Thanks to the thinning out of my fleet and the general up-in-the-air nature of my life right now, I found myself in need of a set of wheels for a job at work last week.
There’s nothing unusal in that, of course, as I’m always jumping in one strange car or another – but sometimes I find myself in something really enjoyable. And that happened last week thanks to the Citroen AX 1.5D that I ended up piloting to Banbury…
The car in question is worth, oh, about £300 – on a good day – and hasn’t exactly been loved in recent years. Indeed, with 140K miles on the clock, it’s obviously past its prime but, do you know what, as I set off as quickly as its little wheels would carry me, I found myself wondering on more than one occasion why anyone really needs any more than this…
From under a quarter of a tank left, I filled it up – before leaving – and it cost me £30. Given that for most of my cars, that kind of outlay would result in the fuel gauge’s needle only moving a couple of millimetres, that immediately put a smile on my face. Then, as I headed south, I started pushing along with the traffic and found the little car more than capable of keeping pace with the rest of the hustle and bustle.
With about 55bhp on tap, you’d expect it to be dog slow – but far from it. It takes a resolute right foot to maximise performance but, given that even a lead-footed driver can get over 55mpg out of the thing – without even trying, that’s not exactly a problem.
On roundabouts and in the corners, its breathtaking lack of rubber should have scared me silly but, as its kerbweight is well shy of 800kg, there’s little bulk for those skinny tyres to keep planted on terra firma so I found myself having loads of fun. It will let go – eventually – but those slim Michelins give you loads and loads of warning.
Also, you can actually see out of the thing, thanks to slim pillars and an upright driving position.
In short, I loved the drive, and the sheer minimalism of the thing. There’s no equipment to talk of and the interior is full of painted metal but that suited me just fine because the eseentials were all there. Yes, you get tailgated by pushy motorists in their BMWs and Audis but, come the corners, you just keep up the momentum, go for the narrowest of gaps, and wave goodbye. Such a small, light and basic car should leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable – well, it didn’t me, but I was having too much fun to care.
Would I live with one? Yes, I think so… but, deep down, no matter how much a case of less is more with this car, I kept thinking that a Mini would offer even more from considerably less – if only they weren’t so damned expensive…
As for minimalist cars – I reckon everyone should have a go at least once a month… just to keep a sense of perspective on things.