Citroлn ZX – Review – The car with a little ZXtra

3 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Citroлn ZX – Review – The car with a little ZXtra
Citroen ZX

Citroлn ZX

Advantages: Performance, Economy, Ride and Handling

Disadvantages: Body dents and scratches too easily, Body roll

The time had come to replace my ageing Ford Sierra 1.8 LX. I had owned it for a year and I was getting more and more concerned about it#39;s reliability. I had just got a pay rise at work so I thought I would treat myself to a newer car.

The brief was that it had to be smaller (90% of my journeys are to and from work alone plus I was having to park in a street so smaller was definitely better!) and had to have an engine less than 1.5 (for cheap tax!). I also wanted something with Power Steering, Electric Windows and Central Locking for those times that I did carry other people, and I wanted all of this for a max of Ј3000.

So I set out to look for my new car. Two months later and after looking at various Escorts (too old and under equipped), Nissan Sunnys (too bumpy and a bit old fashioned) and various other cars I stumbled across the ZX. Now I had always liked the looks of them but had never really thought seriously about them.

After reading up about them it appeared that they were a very underrated car, but could be troublesome if not looked after! They did a 1.4 which was nippy and economical and I could get one with everything I wanted.

Before I go any further I will give you a quick run down of the car. It was launched in this country in 1991 as a 5 door hatchback, not replacing any model in the Citroen range but sitting between the AX and the ZX. It was the most conventional Citroen yet, but still retained a few Citroenesque qualities, mainly the single front wiper, although the passive rear steering and sliding rear seat were not seen on many cars of that time.

Initially available in 1.4, 1.6 and 1.9 petrol engines in Reflex, Avantage, Aura and Volcane trims. 1.9 diesel and turbo diesel models joined the range a bit later on as did 3 door hatchbacks and 5 door estates. 1.1 petrol and 1.7 diesel engines were available in other countries.

Later on in it#39;s life the 1.6 would be replaced with a 1.8 and the 1.9 with a 2.0. A

2.0 16v was also introduced. The phase 2 cars were launched in 1995 and came with a new grille and bonnet, different interior trims, driver#39;s airbag and keypad immobiliser as well as a few other changes. There was a phase 3 but this was more of a change to model names rather than the car itself.

I could go into more detail but that gives you a rough idea of the car.

As I wanted power steering etc. I knew that I would have to get an Avantage. I also wanted a phase 2 model so this pretty much ruled out any other models.

After looking around for a while I stumbled across the car that was to be mine. However it wasn#39;t an Avantage, but a Special Edition called the Dimension! It was sat on the forecourt looking splendid in it#39;s metallic Magenta paint for a paltry price of Ј2995! It was a one owner 1995 M 1.4 5 door model with 43,000 miles on the clock and a full service history.

After taking it for a test drive I just had to have it! On September 1st last year whilst everyone else was picking up their new 51 registration I picked up the keys to my ZX.

So what is so special about the Dimension? Well it was based on the entry level Reflex model and ran for a year in the guise that I bought it (pretty much the length of M reg) and then again a couple of years later. It has numerous extras over the Reflex though. Externally there were body coloured front and rear bumpers from the sporty Volcane with Front Fog lights and silver bumper inserts. It was only available in Blue, Magenta (Burgundy) or Green.

Inside it was fitted with light grey velour seats with a body coloured strip across the base and the back of the seat and Citroen written on both front seats. Equipment wise it had a driver#39;s airbag, power steering, electric front windows, electric tilt/slide sunroof, electric passenger#39;s door mirror (but not driver#39;s) and remote central locking. However it did only come with a 2 speaker Radio/Cassette.

I#39;ve now owned the car for a year and have driven nearly 18,000 miles in it.


I still love the look of the car, the sportier bumpers make the car look a lot more desirable than they frumpy standard ones. The colour is lovely and sparkles when polished well. I have added a set of ZX Aura alloy wheels to mine as the wheel trims were very tatty (they stand proud of the tyre and are easily caught when parking next to a kerb) and they cost less than a new wheel trim.

