Spotted: Citroen ZX 16v


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
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
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
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
MPG: 28.3mpg
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1993
Recorded mileage: 38,000
Price new: £14,995
Yours for: £2,375


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Comments (133) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Adrian E 20 Apr 2014

    My post above prompted a quick trawl of the classifieds - this looks bang on, although the rusty tailpipe suggests it may well have been sitting a fair while! Price doesn't seem bad if the miles are genuine - cambelt could be due again depending on how long ago it was done

    http://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/2014...

    It's the only phase 1 VTS that hasn't been to the moon and back and looks original - a change of exhaust and a supercharger kit and it would make a most amusing sleeper or track slag smile

    ETA - looking at it again it's had the black bumper mouldings colour coded to the car, which looks silly because they've got the moulding gaps visible. I'd replace with new ones - can't imagine they're expensive

    Edited by Adrian E on Sunday 20th April 12:35

  • Adrian E 20 Apr 2014

    An early Xsara VTS has 167BHP but without the lardiness of the phase 2 or the dodgy canbus electrics. Loved ours until my wife smacked it into her office car park wall when she missed the brake pedal and hit the throttle instead......it was repaired on the insurance in 2005, but looking at the DVLA tax checker it's been off the road since 2007 and requires a VIC to go back on the road, so I assume it was written off properly by the next owner frown

  • MarshPhantom 20 Apr 2014

    Axeboy said:
    I was a big Peugeot/Citroen fan when I was younger but found the 2.0 155 engine to be pretty underwhelming to be honest.

    The chassis however, was fantastic and I still put it up there as one of my favorites. I had a Carina Gti around the same time with a 2.0 155ish and it felt a lot more urgent, much more. Its not all about power though, the chassis still has me thinking of looking for a wee project smile

    I never tried the 167, so maybe thats the one to go for?
    I did read somewhere that actual BHP of the ZX was less than 140. Mine felt slow in comparison to my BX 16v.

  • Axeboy 20 Apr 2014

    I was a big Peugeot/Citroen fan when I was younger but found the 2.0 155 engine to be pretty underwhelming to be honest.

    The chassis however, was fantastic and I still put it up there as one of my favorites. I had a Carina Gti around the same time with a 2.0 155ish and it felt a lot more urgent, much more. Its not all about power though, the chassis still has me thinking of looking for a wee project smile

    I never tried the 167, so maybe thats the one to go for?

  • Censorious 20 Apr 2014

    I can't describe how good the ZX is drive, it's a real hoot!

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