Citroen AX | Shed of the Week

Remember when the French made chic superminis for the masses? Shed does…

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 17 June 2022 / Loading comments

Cue wobbly visuals and dreamlike incidental music as you come back with us now to 1986, a time when gear sticks were wands, tachos were clocks, and plastic really was very plasticky indeed. Come back to the Citroen AX, the replacement for the Visa, which was a credit card that also doubled up as a very ugly car. 

The Visa might have been ugly, in fact it most definitely was, but in GT form it was an absolute hoot to drive. Most cars are when their main design criteria are (1) a sprightly engine and (2) not much weight. The slightly less ugly, nicely quirky AX picked up the Visa’s spindly, crash-crumpled baton and skipped lightly off with it. 

As we all know, the 85hp GT, the 95hp Sport or the 100hp/120mph GTi are the versions everybody lusts after nowadays, as indeed they did thenadays, but don’t waste your time looking for any of them at sensible money. The last and only AX GTi to appear in this sub-£1,500 column was back in mid 2015. That one failed its test the year after Shed wrote about it, presumably on the basis of terminal rot if the lengthy list of corrosion-based advisories angrily scribbled on the report in 2015 is any guide. 

So let’s forget about sporty AXs, an easy ask when even a proletarian 1.1 like our shed can bowl along at nearly 100mph thanks to efficient aerodynamics specially developed to deliver the sort of economy that poor people were demanding then. Anyway, who needed the carburetted GT’s 0-60 time of 9.2secs when you could do it in a much more relaxing, scenery-admiring 12 and a bit seconds, floating smoothly along on your wispy 66lb ft at 3,200rpm cloud of Gallic torque?

If you’re interested in the AX experience, and you should be, any model will grant you entry into an increasingly exclusive club. One of the pics in the ad for this one says ‘Hurry! This is our last Citroen AX in stock!’. It’s probably their first one too tbh. Shed has long since given up trying to understand the mysterious workings of the various ‘how many left’ type websites, but if there are more than a hundred AXs still scuttling about the UK he’ll hit himself repeatedly on the head with a stale baguette. As far as he can see this might be the only road-registered AX 11 TGE in Britain. The vendors are calling it a TRE, but the boot badge begs to differ. The TGE is like the TGV but about a thousand mph slower. 

Lift the bonnet, which easily detaches for use as a sledge, to reveal the mighty 1,124cc engine. This is held in place by some clips, a couple of self-tappers and a few fragments of white plastic. The new battery that we can see shining brightly in the corner is probably almost as heavy as the motor. Thing is, you’ll never need a good battery in one of these because an AX has so few electronic requirements, and even if it does go flat, the task of push-starting a car weighing just 675kg is Shed’s favourite, a one hand job. Citroen even saved weight on the steering wheel by doing away with half of the spokes, a trick they learnt many decades ago with the DS. 

Obviously with just 55hp at your command there’ll be no facial distortion under acceleration, a handy attribute. Okay, so it’s a five door. People are bound to complain about that. And it’s got ‘Nouveau’ written on it in that sickly-sweet copperplate font so beloved by motorists of a certain age back then. The rumpled upholstery makes the back seats look like an unmade bed, but as Shed will tell you from his own hasty bed vacating experience, unmade beds are often the comfiest ones.

Obviously there has been rust. Some of this was put right in 2009/10. More was sorted in 2020 when the car was resurrected after a six-year layup. Most of the MOTs up to 2014 had been clean passes with hardly any mileage accumulated between tests. It’s not been tested since that last pass in August 2020, but Shed has approved it for your inspection as the vendors are promising ‘a long MOT prior to sale’. If Shed’s feeling on it is correct, there shouldn’t be much prior to this sale.

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