The oddly idiosyncratic French cars have many fans of their rather quirky Gallic design and a standard of engineering that is sometimes technologically brilliant and at other times plain odd.

But, with the new ZX, Citroen have made a conscious effort to produce a more mainstream eurocar which has to be far more accessible if it is to capture a respectable slice of the most competitive of all European car markets, the supermini.

Now that compromise may seem like a recipe for producing a bland car, not so in this case. The ZX is a little cracker of a car with real character, a good quality of build, some excellent features and a very high specification for the keen price. Features which should ensure it being perhaps the greatest success yet for the company.

The Avantage I tested is the second up the current 4 car range of engine/body combinations with 2 further engine additions to come later in the year.

Top of the range is the marvellous, evocatively named, Volcane which seems a real firecracker with its 1.6 injected engine but this weeks test car had the carburetor 1.4 litre engine which offered sparkling performance and is likely to be the biggest selling engine / body combination.

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 and with large glass areas giving good visibility.

The cloth trim is well chosen for durability and looks, the dash is well designed and all of the controls are comfortably within arms reach, the adjustability of both seats and steering wheel giving a good driving position. Seating is a little firm but 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 60/40 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 one electric and a manual driver's mirror [ Mercedes style - as is the large central wiper ], a power sunroof, power windows, remote central locking and on the options list, a catalytic converter and power steering, the latter being a £350 option that I feel would be worthwhile having for reasons explained later.

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

A minor grumble is that window and sunroof switches are unmarked and it takes a little while to remember which switch controls which window.

Ride quality is also impressive with very good bump/thump control and good stability, a most 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 have no reason to doubt the latter claim although the steering felt a little vague and woolly which I suspect may be more precise with the power steering option.

The perky 1.4 litre engine pulls very well at all speeds and provides good performance at a low noise level, well matched by the 5 speed gearbox which is a pleasure to use.

All considered, a fine new entrant into the market place for family hatches. To borrow a little Wimbledon speak, Avantage Citroen.


  • Price as tested £9,710
  • Top speed 107 m.p.h.
  • 0-60 11 seconds
  • Fuel consumption 37 m.p.g. [urban cycle ]
  • 53 m.p.g.[constant 56 m.p.h.]


First Published 1992 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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