(first posted 7/19/2014) CC recently featured a review of the Austin Maxi. To recap, the Maxi was a cut down version of the BMC Austin and Morris 1800 (the Landcrab) with a new but inadequate OHC 4 cylinder engine and a hatchback, which it gained by accident. It was the last Issigonis design BMC/BLMC offered, and it very nearly never made it at all. It was the car that confirmed that Alec Issigonis needed someone to keep him on the straight and narrow, and that BMC didn’t have that person.
The main selling point for the Maxi throughout its career was the space it offered, and the flexibility within it through the then novel 5 door hatch back layout, low rear loading lip, folding seats that went every which way and the space benefits of the transverse engine, with the gearbox in the sump layout Issigonis was cheer leader for. Compared with a Cortina, it was dance hall on wheels.
So, actually it was quite a large car, really? Here’s one alongside a 2001 Vauxhall Astra and a 2011 Vauxhall Meriva. The Astra is GM Europe’s Golf and Focus competitor; the Meriva is a compact MPV.
The Maxi was 159 in long, 64 in wide and 55 in high, on a wheelbase of 105 in. The Astra was 165 in, 67 in and 56 in, on a wheelbase of 103in. In an old English expression, that’s close enough for Government work, except for the length. Weight-wise it isn’t – it weighs more than 10% more than the Maxi’s 2100lb.
The Meriva is actually an interesting vehicle – at least for a compact MPV – as it is part Corsa, part Astra, with suicide doors. It’s 5 seats only, with length/width/height of 169/71/64 on a wheelbase of 104 in.
This last picture show the Maxi alongside a Daihatsu Terios – personally, I feel the less said the better.
The Astra and Meriva owners are well entitled to ask where the extra external bulk has given them extra internal space. If you want to carry 5 people within a comfortable (comfort and space) environment you’d almost certainly pick the Maxi, until you considered factors such as safety, fuel economy, the gearchange, the likelihood of getting to your destination and the reaction of your peers.
But if your peers read CC, I guess the Maxi will do just fine, thanks. I certainly know which I’d prefer to take a lift home in.