Classics Corner: Citroen AX GT

Gav has done some sums and thinks the Citroen AX GT is a very worthwhile alternative to the Peugeot 205 GTI

Choosing the first car to feature on this dusty and shadowy part of XCAR was always going to be a challenge. With the preamble out of the way, which car would get the ultimate accolade of coming first? It could have been a super-luxurious German barge. Or a sleek Japanese sports car loaded with techno wizardry. It could even have been an Italian supercar. Actually, no it wouldn't, as that's way off brief.

But instead, common sense prevailed and the star of the show is a French featherweight from the late '80s. Mesdames et Messieurs, presenting the Citroën AX GT.

It's funny, for a car that's held in such high esteem, the AX GT really has fallen from grace. Mention the MK2 Golf GTi or the Peugeot 205 GTi and people will regale you with tales of B-road jollity. These cars are, quite rightly, held in high esteem and command prices to match.

But the AX GT creates a different response. The praise is still there, but it tends to follow, "Oh goodness, I'd forgotten about them." This probably explains why you can pick up a good AX GT for less than £1,000. Try finding a similar condition 205 GTi and you'll end up spending a lot more.

People will invariably comment on the AX GT's build quality -- or lack thereof. It's fair to say that had Citroën made it out of tin foil and papier-mâché the build quality would have been improved. But perversely, the AX GT's frailty is actually its biggest strength. At 710 kg, the little Citroën weighs about the same as a Lotus Elise.

The other headline figures don't present a particularly compelling sales pitch for the AX. A top speed of 112 mph, and a zero to 60 mph time of 8.8 seconds aren't all that great, even with the additional 'dazzling' and 'zippy' superlatives rolled out by Citroën at the time. But to write the AX off (always a phrase used with caution when describing this car), would be a monumental error.

The AX GT is one of the most engaging and involving cars you'll ever drive. It's a car completely devoid of safety features and electronic gizmos, so there's very little between you and the road. The steering is unassisted, providing levels of feedback that are non-existent on the majority of new cars. And because of its tiny dimensions, you always get the impression you're going faster than you actually are.

The 1.4-litre carburetted engine produces just 85 bhp, but in a car that weighs little more than a bag of frozen peas, it's more than ample. The AX GT is a delightful car to thread through a series of twisties. The small 14-inch wheels deliver a distinctly old school approach to cornering, with some proper lift-off oversteer available if desired. This probably explains why there's so few left. Spend a few moments scouring the hedgerows of Britain and you're likely to find an old AX covered in brambles. Check between the 205 and Renault 5 GT Turbo you'll inevitably find there whilst searching.

There's further good news when it comes to running an AX GT. Not only are they ridiculously cheap to buy, but they won't cost a bomb to insure either. What's more, the 1.4-litre engine means that road tax is cheaper and a decent set of tyres will cost you less than a good night out at the pub. Oh, and its simplicity means that you can look after it at home.

Today there are less than 80 AX GT's on Britain's roads, and they're becoming an increasingly rare sight. If you can find one that hasn't been 'Saxoed-up' or treated to the contents of the bargains section in Halfords, snap it up. With dwindling numbers and prices as low as they'll ever get, you may be glad you did.

Still want that 205 or Golf?

Tags:
XCAR
Car Tech
About the author

Gavin is a freelance motoring writer who lives in the automotive metropolis that is Dartmoor, Devon. When not creating waffle and bunk for PetrolBlog, Gavin can be found hurtling up and down the A303 to attend new car launches. He has an unhealthy obsession with obscure and mundane cars from the 1980s and 1990s. Will work for Hobnobs. Not keen on Shatchbacks.

 

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