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CITROEN ZX AVANTAGE 1.9 DIESEL ESTATE

Suddenly, the U.K. car market is full of mid-size estate cars, a breed which had virtually died out a year or two ago but is now seeing a massive resurgence of interest, is this perhaps another sign of a change in public tastes away from the rather poor compromise that hatchbacks are to a rather more practical family car?

One such estate, one of the best representatives of the type, has just been launched by Citroen. The ZX, introduced in 1991, was a conscious attempt on Citroen's part to produce a more mainstream Eurocar, much less quirkily Gallic than some of it's forebears, a strategy which has produced spectacular sales for the car.

Now this very successful range has been augmented by the arrival of 3 estate variants which, like the others, are cars with real character, with a good quality of build, some excellent features and a very high specification for a keen price.

I drove the middle car in the 3 car range, the 1.9 Diesel Avantage, from a range weighted towards oil burners, starting with the only petrol engine option, the 1.4i Avantage at £10,970, with the 1.9 diesel at the same price and the better trimmed Turbo Diesel at £12,600.

The design is easy on the eye and very aerodynamic, the low sloping front being particularly noticeable and the change to an estate not hurting it's looks at all. The wide cabin gives a light airy interior enhanced by the very slim pillars and large glass areas give good all around visibility.

Trimmed throughout in a good quality cloth, chosen for durability and looks, the cabin is bright although slightly marred by the dash which, while well designed with all of the controls comfortably within arms reach, is a rather large chunk of dark plastic, a failing of many cars these days.

The wide adjustability of both seats and steering wheel gives a good driving position and the seating is very comfortable and supportive.

The main feature of the ZX Estates is a large - for the body size - and unusually flexible load area, nearly 5 feet long with the seats down, with minimal suspension intrusion and with the rear seats split in the conventional 60/40.

Equipment levels are more typical of a large car than a family hatch with one electric and a manual driver's mirror, a power sunroof, power front windows, remote central locking, a good stereo and, on the options list, power steering, the latter being a £375 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.

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 is a little vague and woolly, too light at speed and a bit too heavy for parking, both of which I have no doubt would be improved with the power steering option.

The 1.9 litre, 71 bhp, diesel engine pulls very well at all speeds and provides good performance at a very low noise level, hardly surprising as almost no car maker has more experience of producing small car diesels than the PSA group, of which Citroen and Peugeot are the major parts.

This surprisingly nippy engine is well matched by the 5 speed gearbox which is a real pleasure to use.

All considered, the ZX estates are fine new entrants into the growing market place for family estate cars and the 1.9 Diesel is a surprisingly enjoyable and involving drive with all the economy benefits of a diesel power plant.

FACT FILE

  • Price as tested £10,970
  • Top speed 104 m.p.h.
  • 0-60 13 seconds
  • Fuel consumption 42 m.p.g.[urban cycle] 64 m.p.g.[constant 56 mph]

Pro's and Con's

  • For - Practicality, Good engine, Lively drive
  • Against - Lack of power steering, Rather uninspired dash

First Published 1994 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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