AX best car ever?
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  1. #1
    1000+ Posts Poo-Go's Avatar
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    Default AX best car ever?

    According to James May, anyway:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/...car-is....html

    Welcome, readers, to the 100th column I've written for Telegraph Motoring. I've put up some balloons in my office and there will be a collector's limited edition bound in Morocco leather, but for now I thought I should use this occasion to address a serious topic.

    So: what's the best car I've ever driven? As "that other bloke off Top Gear", I'm sometimes approached in pubs and assailed with this question – usually after a short preamble during which I'm asked where Jezza is (as if I live with him and shouldn't be allowed out on my own) or if I realise that I look a bit like that other bloke off Top Gear. And this "best car" inquiry has always left me stumped up to now.

    It would be easy to nominate, say, the Bentley Continental R, one of my favourite cars of all time. But I'm not sure I could universally recommend one. Parking it is an issue, and because it's an aristocrat it has a bit of a drink problem.

    I've even driven a Ferrari Enzo, and was surprised how much I liked it. But is it really the best? Not if you're on a budget, wearing a short skirt or wanting to buy some timber from B & Q. Then it's pretty much the worst.

    And so it goes on. The best luxury car or best supercar are easy, but what is the unqualified best car I've ever driven? I spent several hours thinking about it and making lists, and I've come up with the answer.

    What's more, I tried the theory out on a group of merchant bankers I was talking to last week. These were intelligent people, with a fearsome grasp of economic theory and global politics. As merchant bankers, they all drove Ferraris and Astons and the like. In short, we're not talking about the sort of car enthusiasts who just shout "Subaru" regardless of the question.

    I suggested to them that the best car I've ever driven, all things considered, was the CitroŽn AX GT of 1991. Nobody argued, despite being eminently qualified for the job, so I might be on to something.

    I admit the AX GT (not, you will note, the later AX GTi, in which CitroŽn overdid things a bit) is not terribly promising. Constructed from old biscuit tins, powered by a rudimentary 1.4-litre engine and not exactly eye-catching, it would probably kill you in a crash. It was built in France, so was presumably the work of communists.

    Then again, if you assume every attribute by which we judge cars is important, it comes out rather well. It was cheap at less than £9,000. It reached 60mph from rest in 9.0 seconds, which is quick enough to be amusing, and could attain 107mph, which is fast enough to land you in the clanger. Yet on a long run it could easily return more than 40mpg. It wasn't actually ugly, either.

    The more I analyse this, the more sense it makes. The AX was short and had small overhangs, so it was wieldy and easy to park. Yet because no one was too worried back then about what happened if you drove into a lamppost, it was also space efficient and could carry four in reasonable comfort. Entry and egress were easy for the infirm and there was even space for bags.

    It was light, too, long before other makers started banging on about weight saving. Lightness made it fun; it was perky and its responses were immediate. Yet this quality was lost on po-faced actuarial types, so it was cheap to insure.

    Because it was light, the suspension didn't need to be firm to keep the body motion in check. So despite the fine handling, the ride was also pretty good. Low weight and low inertia also meant the tyres could be small, which led to that surfeit of power over grip that makes an old Mini so entertaining.

    And so it goes on. Pick any other car, and the AX GT will be better than it at something, while remaining plenty good enough at everything else. If Top Trumps could deal with qualitative as well as the purely quantitative attributes of cars, the
    AX GT would be the card with which you would win. I've tried this theory on a number of colleagues and friends, and no one has yet defeated me in a straight fight.

    Try me.


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  2. #2
    1000+ Posts gezza's Avatar
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    I have had 13 of em and do agree they are great lol

  3. #3
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    I like mine LIL under powered but a world of fun!

  4. #4
    1000+ Posts gezza's Avatar
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    You still got it ken??

    Yeah the aussie ones are compared to the UK carb fed ones which fly!!

  5. #5
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    just as a matter of interest, how did they manage to make an EFI car slower than a carburettored car?

  6. #6
    1000+ Posts gezza's Avatar
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    Single point injection instead of multi like the uk proper gti...

    And even that with 100bhp from the factory wasnt as quick as the ax gt carb fed jobbie that had less power (85bhp) aussie spec with injection had 75bhp and air con/cat etc.

  7. #7
    JBN
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    I only drove one once as a loan car from the Citroen Dealer. Its about the only car where you can operate ALL three pedals with one foot. The real trick is to try to operate the clutch without hitting the brake pedal. I have never been impressed with Citroens and three pedals, with the exception of the 2CV, probably because it doesn't have a centre console.

