Back To The 80s: Citroën AX

Fri 19th Jul 2019

When we think of the classic eras of motoring we might cast our mind back to stylish cars of the 1950s, the muscle cars of the 1960s or the super cars of the 1970s. What might not spring to mind however is the motors which were produced in the 1980s - an era which certainly favoured practicality over power, style and sophistication.

But the cars of today owe much to 80s, it was decade which brought us turbochargers, multi-valve engines and hot hatchbacks, an era of the people-carrier and the rise of the SUV. Digital displays and electronic gadgetry, were the norm as designers pushed the boundaries of of what was capable in a production vehicle.

So let's celebrate the 80s, a period of huge change across Britain as a whole, and one which had incredible landmarks in the motor industry.

Citroën AX
Launched at the Paris Motor Show in 1986 and arriving on English soil in August 1987, the AX was the natural successor to the Visa and the LNA, but if things had gone to plan, the AX could have been a Talbot. But Peugeot were not convinced on the viability of Talbot as a brand and buoyed by the success of the new Peugeot 205, they took the decision to ditch Talbot altogether and the framework of the car which had been developed since 1983 landed on the doorstep of Citroen.

The car arrived in Britain as a three-door hatchback with a 1.0, 1.1 and 1.4 litre engine and following the end of production of the Visa at the end of ‘87 the AX was effectively the smallest model in the Citroen range.

Many regard the AX as Citroen’s first serious Supermini and in a crowded marketplace in the late 1980s it required some serious marketing spend to keep it at the front of mind when the buying public was looking to make a purchase. 

That marketing included a little known actress by the name of Janet Mas, the Great Wall of China, and an elderly gentleman by the name of Mr Wong.

The car itself was very economical, a drag coefficient of 0.31 was excellent allowing it to glide through the air and the basic version was extremely light, just 640kg. The car entered the Guinness Book of Records when a 1000mile drive from Dover to Barcelona earned itself the title of the most economical production car.

Lots of plastic ensured the car stayed light, and that also allowed the French at add their usual quirkiness to some of the design features, such as the partly enclosed rear wheels and a large number of storage compartments, including a largely excessive space in the doors, which was big enough to hold a 2litre bottle, or maybe even a bottle of Perrier.

Manufacturer: Citroen
Assembly: Rennes, France
Designer: Nuccio Bertone
Did You Know?: The AX was replaced by the Saxo in the mid-1990s having enjoyed a 12-year stint as one of the most popular French superminis.