…or how my infatuation with the great-to-drive Citroen ZX was sorely tested.

I was at in the casino at Monte Carlo playing vingt et un with Jeremy Clarkson, back when we were both young motoring journos with our future in front of us. I’d spent the last half-hour whingeing about my unreliable Citroen ZX – it was giving me all sorts of grief.

“The thing is, Bosworth,” said Clarkson looking at the cards as they were flipped, “you bought a car made by men who drink wine at lunch.”

Quite simply, the Citroen ZX was the worst car I’ve ever owned, at least as far as reliability went, and here’s a lesson – I was so impressed by the ZX when I road-tested several versions for the magazine I edited back then (Which Car?) that I decided to buy one.

The ZX I owned back in the mid-1990s had a perky 1.4-litre petrol engine and was a departure for the French company; a normal hatchback with normal suspension and steering. Gone were the idiosyncrasies of deckchair-like seats, floating suspension balls and electric self-centring steering, variously seen in the 2CV, DS and SM, and in their place was, well, what looked like and drove like a very normal fuel-efficient hatch.

Thing was, it may have looked good and it sure drove well but reliability was not high on its list of achievements.

From almost the first week, any time there was a decent downpour the passenger footwell became a foot spa. The water could be anything up to five inches deep. And no amount of probing pressure spraying or removal of various bits of bodywork by Citroen service blokes ever tracked down where the water was coming in.

There was also water somewhere within the body so that whenever I braked hard or entered a roundabout there was a roar like a dam bursting. The only place there was more water where it shouldn’t have been was deck three of the Titanic. It got so bad I took to driving with wellington boots on. When the summer arrived it was like being in a mobile sauna. I felt like driving naked and whipping the car with a birch twig.

A few months later I was changing gear when the gearlever literally came off in my hand. I looked at it in disbelief as I continued driving, shook my head and then jammed it back in the orifice it came out of. I limped the car into the Citroen dealer and got out and brandished the lever like some kind of knobby five-speed  weapon. “Mate, they’re all like that,” said the tired mechanic, reaching for a worn wrench. – Tony Bosworth


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