However the body does scratch incredibly easily and this model doesn#39;t come with side rubbing strips so it has picked up it#39;s fair share of parking dents from people opening their car doors onto it. The silver strip on the front bumper has faded too. However there are a lot worse out there, but it is disappointing when yet another new scratch appears!

For a 60,000 mile car it looks like it has done twice this mileage!

The single wiper looks unusual, but it does work well. Obviously it does leave the top corners of either side of the windscreen unwiped but you get used to it. Two problems have arisen though in the past year of driving though. When you wash the windscreen the water runs up the screen on the driver#39;s side as there is no blade to stop it (the wiper parks on the passenger side) and as the wiper covers the whole screen any bugs which hit the window get smeared all the way across!

There are four washer jets though and a usefully large water reservoir which feeds the front and rear screens so you don#39;t need to top it up too frequently.

The shape of the car can cause a few problems when parking, the front slopes away quite sharply at the end of the bonnet and the bumper juts out quite a bit, and the rear screen is quite high up. What this means is you end up choosing larger spaces than you need, think you are right up in front the car behind or behind the car in front and you have 2 or 3 feet space left!


slight annoyance is the shape and size of the door mirrors. They are quite small and slope up across the bottoms. What is means is that you end up moving the passenger side down so that you can see the kerb when parking.

However as it is electric it#39;s not too much of a problem.


Well it still looks brand new! Even though the upholstery is light grey it doesn#39;t show up the dirt at all. The dashboard is quite plain with a nice big shelf running from the dial pod to the passenger side, although you will need some form of anti slip surface on there to stop things sliding about.

The dial pod contains the usual speedometer, rev counter, fuel and temperature gauges. The switches for the front and rear fog lights are one side of the pod and the heated rear window and hazard warning lights are the other side of the pod.

One unusual feature is that the dashboard lights up when the ignition is switched on, it makes the dials much easier to read, but you must remember to switch your headlights on! (Usefully there are separate warning lights to tell you when you have sidelights, headlights and main beam on). Also as they are on all the time the bulbs do blow more often than if not (I have only replaced two when I first got the car saying that though!). The rest of the dashboard doesn#39;t light up until you switch the headlights on.

The radio is mounted high up in the dashboard and is a unique to the ZX. It is quite a basic Blaupunkt unit, I changed this for a Radio/CD Player, but this does require a fitting adapter which you can get from most motor stores. Usefully this has a pull down cover which matches the colour of the rest of the dashboard.

The 3 round heater controls are placed below the radio and are easy to use and feel solid. One problem is that you cannot shut off the external air supply and have the fan running as they are on the same switch.

There are interior courtesy lights in the front a

nd rear of the car (they are only operated from the front doors however) and there is a map reading light which can be used for driver and passenger.

The storage in the car is reasonable, there is a decent sized glove box, door pockets in each front door (models with rear speakers also have pockets in the rear doors), map pockets on both front seat backs and a cup holder in the centre console behind the handbrake. However it is quite shallow and a 500ml will fall out unless it is half full!

The boot is very big and square (the design of the rear suspension means that it hardly intrudes) and can be extended by folding down the rear seat, my model has a one piece rear seat where you lift the base up and push the backrest down, higher models get the usual 60/40 split. With the rear seats down you can#39;t have the front seat slid right back because of the size of the base of the rear seat.

The seats are very comfortable but only have reach and rake adjustment, height and lumbar support are not present, but it easy enough to find a comfortable driving position and the steering wheel adjusts for height as do the front seatbelts.

Getting in and out of the car is quite easy thanks to wide opening doors, but the rear can be quite cramped for passengers if someone 6ft plus sits in one of the front seats.

The central locking locks the doors and the boot, the remote is infrared and needs to be aimed inside the car. Sometimes it can be a hit or miss affair as the receiver is mounted on the left hand side of the roof panel, making it easier to unlock from the passenger side than the drivers. The boot door is released with a push button and opens high, being made of plastic it is easy to open and close too.