    I must admit the AX had terrific handling and response (both engine and steering). Just a bit disconcerting when you de-clutch the car when you brake.

    John

  8. #8
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    The trick is to take your left shoe off before you start driving. This way your foot is slim enough to fit past the brake pedal and onto the clutch. Then the driving experience becomes much much better.

    My son could be willing to sell his (with the UK carby set up) if anyone wants to experience James May's best car ever for themselves.

    regards, Erik

  9. #9
    1000+ Posts Greg C's Avatar
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    I looked at buying the one JBN got as a loan car. Sitting in the drivers seat, I couldn't move any limb. Maybe the fact that I am in the top percentile band for body height didn't help.

    I ended up going up a little in weight and bought a BX. Comparing the two the BX is remarkably roomy for its length and is a hoot to drive. If you want to go to a real small car you can't beat an original Mini and I can drive one of those no problem

    Greg
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  10. #10
    Fellow Frogger! Mort Subite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg C View Post
    ...If you want to go to a real small car you can't beat an original Mini and I can drive one of those no problem
    Greg
    I drive my Mini last night (I'm in the extremely average height band) - great fun, great whurring noises from the engine, off from the lights like a cracker - if a little noisy and rattly...!
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  11. #11
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    nah jezza it got sold but i know its up for sale again. 1K last time i checked

    not sure what shape she is in now but...


  12. #12
    JBN
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erikbm View Post
    The trick is to take your left shoe off before you start driving. This way your foot is slim enough to fit past the brake pedal and onto the clutch. Then the driving experience becomes much much better.

    My son could be willing to sell his (with the UK carby set up) if anyone wants to experience James May's best car ever for themselves.

    regards, Erik
    His feet? That would solve the problem if they are really small and narrow.

    John

  13. #13
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    Ah, yes. Slightly poor english and I hadn't thought of selling his feet.

  14. #14
    1000+ Posts gezza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by compns8 View Post
    nah jezza it got sold but i know its up for sale again. 1K last time i checked

    not sure what shape she is in now but...

    Very very tempting especially at $1k....

  15. #15
    1000+ Posts jo proffi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBN View Post
    I only drove one once as a loan car from the Citroen Dealer. Its about the only car where you can operate ALL three pedals with one foot.

    John
    So you have not driven a fuego, I see.

    Jo

  16. #16
    Good Sport danielsydney's Avatar
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    I have always liked them but not been a passenger or driven one.

  17. #17
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    I have owned an AX GT for over three years now, and when I can wrest control of it from my daughters, I do get to drive it. My impression is that it is very zippy car, great for getting around a city such as Canberra, and I can confirm that it is very economical. That was the reason that I bought it, an economical car that the family could share as the DS was only returning about 11-12 L per 110k around town.

    I am 6' tall and have size 10 (imperial) shoes. I do find getting into the car a bit of a squeeze but the seats are most comfortable and have excellent latteral support. The footwell is cramped, but once accustomed, it is not really a problem. Dutiful daughter wears steel capped boots and seems to manage OK.

    The greatest problem from my point of view is that the engine bay is the tight packed engine bay, costing much lost skin when working on it. I found this out when I had to replace the clutch.

    But, it is a fun car to drive, always puts a smile on my face.

    Cheers
    Richard

  18. #18
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    Nah BX is the way to go. It goes up and down....
    Did you know that the AX engine was used in the 205 as the peugeot motor was not the best?

  19. #19
    1000+ Posts gezza's Avatar
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    You mean the 205 xs, yes it was but it had double carbs

    It was also used in the peugeot 306 too with spi injection

    Oh and the 206 if memory serves me right...

  20. #20
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    See where would peugeot be without Citroen

  21. #21
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    I love them - between my Dad and I we have 3 now.. I've had a BX, but the AX is so much more fun to drive.. My sisters 205 pug seems low and heavy compared to it. It boggles my mind why there aren't more of them here.

  22. #22
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    Why not more here?

    Because after 20 yrs, the electrics start misbehaving and you can't work out if it is the coil, the TPS, the spark generating thingy or the ???, so eventually you give up and get back into your BX which just goes.

    Erik

  23. #23
    Fellow Frogger! Trixie's Avatar
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    I bought one new in 1991 for $27,000. Hard to believe! Ran her for nearly five years - something of a record for me - and was great fun once the obligatory warranty issues had been sorted. In fact from years 2-5 there were no problems aside from weekly efforts to contain trim noises. Hardly fast, and the engine was a little coarse, but great chassis and seats, we had plenty of fun.
    John

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