Citroën 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 Although it was terribly outdated, it offered customers the versatility of having four doors for less money: In 1988 the 2CV 6 Spécial cost 36,500 francs while the cheapest AX on offer cost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.
As 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.