Less is more…

Keith Adams

Citroen AX Diesel is great fun
Citroen AX Diesel is great fun

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.

Keith Adams


  1. I used to have a petrol AX, a ’93 Jive model and really quite liked it. It was the first car that was all mine, and cost £250. I loved the mini minimalism as mentioned by Keith and the supple ride but quite grippy handling. Alas i got rid, because i was at uni, and driving from Devon to Bradford was a very long trip in that car. And also, god forbid if anything happened on that journey, it would be index in an AX. So i now have a Rover 25 diesel, so same ecomomy, 5 gears and an airbag!

    I miss that car, and the fact that if i killed it it wouldnt owe me anything, despite me taking it off road, and pulling U turns in narrow streets, but to go the distance, no.


  2. I bought one new! My insures treated me to another 6 months later… and the NHS bought me a new knee, so don’t hit anything! I hope that lead footed / 55mpg thing is nothing to do with me!
    In the real world I reckon it might just be quicker (more torque) than Keiths old GT I now own – should we have a race?

  3. Its a fairly similar thing with my car, a 1999 Golf 1.4 E. Its got keep fit windows and no central locking, just a comfy well built interior. No cd player or air con or anything remotely interesting. Just the absolute basics. Its only concession to luxury are airbags and height adjustable drivers seat. I love it, more because its basic and with just 75 bhp not exactly earth shattering performance. I went to look at it’s 2009 equivalent but its electric everthing so im going to stick with what i’ve got.

  4. Was this the same 1.5 D engine offered in the Metro?

    My ZX with the 1.9 D was good handling (in fact, probably saved my life / injury / no claims bonus on one occasion near the end of a 300 mile trip), economical (ideal for a student), but dreadfully slow. I can only guess that it put on substantial bulk over it’s AX younger sister.

    Got similar fun out of a friend’s Cinquecento. 900cc and go kart grip, but like you say, bully boys in German boxes enjoy drafting off it.

  5. I’d love to still buy these economical, basic kind of cars new. A couple of years ago I bought a mk2 Polo and it was the best car I had bought in a long time. It was very basic but so well screwed together and the AX seems such a good idea especially now, as it’s so cheap to run and buy, it’s just finding them as their numbers dwindle.

  6. The AX are fine cars until you have the smallest off accidents. You’ll never get a dent on the shell, it will allways be ripped, striped, smashed etc., even at traffic light speed. I have experienced it and still have nightmare on it.

  7. My friend had one for about 4 years. It had a strange issue – it use to shudder when it hit 65mph and then stopped when u went faster!

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