Have you ever wondered how the Frenchman who drives a snow plough drives to the snow plough? Forget the Volkswagen Beetle, because the answer is the Citroën AX 4×4. Probably.
You may have spotted a Citroën AX 4×4 parked by the side of the road in the French Alps or in the remotest corners of rural France. Launched in 1991, this was Citroën’s answer to the Fiat Panda 4×4, offering mountain goat levels of climbing ability courtesy of a rear axle engaged by a button on the centre console.
Citroën was late to the small 4×4 party, but the AX made a lot of sense. It was light, weighing just 825kg in 4×4 guise. It was also cheap to run and easy to service. What’s more, its tiny dimensions meant that it could squeeze through the tiniest of gaps.
It was powered by the same 1.4-litre engine you’d find in the Citroën AX GTI, but detuned to 75hp. The ride height was raised by an inch, while plastic cladding was applied to both sides for protection against rocks, gate posts and drunkards in microcars.
Discreet 4×4 badges on the boot lid and doors were the only other clues to the potential of this go-anywhere Citroën AX.
That’s if going anywhere was restricted to farm tracks, forest trails and snowy climbs. When the going got really tough, the Citroën AX 4×4 stopped going. Billy Ocean would require something with more ground clearance for serious off-roading.
But there’s plenty of evidence on YouTube to suggest that the AX 4×4 would make a great winter hack or for messing about in the woods. Wrap those steelies in winter rubber, add a roof rack to make up for the reduced luggage capacity, and disappear into the wilderness for a week or two.
Sensibly, the AX 4×4 was never offered in the UK. Over here, we were too obsessed with bullbars, bling wheels and romping rhinos on wheelarch covers to give the understated Citroën a chance,
It was also rather expensive. The excellent Ran When Parked said the three-door Citroën AX 4×4 cost around 18,000 francs more than the Fiat Panda 4×4. That’s an awful lot of Gitanes. On the plus side, the AX 4×4 had the option of five doors, which is something the original Panda never offered.
Who knows how many remain? A fair few are no doubt rusting away behind French smallholdings, while others are hanging on by a wing, a prayer and a few cable ties. Others, like this immaculate Piste Rouge command a high fee. The Portuguese air has been good to this one.
It might not be as cool or capable as a Peugeot 505 4×4 Dangel or as charming as a Panda 4×4, but it’s kind of comforting to know that the Citroën AX 4×4 exists. It died in 1998. Gone, and almost forgotten.