Engine and Gearbox

Citroen ZX

The 1.4 fitted to my car comes with single point fuel injection (the later models have multi point) and has been used in many Citroens and Peugeots over the years. Because the ZX is not a heavy c

ar the engine does not feel underpowered at all. In fact I have surprised many passengers and other drivers with how responsive and quick the car is, from pulling away to keeping up with traffic. The only time it really has a problem is if you are fully loaded and going up hill!

Economy doesn#39;t suffer either, I average 37mpg going to and from work which is a ten minute drive along town roads and dual carriageway, on longer distances it will manage 40mpg and with a light foot up to 45mpg which I think is very good indeed!

The gearbox is a 5 speed and is very well mated to the car. The change is incredibly smooth and precise. The car does rev quite high at motorway speeds though (5th gear gives around 20mph per 1000 revs so at 80mph the engine is at 4000).


Now this is where the car excels! If you have read any magazine reviews they all complement the ride of this car saying that it puts many larger cars to shame. I can totally agree with that!

Any bumps are soaked up with the car riding smoothly over all but the roughest of surfaces. Don#39;t get me wrong you do know that the bump is there but it#39;s more by sound than feel. The steering is very direct and well weighted, you know what is going on with the front wheels at all times. Body roll is quite pronounced through corners, but you will end up giving up way before the car does.

The grip is amazing, I have Michelin tyres fitted on my car (the newer ones that Citroen recommends for the car) and they complement the car perfectly. The passive rear wheel steering helps when going round tighter bends (the rear suspension is mounted on thick rubber blocks which have a degree of movement within them) as it keeps the rear of the car firmly planted on the road.

The brakes are excellent, they are disc on the front and drum on the back (higher models get vented discs on the front and some have rear discs too) they have plenty of feel and stop you smoothly, even w

ith emergency stops, without skidding. One note to mention is that ZXs are renowned for eating front discs and pads. They are pretty cheap but I have only just needed to replace my pads after 18,000 and I don#39;t know how long they were on the car before I bought it.

What#39;s gone wrong with the car?

Considering that it is a seven year old car and has done more mileage in the past year than the past 3 with it#39;s previous owner very little has gone wrong.

Other than the standard servicing items (service intervals are 9000 miles or a year) I have had to replace a Driveshaft, CV boot, Handbrake cables and Front Brake pads. One indicator bulb blew and a couple of dashboard bulbs have blown. One problem I have at the moment is the sunroof will not slide, only tilt.

This is due to the plastic visor, which pops up when the roof is slid back, jamming against the roof. It#39;s not a big problem I just haven#39;t got round to fixing it yet.

I would recommend finding a good local Citroen specialist to do the servicing, they are a lot more knowledgeable about the cars, more friendly and cheaper than the Citroen main dealer. Plus they aren#39;t as useless! I have had nothing but problems with the local dealer.

The only other thing to go wrong was when a Land Rover pulled out into the side of the car on a roundabout. It pushed the rear wing into the rear wheel. The whole rear passenger panel had to be replaced. Unfortunately the job was done very badly.

I had to use my insurers approved repairer which was the local BMW garage. I think as it wasn#39;t a BMW they weren#39;t really that interested. On picking up the car I didn?t get to the bottom of the road before I had to take it back as the wheel arch liner had not been fitted properly.

Then it had to go back in as the bumper did not line up and they had cut the central locking wires to the boot! I should have complained more but didn#39;t know m

y rights at the time. The rear interior panel now creaks but I can just about live with that.


Well as you can probably tell I am very pleased with the car, in a year it has never once not started or let me down. It has just passed it#39;s MOT with flying colours. The only things to let the car down are the scratches and dents on the outside and the body roll into corners, but for the price and the rest of the package it can be forgiven. I wouldn#39;t hesitate to buy another one, but it would have to have air conditioning.

Unfortunately they stopped making them a few years ago replacing them with the Xsara, which feels smaller and is not as nice. The equivalent would be the C3 but that doesn#39;t even come close to the ZX, so sadly when the time comes for it to go another Citroen will not be arriving on my drive.

Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
Citroen ZX
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