Citroën ZX Estate
In 1993, it outsold Volkswagen in the UK. Overall sales exceeded 80,000 units for the first time ever. More people are buying Xantias than they are Rover 600s.
You could say that Citroën has a smile on its face. It has one of the UK’s more youthful ranges, and even its oldest model, the AX, first introduced in 1987 but since facelifted, improved its sales performance by an astonishing 23 per cent last year.
Currently riding on a wave of unshakeable confidence, the French company is about to add the final element to its most popular model range of all, the ZX, with the launch of an estate.
By and large, Citroën has eschewed the bland-leading-the-bland school of design that currently mars so many an automotive profile. You may not like some of the quirkier design elements that characterise the XM and the Xantia, but at least they break the mould.
The same cannot perhaps be said of the ZX, fine car though it is, and its new sibling veers even closer to the world of anonymity, looking pretty similar from the outside to the Astra and Escort estates at which the sole petrol-engined model, a 75 bhp 1.4, is squarely targeted.
When we remarked to Citroën that the rev counter on this model is a trifle superfluous, in that your ears will be begging you to change up long before you get anywhere near the 6,000 rpm red line, their representatives accepted the criticism with good grace. They also pointed out that engine refinement is not a major selling point in the lower medium estate market, and that they expect to be fully class-competitive with Vauxhall and Ford.
Thrashiness apart, the ZX scored quite well. Ride quality, typically, is exemplary, and the level of available grip is surprisingly high, so much so that it was apparent that the front seats could do with more generous lateral support.
If you don’t mind occasional aural discomfort, then the 1.4 estate has its merits, though they look a touch insignificant alongside the range-topping Aura turbodiesel, the, erm, performance model of the bunch (111 mph, 148 lb ft of torque at 2,250 rpm).
Prices for the ZX estates had just been fixed as we closed for press, ranging from £10,970 to £12,600 for the Aura.
Whatever your budget, the extra investment on the turbodiesel will be money well spent (there is also a naturally aspirated diesel, for those who want it, though it is barely more economical than the turbo).
As regular readers will be aware, we have previously lavished praise upon the 1.9 turbodiesel that stars in Peugeot and Citroën catalogues (see Motor Sport, June 1993).
Its qualities are still apparent in this latest application.
It is quiet, civilised and perfectly fast enough for UK road conditions; its ride is supple, its handling surprisingly sharp. Add reasonable insurance premiums and fuel economy that should comfortably exceed 40 mpg, even for the heavy of foot, and the whole thing begins to make sense.
From behind the wheel, this does not feel like an estate. Perhaps more importantly, nor does it feel like a diesel, or leastways the common perception thereof. S A