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CITROEN ZX AURA 1.9 TD

Since it's successful launch, in 1991, the ZX has won many fans as a pretty little car with a strongly European character and Citroen have cleverly kept this sales success going by regularly introducing new variants on the successful theme. The latest of these is a turbo diesel version to add to the already successful unblown diesel variants.

Citroen, part of the massive PSA group which includes Peugeot, are one of the largest producers of diesel car engines in Europe and this expertise clearly shows in the remarkable quality of this power plant which is widely regarded as one of the best diesels available and is used by many other car makers.

The price differential between petrol and diesel versions is now absolutely minimal which makes it an attractive buy for the economically minded motorist. The long term savings of using diesel fuel - typically 20 to 30 % greater fuel efficiency and a fuel 10-15% cheaper than unleaded - are now more widely appreciated by U.K. motorists.

I said of the ZX at it's launch "a little cracker of a car with real character, a good quality of build, excellent features and a very high specification for a keen price. All features which should ensure it being perhaps the greatest success yet for the company" and now, with the new engine, it is likely to find an even wider acceptance.

The Aura that I tested is near the top of the current trim levels and was fitted with the 1.9 litre turbo diesel engine offering 92 b.h.p. for surprisingly sparkling performance yet blended with quite remarkable fuel economy. Indeed, the fuel gauge goes down so slowly I was reminded of the story of the public speaker who didn't mind his audience checking their watches during his longer oratorical flights but became concerned when people started to shake them. I was tempted to shake the ZX fuel gauge to see if it was still working.

The design is easy on the eye and very aerodynamic, the low sloping front being particularly noticeable. The wide cabin gives a light airy interior enhanced by the very slim pillars, large glass areas giving good visibility.

Well trimmed in a cloth chosen for durability and looks, the cabin is roomy and the dash is well designed with all of the controls comfortably within arms reach, the adjustability of both seats and steering wheel giving a good driving position. The seating is a little on the firm side but very comfortable and supportive.

Access to the rear hatch is easy with a very low lip and a large and unusually flexible load area, the rear seats split in the conventional 66/34 manner and, more unusually, slide fore and aft to maximise either the load area or rear legroom to choice.

Equipment levels are more typical of a large car than a family hatch with power steering, a power sunroof, power windows, remote central locking and, fitted by the dealers as standard, an electronic immobiliser making the car all but thief proof.

A brilliant feature is the Blaupunkt stereo which is totally built in to the dash and thereby virtually unstealable, a further disincentive to the villain.

Ride quality and handling are also impressive with very good bump/thump control and good stability, an unusual feature being the designed in flexibility in the rear suspension allowing the rear wheels to follow the steering by a small amount, a feature which is claimed to improve steering and ride. I can well accept this claim as the ZX is great fun on twisty roads, very chuckable, responsive and easily trusted.

The perky 1.9 litre oil burner engine pulls remarkably well at all speeds and provides good performance at a very low noise level, far more refined than many currently available diesels, indeed, it is quite possible, on the road, to forget that the engine is not a petrol one, so quiet is it.

The capabilities of this new engine are well matched by the 5 speed gearbox which is a pleasure to use.

I very much liked the ZX on my earlier acquaintance and found the latest version equally likeable. This diesel family hatch is, deservedly, a major player in the recent breakthrough in diesel car acceptance in the U.K. where sales of such cars, although now increasing to some 15% of total sales, are still a long way behind those in Europe.

FACT FILE

  • Price as tested £12,330
  • Top speed 115 m.p.h.
  • 0-60 mph 10 seconds
  • Fuel consumption 39 m.p.g.[urban cycle ] 66 m.p.g.[constant 56 m.p.h.]

First Published 1993 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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