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CITROEN AX GTI

After being around for barely a couple of years, Citroen has revamped it's baby, the AX, with some body changes, some suspension alterations and a smart, all new cabin, changes which have turned what was already one of the better superminis into a little gem, and in the model that I tested, the top of the range GTI, a real hot hatch-ette, a little firecracker of a car that makes very short work of across town journeys, like a hyperactive shopping trolley.

The changed body seems larger inside than the previous incarnation and when compared with a couple of rivals in a car park - as I did - it seems larger inside but externally about the same size, a feat which can only be achieved by good space planning or a close acquaintance with the methods of Dr Who.

Not perhaps pretty in a conventional sense, the AX has bags of gallic charm and a sort of impishness about it, a cheekiness typified by the tailgate mounted spoilers and front bib on the GTI, the sort of cheekiness that seriously embarrasses far more powerful cars as it leaves them standing in the traffic light grand prix.

The GTI is only available in a 3 door shell but the rest of the range - priced from less than £6,000 to a little under £10,000 - offers 3 or 5 door versions. If the test car was anything to go by all of the cars are very well built and remarkably rattle free with an impressive feeling of solidity for such a small car.

For a supermini there is more than adequate room for 4 adults with an airy feel to the cabin, the slim pillars and large glass areas promoting a feeling of spaciousness and giving excellent visibility.

Seating is comfortable and generally holds well although I found the front seat cushions a little too wide for ideal support when pressing hard on twisty roads.

The dash instruments are all contained in the now fashionable - and borrowed from larger sibling, the ZX -curved binnacle, all instruments being in a traditional white on black, very clear and legible.

All switchgear is well to hand, some mounted on the binnacle rim in easy reach, the steering wheel is a nicely shaped mock leather item which I found a little slippery in use. Daytona is the name of the trim used, which is specific to the GTI and is well put together and stylish although perhaps it would have been more appropriate if it were carpeted in AX minster.

There is plenty of cabin stowage in doors and dash including, at the leading edge of each door, a tall receptacle with a restraint that looks for all the world like a niche for a wine bottle but then it is a french car.

The basic equipment package is also impressive with a sunroof - albeit a manual one -, power windows, central locking, a good stereo, alloy wheels and front, bib mounted, foglights.

Very appropriate for the point and go nature of the car, the 1360cc all alloy engine is fuel injected and gives a thumping 100 B.H.P. for sparkling performance, very brisk acceleration through the gears being matched by great tractability and a good power delivery in each gear allowing for safe and speedy over taking. The 5 speed 'box has a very tight gate which makes the short flick of the lever a real pleasure to use.

This performance is ably backed up by excellent handling and very good progressive braking, the front vented discs offering impressive stopping power. ABS is available as an extra.

Suspension is firm but never uncomfortably so and is well controlled with minimal roll and little pitching on braking or acceleration, a very competent set up which makes rapid cross country journeys an absolute joy.

The steering is both precise and well weighted with good self centring enabling the car to be placed very precisely and controlled easily, the low profile Michelins giving impressive levels of grip.

All considered a quite ax-ceptional little car from a sparkling range of cars with a model to suit all tastes. Should do well.

FACT FILE

  • PRICE AS TESTED £9,995
  • TOP SPEED 118 M.P.H.
  • 0-60 8.2 SECONDS
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION 34 M.P.G [ URBAN CYCLE ] 53 M.P.G [ CONSTANT 56 M.P.H. ]

First Published 1992 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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