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Chevrolet Citation

1980 Chevrolet Citation

1980 Chevrolet Citation
The 1980 Citation was Chevy's replacement
for the Nova and its version of GM's X-car.

The 1980 Chevrolet Citation was introduced in April of 1979 as a 1980 model. The Citation and its X-car siblings opened a new front-wheel-drive era at General Motors.

While they weren't the first of that ilk from GM (the Olds Toronado laid claim to that title in 1966) or even the first American mass-market front-drivers (the Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon beat them to the punch by two years), they certainly proved to be the most influential. Model-year 1980 sales totaled a staggering 1.39 million between the four divisions, and Chevy's version laid claim to the nation's best-selling car (at 811,540) its first year out.

Besides the obvious benefit of wearing the famed blue bowtie, the Citation held an advantage over other GM X-cars in that it offered more body styles. Citations came in three versions: a notchback coupe, three-door hatchback, and five-door hatchback, the last being by far the most popular; Pontiac, Olds, and Buick offered only two each, with Buick and Olds having exclusive use of a four-door notchback sedan.

Citation replaced the aging rear-drive Nova (though that moniker would re-emerge at mid-decade on a Toyota-based front-drive subcompact), which attracted only 90,000 buyers in 1979. By that time, the "compact" Nova's 111-inch wheelbase was three inches longer than the "mid-size" Malibu's and fully half-a-foot longer than the Citation's. Yet the X-car's front-drive mechanicals and modern unibody design resulted in a large interior that rivaled the Nova in spaciousness.

Two powerplants were offered in the Citation. Pontiac's (continued) "Iron Duke" 2.5-liter four (151 cubic inches) made 90 horsepower, while a new 2.8-liter (173 cubic inches) Chevy-built V-6 with 115 horsepower was optional. Four-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmissions were available with either engine.

As if first-year sales really needed a shot in the arm, Chevy went after the younger crowd with the sport-oriented X-11 package. Available on either the two-door coupe or three-door hatchback, it comprised an uprated suspension and bold exterior graphics. Though it was no more powerful than other Citations, an X-11 was satisfyingly speedy with the V-6/four-speed combo.

While the timing of Citation's debut couldn't have been better -- coinciding with a second gas crisis -- it soon became evident that more effort should have been spent working out bugs before the car was introduced.

Several problems surfaced early on, including a leak-prone transmission hose that was linked to a number of underhood fires. That one prompted a recall of 225,000 cars, the first of a long string that would eventually rank Citation and its GM mates among the most recalled cars in history.

1980 Chevrolet Citation X-11
The Citation X-11 was essentially a graphics package
with beefed-up suspension.

1980 Chevrolet Citation Facts

Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built

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