Motoring: The Independent Road Test - Some top notes, but none exactly floral: Are diesel engines desirable? Phil Llewellin is impressed after 10,000 miles in the Citroen ZX Aura. But, below, the view on the species is less than rosy

THE AVERAGE British motorist clocks about 10,000 miles a year. My wife and I have just completed that distance in only three months, driving a comfortable, well-equipped Citroen ZX Aura powered by the increasingly successful French manufacturer's 1.9-litre turbocharged diesel engine. Citroen's name is no longer synonymous with the eccentric styling and engineering that made the 2CV and the DS such fascinating cars. But even the marque's most fanatical devotees admit that today's more conventional approach makes commercial sense.

There have been a few minor problems, such as a slight but irritating noise and judder from the front brakes. The only real hiccup was due to human error. Three gallons of petrol were pumped into the tank one Friday lunchtime, during a stop at a rural filling station where we-serve-

you is the name of the game.

Looking on the bright side, this was a good opportunity to check the efficiency of the Citroen Assist scheme. Operated by National Breakdown, it provides a year's round-the-

clock assistance and recovery service when you buy a new Citroen. The ZX was collected within an hour, taken to the nearest dealer and returned the following Monday afternoon. We were offered a replacement to keep us mobile while the fuel system was being drained.

Self-service filling stations make it impossible to blame anyone other than yourself for putting the wrong stuff in the tank. They also focus attention on the fact that diesel is a smelly, sticky, frothy fuel that tends to spew from the filler unless you are careful and patient.

Diesels have always been associated with economy. The turbocharged ZX combines that essential quality with quite sporting performance characteristics. The engine is a little sluggish at low revs, but delivers strong, smooth, mid-range acceleration for wafting up hills and overtaking in safety when the turbo starts doing its power-boosting stuff.

Fuel consumption figures ranging from 32mpg to 48mpg reflect just about everything from long, hard drives to more sedate local motoring. The average of 40.6mpg is excellent for such a lively car. The case for the fuel-efficient diesel engine would be even more compelling if the Government changed the tax structure that makes the fuel almost as expensive as 95-octane unleaded petrol. In France, where diesels account for well over a third of all new-car sales, diesel costs 30 per cent less than petrol.

At the end of 10,000 miles, the biggest single item in the logbook is pounds 66.22 for the 6,000-mile service. 'Dust on the pads' was the explanation for the complaint about the front brakes. They were cleaned, but that noise-cum-judder problem soon returned.

Unexpected costs have amounted to nothing more serious than the pounds 5 charged to repair a puncture. Changing the wheel was a filthy chore, even on a dry day, because the spare and the jack are stowed under the boot and exposed to all the muck on the road.

Although legal, the spare was not the same type or size as the other four tyres. The handbook does urge you to put the punctured tyre back on the car as soon as it has been repaired, but does not spell out Citroen's cheapskate policy of fitting a 'universal spare' right across the range.

Performance and economy go hand-in-glove with qualities that make the ZX a delight to drive on roads that put a premium on ride and handling characteristics. The diesel feels a little less crisp than the lighter, petrol-engined ZX, but good power-

assisted steering and very efficient suspension - which includes rear wheels that provide a slight element of steering input - make this a beautifully balanced car. It soaks up bumps and flows from corner to corner with outstanding fluency, composure and agility.

This is not the roomiest hatchback in its class, but the rear seat can be slid backwards and forwards to increase passenger or luggage space. The standard specification also includes central locking, alloy wheels and an adjustable steering wheel.

Diesels used to be notoriously noisy and dirty. This one rattles and puffs smoke when started cold, and is not exactly silent at tickover, but it could be mistaken for a petrol engine on the open road.

In my judgement, the main drawback after 10,000 enjoyable and almost trouble-free miles is the risk of coming into contact with the fuel. My nose is still trying to detect the 'floral topnotes' claimed for Esso's new diesel fuel. The blurb makes it sound fragrant enough to be dabbed behind the ears]

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there