The Chevrolet Citation was a groundbreaking car when it bowed for model-year 1980, and at one point was America's best-selling automobile. But as this article makes clear, the Chevrolet Citation is better remembered today as a design failure.

The Chevrolet Citation and the Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick models that shared its basic mechanical layout were the first modern front-wheel-drive cars from General Motors.


1980 Chevrolet Citation cutaway illustration
This cutaway of the 1980 Chevrolet Citation reveals the
transverse engine. See more pictures of the Chevy Citation.

This so-called X-car family was fully up to date for 1980, with a transverse engine layout and an efficient unibody design. All offered four- and six-cylinder engines, but with a two-door coupe and two- and four-door hatchbacks, the Chevrolet Citation had the broadest array of body styles.

First-year sales were more than 800,000, good enough for No. 1 among cars sold in the United States. Demand remained strong for 1982, helped along by the lively X-11 models, which improved on the Chevrolet Citation's already respectable handling prowess.

By 1983, however, the Citation's growing list of recalls, a list highlighted by reports of faulty rear brakes, had begun to take its toll. Sales shriveled.

For 1984, Chevy tried to evoke a fresh start by renaming the line the Citation II. That had little effect, and the Chevrolet Citation folded camp after the 1985 model year, taking with it a reputation as a black eye for GM engineering rather than as the landmark car it actually was.

1984 Chevrolet Citation II
The 1984 Chevrolet Citation II struggled to win sales.

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