CREATURE COMFORTS: Massive cabin space and storage room in XM, with excellent seating and steering adjustability (electric on some models), and good stereo. Improved upholstery and interior finish in AX, with good headroom, legroom and boot space for its class.
STAYING ALIVE: Child- proof locks at rear, standard anti-lock brakes on XM; improved build quality and handling on AX. Very good visibility on both. XM handling improving, with more 'intelligent' suspension - but still more wallowy than more orthodox cars. AX ride and handling are taut, brakes good.
BANGS PER BUCK: Power steering, ABS brakes, remote central locking, steering wheel-mounted stereo controls, electric windows, sunroof and mirrors standard on XM turbos. Average to good fuel consumption for a turbo, around 22mpg in town, 30mpg at constant motorway speeds. Priced at around pounds 19,245.
Central locking, sunroof, electric front windows standard on AX 3-door diesel; its main economic advantage is its class-leading fuel consumption. Priced at around pounds 7,775.
STAR QUALITY: Smooth, fast, spacious, well-appointed touring in the XM. Economical, manoevrable, town-car practicality in the AX.
TURKEY QUOTIENT: Distant sense of road contact, awkward pedals on XM. Limited performance on the AX diesel, especially fully-loaded.
AND ON MY RIGHT: XM rivals are Volvo's 940 turbo at pounds 16,595 (more conventional, cheaper, better performance) and Rover's 820 Vitesse at pounds 19,695 (classy styling, less room and pace). Chief AX rival is the Rover Metro diesel at pounds 6,870 (better ride, slower).