An oft-forgotten but under-rated French hot hatch is found hiding in the classifieds
Before we start this Spotted, I have to admit to a bit of bias. You see, my first car was a Citroen ZX (and, indeed, my second, after I pranged the first one in fairly spectacular style). Both were lowly 1.4-litre models, late of year and laden with all the kerb appeal of a walking stick. But they were big enough to throw all my mates in the back of, had plush seats and electric windows, and with an AX GTI-derived (OK, it was 25hp down on the GTI, but still) engine, they felt like the fastest thing in the world to a teenager who, until then, had only had command of a 1.0-litre Nissan Micra.
2.0 engine majored on mid-range torque
Of course, as one does, I loved my first car(s), and became fixated on owning the ‘halo model’ of the ZX range one day: the 16V. The what, now? Well, quite. History has not been kind to the ZX 16V, and today it’s only a select few people who remember it even existed. Considerably overshadowed by its cousin, the Peugeot 306 GTI-6
, and let down by its comparatively frumpy looks, few people laid down hard cash for one. Consequently, today the ZX 16V languishes forlornly in the doldrums of hot hatch history, seen by many as nothing more than a curiosity.
Which is a shame when you consider that it was actually an extremely competent hot hatch. It featured the same 152hp 2.0-litre engine and five-speed gearbox that later made it into the Peugeot 306 S16 (in this pre-facelift form at least – later 16Vs got the GTI-6’s 167hp unit). The ZX also featured a ‘passive rear-wheel-steer system’ – essentially, deformable front mounts on the rear torsion beam that allowed it to sway when lateral forces were applied.
Interior was livened up by red piping
Allied to a powerplant that leaned more toward solid mid-range torque than outright rev-happiness, this made the ZX a real hoot to drive. Despite the body roll, grip levels were very high, and 205-esque lift-off oversteer was there for the taking when the limit was breached. Turn-in was super sharp and the steering was direct, too, giving a lightness and alacrity that rivals such as VW’s Mk3 Golf GTi 16V found it hard to match. And inside, there was none of the flakiness you’d normally associate with a French interior of the period; instead, solidly screwed-together black plastics and figure-hugging seats with a flutter of red piping made it a pleasant – if slightly dour – place to be.
So the ZX 16V doesn’t necessarily deserve to be one of the forgotten men of the 90s hot hatch race. But its position as such does offer the advantage of low prices. This one, for example, is probably the best, if not one of, in the country. With a meagre 38,000 miles on the clock, it’s barely run-in, and there’s an astonishing amount of history to back that up. It’s finished in black, a colour which suits the ZX’s chunky lines, and cosmetically it looks near-mint. And yet the price is £2,375. Strong money, you might think, when average examples of these can be had for Shed money, but we reckon a bit of bartering could see you drive it home for two grand. When you consider this is the best around, that seems fairly reasonable to us.
16v today has a whiff of retro cool about it
In fact, as the realisation of a long-standing ambition, this particular ZX is looking exceptionally tempting to me. There’d be no better way to revisit those youthful dreams of early 90s Gallic hot hatchery. If it’s still there in a couple of weeks, be warned: you might just see this forgotten man taking a more regular role on PH. Watch this space!
CITROEN ZX 16V
Engine: 1,998cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power (hp): 152@6500rpm
Torque(lb ft): 137@3500rpm
First registered: 1993
Recorded mileage: 38,000
Price new: £14,995
Yours for: £2,375
See the original advert here