Get your­self one of the most de­sir­able and charis­matic small French cars ever

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - WORDS Mur­ray Scul­lion

De­sir­able, charis­matic and a lot more fun than you might ex­pect. Cheap too.

Con­sid­ered to be Citroën’s first con­vinc­ing step into the su­per­mini mar­ket, the AX was light, nim­ble and ‘ rev­o­lu­tion­naire’ ac­cord­ing to Citroën’s ad cam­paigns. Launched in 1986, it promised fuel con­sump­tion of 70mpg (in 1.0-litre form), re­fined en­gi­neer­ing and an ac­com­plished drive. It was in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially among young­sters who ap­pre­ci­ated the over­all light and airy feel to it, mak­ing it a dod­dle to drive. Its adapt­abil­ity served it well, of­fer­ing buy­ers a choice of petrol and diesel en­gines, three- and five-door bod­ies and even a 4x4 model, al­though we never got the last of th­ese in the UK.

In 1996, it was largely su­per­seded by the Saxo (al­though the AX con­tin­ued to be pro­duced un­til 1998), which was based on the Peu­geot 106, which it­self was a re-work­ing of the AX. If that wasn’t proof of how mod­ern a car it was, it con­tin­ued to be man­u­fac­tured from 1996 to 2000 in Malaysia, where it was badged as the Pro­ton Tiara.


In the time be­fore soft-road­ers and crossovers, the sim­ple hatch­back was good enough for the av­er­age Brit. We loved them for be­ing cheap to run and re­pair, while be­ing eco­nom­i­cal enough to get more than 40mpg (de­pend­ing on the en­gine). The AX is spa­cious enough, with ad­e­quate room for kids – and not just on short jour­neys to the shops and back. It’s mod­ern and suf­fi­ciently re­li­able to be used as an ev­ery­day driver, but its in­nate French quirk­i­ness makes it more in­ter­est­ing than many of its ri­vals. GTs and GTIs are es­pe­cially fun, al­beit very rare.

BELOW A spe­cial edi­tion AX GT500 was re­leased for the UK mar­ket with halfleather seats. Only 500 were made for Bri­tain.

LEFT Sparse in­te­rior means there’s less to go wrong. Un­be­liev­ably, pic­tured on the left is a top of the range GTI.

100bhp from the 1.4-litre lump makes the car sprightly.

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