1980s / 1990s / Citroen / French / Future classic

Is the Citroën AX a future classic?

citroen-ax-5Citroën launched the AX in 1986 as a direct replacement for the entry-level LNA. Introduced in 1976 as the LN and based on the even older Peugeot 104, the LNA was moribund by the time the AX landed in showrooms so replacing it was an easy task.

With the LN out of the way, the AX had to fight against the Visa and the 2CV to win the honor of being Citroën’s entry-level model. The Visa had essentially been the black sheep of the Citroën family since its introduction so it was not a problem for the AX, but the 2CV put up a fight. Although it was terribly outdated, it offered customers the versatility of having four doors for less money: In 1988 the 2CV 6 Spécial cost 36,500 francs while the cheapest AX on offer cost 43,600 francs.

The AX and the 2CV sparred until European lawmakers announced that catalytic converters were going to become mandatory in 1993, giving the 2CV its coup de grâce. From that point on, Citroën started expanding the AX lineup in nearly every direction and by 1992 it included the budget-minded 10E, the capable 4×4 and the potent GTi.  The new models paired with a minor facelift in 1991 finally enabled the AX to take on competitors like the Peugeot 205 and the Renault Super 5.

citroen-ax-3As the AX celebrated its 10th birthday, Citroën launched a new small hatchback called Saxo which was based off of the five-year old Peugeot 106 (does this scenario sound familiar?)  The Saxo looked more dynamic than the boxy AX but it was not particularly more comfortable or more modern and the two shared several engines. Customers realized that and it took several months for the Saxo to put a serious dent in the AX’s sales figures.

AX production ceased in 1998 after 2,561,432 examples were built, making it the second most popular Citroën after the 2CV.

Will the AX follow the path of the LN/LNA and be ignored on the collector car market, or will it take the same trail as the 2CV and become sought-after among Citroën enthusiast? You decide.

8 thoughts on “Is the Citroën AX a future classic?

  1. I always liked the styling of the AX, it was a very crisp-looking little car, but it lacks the tuner following that the Saxo has so sadly I think it will be overlooked. Also, have you seen what happens if you crash an AX? It barely has better crash protection than a 2CV…

    • Good point on the crash test, they’re not particularly safe cars.

      What really got me thinking about the AX as a future classic was running into an AX enthusiast at the junkyard a couple of months ago. I thought, “well alright, every car ever built has at least one collector interested in it.. hell, I’m fascinated by the Renault 14, who am I to judge?”

      I looked at the matter different when the guy told me that there is a local club devoted to the AX that has well over a hundred members! There are a lot of Sport/GT/GTi owners but a good portion of the folks just have a regular 10E/11RE/14TRS/etc.

      • That’s nice to know – I’ve barely seen two or three AX’s in ages here in England, although someone I knew at university had one back in the late 1990’s. To be fair, most equivalent cars of that era had terrible crash protection. The Saxo was better, though – when I was growing up we lived in an apartment building on a corner where there were always crashes. One Saturday morning at about 9am I was woken up by a huge crashing sound. I looked out my window to see that directly below a Saxo had been crashed VERY HARD into the building – but impressively the driver wasn’t hurt and the crumple zones had worked very well.

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  4. I hope the AX wins classic status – I had a one litre 5 door RE – four speed only and so cheap to buy and run. The upside of flimsiness was lightness that gave incredible performance. Later I had an AX GT – superb hot hatch – go-kart like and very competitive on price and performance in its day. One funny story is my AX had a regular thumping noise that occurred under acceleration and braking. Found it was down to a San Miguel beer bottle left in the door when it went down the production line in Spain. ” Hand built by drunks” was not an advertising strap line borrowed and changed by Citroen from the Fiat Strada campaign of a few years earlier

  5. Back in the 1990’s, living in Southern England, circumstances required me to commute to work on a 55 mile cross country route, and needing something economical. In the small ads of the local paper (no Internet in them days, lad) I found an AX 11 TRE beng sold by a senior citizen.

    Ended up doing many miles together, always enjoyed the lively performance, thanks to its light weight, and its great ride/ handling combination. Rain or shine, it could be hurled across the rolling Sussex countryside on its skinny tyres, hanging on and absorbing the bumps, with the smooth revving TU engine singing its happy song and sipping fuel at 40-plus mpg.

    It was still going strong when the metal around the windscreen rusted through ( like the whole bodyshell, it wasn’t very thick to start with) , so sadly we had to part, as the aroma of musty carpets isn’t one of my favourites.

    Among remembered quirks, the crossflow radiator with plastic tanks at each end, similar to those on millions of PSA small cars, and the tank with the filler neck being transparent for seeing the coolant level. Of course, in middle age it became opaque, so a wooden dipstick lived in the door pocket. Just like the 106 which one of my sons now has …..

    A friendly, capable, minimalist piece of French design and engineering, although as already commented, a big accident in an AX wouldn’t have been fun, which could also apply to some of its contemporaries.

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