Eager to expand in China, PSA Peugeot-Citroën formed a joint-venture called Guangzhou Peugeot Automobile Company in 1985. The joint-venture assembled the 505 in China using complete knock-down (CKD) kits shipped from France, but the sedan failed to grab a significant share of the burgeoning Chinese market and buyers increasingly turned towards the Volkswagen Santana.
In 1992, Peugeot teamed up with a second state-owned automaker called Dongfeng Motor Corporation and formed another joint-venture that focused on building the ZX hatchback and a market-specific version of it with a three-box body called Fukang. The ZX unexpectedly became one of the most popular cars in many regions of China so Citroën executives voted to keep it around when it came time to phase it out in Europe.
Although the Chinese-built ZX initially looked identical to its European counterpart, the car was given a facelift in order to fend off growing competition from domestic automakers and Volkswagen. Launched in 2002, the first major evolution of the ZX was dubbed Élysée (inexplicably named after the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the French president). It was essentially an aesthetic update of the Fukang that boasted a more modern-looking front end loosely inspired by the Xsara, slightly updated tail lamps and a dashboard lifted straight from the Xsara parts bin.
Keeping in line with Citroën’s then-new naming system, the Élysée was replaced by the C-Élysée in 2008. It again gained a more up-to-date look that borrowed design cues from the C4, while new wheel designs and additional exterior colors rounded out the updates.
The C-Élysée was very slightly updated several years later and it was phased out last year to make room for all-new C-Élysée based on the Peugeot 301. The hatchback variant of the C-Élysée was not given a direct successor.
While the Élysée and the C-Élysée looked considerably more modern than the ZX, the platform they rode was not given any major updates over the course of teh 1990s and 2000s and the engines remained largely the same. Most ZX and Élysée models built in China were powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that sent 109 horsepower to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. A diesel-burning mill was never offered because sales of oil-burning passenger cars are dismal at best in China.