear hatch. The panels contain air pockets that effectively protect the car from dents and dings incurred during unavoidable encounters with careless drivers and errant shopping carts. While the Europeans get a number of engine options, we’d be happy with either the 109-horsepower 1.3-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder or the 1.6-liter turbodiesel.
Citroen C5 Tourer
With the exception of the all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback, wagons have had a tough go in the U.S., but we think the C5 Tourer might just have what it takes to win over skeptics. Slightly larger than a Golf SportWagen, the sporty C5 Tourer would probably be priced at the higher end of the wagon spectrum, filing the gap left by the now defunct Passat wagon but not as expensive as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Again, a choice of clean diesel or turbocharged gasoline engines would be welcome, as would the cool Hydractive III plus air suspension that continually adapts to varying road conditions as well as keeps the car level regardless of load. While we like the exterior styling, Citroen would be wise to spruce up the massive expansive of dull plastic that makes up the dash, console and door panels.
Citroen DS 4 Crossback
As a small crossover SUV, the DS4 Crossback may not be as adventurous as a Subaru Crosstrek or Jeep Renegade, but it is certainly every bit as eye catching. With its raised ride height and black body cladding the DS4 may exude the image of a rugged off-road vehicle, but its front-drive only layout limit it to asphalt paved pathways. In Europe the DS4 is powered by a 1.5-liter turbodiesel, but if it came here it would probably use a similar size turbocharged gasoline engine, a move that could help keep the price in line with cars like the Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke and Kia Soul.
Performance, Parisian Style
Peugeot 308 GTi 270
If we were to compile a list of must have hot hatchbacks, you can bet the 308 GTi 270 would be in the top 10. If the 308 ever made it to the U.S., it would certainly face stiff competition from the likes of the VW GTI, Ford Focus ST and upcoming Honda Civic Type-R. However, with its 266-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, slick shifting 6-speed manual gearbox and lightweight construction, the 308 GTi would be more than up to the challenge. They may have to make some modifications to the 308’s notoriously cramped interior, but we bet consumers will have nothing but praise for the thickly bolstered sport seats, high quality interior materials and what may be the only reverse operating tachometer (the needle sweeps from right to left) in the automotive world.
Peugeot 508 GT Line
The 508 is the flagship car line encompassing both sedan and wagon variants. About the size of an Audi A6, the elegantly styled 508 GT might easily catch the eye of those who find Audi styling a bit too demure and Lexus a bit too over the top. Those who have grown tired of the SUV craze may find the 508 GT wagon a refreshing option, with a voluminous interior, sport sedan like handling and a massive panoramic fix glass roof that literally runs from the front edge of the sun visors to just behind the rear seat head restraints. Even more appealing is the 508 RXH, an all-wheel-drive Audi all-road competitor with a diesel-hybrid powertrain.
Peugeot RCZ GT Line
This sporty little coupe would certainly give the Audi TT, Lexus RC and Nissan 370Z a run for their money. In Europe, the RCZ GT offers a range of gasoline and diesel engines, none of them larger than 2.0-liters. Size doesn’t always matter, however, because the little 1.6-liter turbocharged engine in RCZ GT R pumps out an impress 266 hp, all of which is funneled to the coupe’s front wheels. We know in other vehicles this formula would be a recipe for uncontrollable torque steer, but not so in the RCZ GT. So good is the car’s performance that upon its introduction in 2010, the RCZ snagged a number of prestigious awards including Top Gear’s Coupe of the Year award.