Positioning the Citroën ZX Furio at the end of a running track is rather appropriate. It was, after all, third on the podium of quick ZX models.
If the ZX 16v was Linford Christie, the ZX Volcane was Frankie Fredericks, leaving the Citroën ZX Furio to be Dennis Mitchell. The bronze medalist. Close, but no lunchbox.
There's no shame in that. In many ways, the Citroën ZX Furio was the right car at the right time. An insurance-friendly ‘warm hatch’ designed for people who could neither afford or justify the cost of insurance on a hot hatch with more pedigree and poke.
Young drivers who grew up in the 1980s dreaming of owning a hot hatch and marrying Bo Derek soon found that both were off-limits. Too expensive. Too high maintenance. Out of your league, son.
The cost of car insurance was crippling. Drivers in the early 90s were paying the price for every Maestro found at the hands of a joyrider on the Blackbird Leys estate. For every torched Escort XR3i discovered in a lay-by within shouting distance of the M25. For every Renault 5 GT Turbo that found its way into a hedgerow following some unexpected mid-corner boost.
The rising cost of car insurance threatened to render the hot hatch obsolete. After the decade of red braces, big hair and excess all areas, motoring in the 90s was destined to be more strait-laced and tied down. Insurance on a GTI? Forget it, mate.
Brisk and Furio
Which is where cars like the Citroën ZX Furio came in. A 1.8-litre petrol engine delivered just enough performance (103hp) to entertain, while the three-door body had a whiff of hot hatch about it. Front fog lights, a roof spoiler and a single wiper were de rigueur back then, Marlene.
Carfolio quotes a 0-62mph time of 11.3 seconds and a top speed of 117mph. The Furio was more brisk than fast. More composed than furious.
But the ZX Furio wasn't about straight-line speed. There was so much more in its locker. As sharp and precise as the ZX 16v, with the same passive rear-wheel steer to exploit when the conditions allowed. A little underpowered, perhaps, but the power could be used more often. The ZX Furio also had that wonderful French characteristic of combing suppleness with precision.
Anyone who bought a Citroën ZX Furio in the 1990s must have been laughing in the face of their insurance broker. It deserved to sell in far greater numbers, but there were never more than 1,200 on the roads of Britain. Today, there are just four on the road, so your chances of finding one are slim.
ZX Furio: Yours for £4k
Which is why this 1994 post-facelift ZX Furio warrants your attention. The blemish-free silver paintwork allows you to see how understated it must have looked in the mid-90s. There's little to suggest that this is a car good enough to hustle a well-driven sports car on a B-road.
We could sit here until the Charolais come home debating the £3,995 asking price, but try finding another one. Of the other three ZX Furios on the road, how many will look this good and come with just 22,000 miles on the clock? It looks ripe for some Festival of the Unexceptional action in 2021.
The most underrated version of one of the most underrated cars of the 1990s? Go on, you know you want to.