Billed as the ideal antidote to rising fuel costs, the Talbot Horizon came with a 1.4-litre engine and electronic gadgets galore, but was it any good?
Jim Holder
22 January 2015

Today we think of downsizing as a modern, original response to rising motoring costs, but our test of the £4950 Talbot Horizon suggests otherwise.

Some 35 years ago, this small saloon was seen as the ideal antidote to rising fuel costs (then averaging £1.28 per gallon, or 28 pence per litre) and, as such, took on the likes of the Austin Vanden Plas 1100 and Lancia Delta.

The key to persuading buyers of large saloons to buy smaller was – as now – to give the customer big-car technology in a small package. So the 1442cc Alpine engine was modified with a Weber twin-choke carburettor and linked to an automatic gearbox.

The interior was also trimmed in velour (although the author noted, somewhat sniffily, “a walnut veneer dashboard was out of the question for a French car, even if they could do it properly”). But the real party pieces came in the form of cruise control and an electronic trip calculator.

The road test started well enough, with performance being rated as brisk despite the hindrance of the torque converter. A top speed of 97mph and a 0-60mph time of 14.1sec may not sound like much to get excited about today, but it eclipsed the figures of rivals such as the Triumph Dolomite 1850 HL, Renault 5 and Vauxhall Chevette GL 4-d.

Meanwhile, economy of 26.5mpg was considered acceptable for the capacity of the engine – and was bettered only by the Renault 5 and Chevette – although the 6.4 per cent milometer inaccuracy was deemed “unacceptable”.

Road noise was acceptable up to 60mph but deteriorated rapidly at 70mph, while road behaviour received moderate praise for being predictable. Perhaps more importantly, given its mission, the interior was described as plush and comfortable, although the shortage of rear cabin space was heavily criticised.

So far, so good. But then came the verdicts on the two pieces of trick technology. “We do not feel that these two items, either singly or together, make any useful difference to the appeal of the car,” thundered the conclusion, which may well resonate with technophobes to this day.

The electronic trip computer came in for particular criticism. Its digital display may well have been switchable between time of day, elapsed time of trip, distance, amount of fuel consumed, fuel consumption and average speed (in imperial or metric), but Autocar’s ever-diligent testers benchmarked it and found its measurements to be consistently off kilter. “It is an amusing toy, yes,” noted our man, “but regrettably not to be taken at all seriously.”

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Comments
15

22 January 2015
Vanden Plas 1100??
Surely you mean the Vanden Plas 1500, based on the infamous Allegro?

22 January 2015
peterover wrote:

Vanden Plas 1100??
Surely you mean the Vanden Plas 1500, based on the infamous Allegro?

Yes, and surely it was the Renault 14 that was a rival, not the 5... I'd welcome more of these nostalgic reviews, but hopefully more accurate ones.

22 January 2015
Surely someone at Autocar is old enough to check the accuracy of such an article. Call yourself motoring enthusiasts??

23 January 2015
Your comments on this test are a bit weird really. The group of 'rivals' seem to have been chosen because they were the only small or medium cars with auto gearboxes, not because they were true rivals in size and price and performance. Where's the Golf? The Escort? The Astra/Kadett? They were the true rivals for the Horizon.

Would've been interesting to compare fuel consumption, safety equipment, emissions etc. Oh well. Never mind.

It's always interesting to look back at old road tests, especially from the 1950s and 1960s. I have a huge collection of the yearbooks magazines used to publish. They were incredibly in-depth, well written, thorough... car magazines today are like Amazon reviews in comparison. Well, except for the one I have on subscription , which is French, and still in-depth, thorough, well-written.

22 January 2015
Nice bit of nostalgia, thank you. Hope there will there be more pieces like this. I recall that the Horizon was off the pace even when newly launched, mainly due to poor engines carried over from the Simca it replaced. It was, however, quite a good looking car in the style of the Golf, yet still typically French, softly sprung with comfy seats.

22 January 2015
Crap car then as well as now (if there are any left?). But still nice to read about it. More of these from your archives please.....

289

22 January 2015
.... when they were second hand though.
Used to buy these from Auctions to put on our used car site by the bucketful, and invariably they sold before they were prepped.
Cheap and more interesting/practical than a Mk2 Escort.

22 January 2015
Remember them well, my instructors second car when I was learning to drive. Although a 1.1LS, I thought it a big improvement on his previous mk 1 fiesta 1.0L. Visibility was good and placing the car for three point turns, reversing around corners, easy enough. Unlike many of today's cars...

22 January 2015
It was a hatchback not a saloon.

Where has all Japanese design went to?

23 January 2015
Zeddy wrote:

It was a hatchback not a saloon.

It's not a Japanese car??

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