Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The Most Conventional Model In Citroens History
ZX was launched on 16 March 1991
, the range consisting of four very individual trim levels; the base model was the "Reflex", next was the "Avantage" aimed at families and then there was the luxury "Aura" series. The final model was the relatively sporting "Volcane", with lowered and firmer suspension.
The "Volcane" 130bhp TD was one of the first diesel hot-hatches. Over time, further models were introduced including the "Furio", a cheaper sports model, a 16-valve-engined high performance derivative and many special editions. The ZX slotted in between the AX and BX, and was arguably the most conventional major model in the company's history.
There was no hydropneumatic suspension
- it was considered too expensive. There was no futuristic body style - such an idea was considered too avant garde for what Citroen's Peugeot masters claimed was a conservative market. No cabin novelties, other than fore-aft adjustment of the rear seat (an idea borrowed from the Mazda 121
). There wasn't even the single-spoke wheel, which had been a long-time Citroen trademark.
The floorpan of the ZX was new, but was shared with the later released Peugeot 306, which replaced the 309 and, eventually, the 205. Suspension
of the ZX was by front MacPherson struts. The rear had independent suspension
, with wheel location by trailing arms, and it featured a passive rear-steer system. Essentially it was a more sophisticated version of the system that had already been used by Volkswagen, Vauxhall and Porsche.
The rear suspension unit was mounted on four rubber blocks, in turn connected to the floorpan. Cornering forces deform the blocks laterally, which in turn alter the toe angles of the rear wheels, so they will point in the same direction as the fronts when cornering - thus helping vehicle stability.
Engines were the then familiar TU and XU Peugeot-Citroen units: the 1360cc 75bhp motor, 1580cc 89bhp engine and 1905cc 130bhp. Catalyst-cleansed versions of all three units were available for 'green' markets, such as Germany and Switzerland. Five-speed gearboxes are standard. There was nothing bold about the exterior: soft-edged, relatively high, and in no way individualistic, it was at least relatively slippery - the Cd varied from 0.30 to 0.33. Five doors were standard.
Although very mainstream, the interior at least had the virtue of solidity. The whole car felt much more solid than the contemporary Peugeot-Citroens from the late 1980s. Headroom was excellent, the rear seat was big enough for a couple of adults - and was easy to adjust fore-aft - and the boot space was generous. If you optioned the sliding rear seat, though, you would compromise luggage space: the rear squab merely folded on top of the cushions. But although compromised, the sliding platform arrangement did allow the seat to be moved rearwards to increase rear legroom, or forwards to increase cargo space.
The rear sliding seat aside, the ZX's interior space and value received praise from critics and consumers. Lower specification models with fully folding and removable seats had more ultimate capacity. The ZX specification was good for its class, with most models getting power steering, electric windows, electric sunroof, a driver's side (and sometimes passenger's side) airbag and anti-lock braking system as either optional or standard equipment. However, the ZX was criticised for the lack of quality feel, particularly in the interior plastics and body panels - the thin side panels were prone to pick up supermarket car park trolley dents - and also the easily worn fabrics in low spec models, in comparison with rivals such as the Vauxhall/Opel Astra and Volkswagen Golf Mk3.
It Citroen ZX was competitively priced though, unlike the Golf which was priced at a premium. Although the diesel engines were very durable (with many examples clocking up 400,000 kilometers with only routine servicing) the gasoline engines did receive some criticism for their unreliability. The ZX's styling, though it had similarities to the Bertone designed XM (especially in wagon form), was also disliked by many Citroën enthusiasts, who saw it as far too conservative and bland from a company previously known for its bold and advanced design (DS, CX, BX, XM).