We’re not sure whether it was the convoy of cars, or the fact our own example of Toyota’s new Aygo was painted a particularly patriotic colour in light of current sporting events and our Netherlands launch location – but the new city car certainly attracts plenty of attention.
To our eyes, and to those of other journalists assembled on the launch, the new Aygo is immediately appealing. You don’t get the sort of cool sophistication you might from its Volkswagen Up rival, but sharp lines, bright contrasting colours and the Aygo’s large X-shaped face all add up to a striking little vehicle.
That X panel, plus A-pillar trims and a rear diffuser element, can all be chopped and changed at your local Toyota dealership. We’re not sure many will bother, but it’s indicative of the kind of market Toyota is aiming for – tech-savvy youths and smart city-bound couples should both find something to like.
That continues inside, where the new Aygo is a lot less ‘Toy Town’ than its predecessor. Plastics are still hard and scratchy, but no longer feel cheap. And this is an inexpensive car, so you can’t expect too much. More importantly, our car’s metallic orange paintwork extended to the interior door panels, and was replicated on assorted elements of interior trim. It’s a bright, funky environment.
Our test car is one of two special launch editions of the Aygo, x-cite. The other is called x-clusiv, while x, x-play and x-pression models make up the regular model range.
Among the car’s equipment tally is a seven-inch central touchscreen with satellite navigation, various methods of phone and mp3 player connectivity, cruise control, keyless go, leather-faced seats, and climate control. The screen is a highlight – it’s easy to fathom, has big, clear buttons and hooked up immediately to our iPhone (via USB) to crank out some tunes.
Space up front is good and while the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, it adjusts for height – as does the driver’s seat, as standard. The seats are comfortable and this five-foot eight-inch tester just about had enough space to sit behind himself in the rear.
It’s here the Aygo’s cost-cutting is most evident. While the front doors feel reasonably substantial for the class, the rears open and close with an amusing 1980s-style clang. Rear windows, like the previous Aygo, pop out rather than wind down, so the door is effectively hollow.
Boot space is up on the old car and in practice seems similar to that of its main Volkswagen Group rivals, the Up, Mii and Citigo. It’s deeper than it is long, and easily accommodates two upright-positioned aircraft-suitable carry-on bags.
There’s just one engine (more cost-cutting evidence)but it’s not a bad unit. One litre in capacity and offering up three cylinders, it thrums away happily as it pumps out 68 horsepower. It’s quiet at idle, emits a sporty growl under acceleration, and becomes quiet again at a cruise. Well-spaced gearing makes it feel quicker at typical day-to-day speeds than the old car, but it’s no GT86. Officially, 60mph arrives in 14.2 seconds – par for the class, in other words.
Our test car came with stop-start, which won’t be an option in the UK. You still get 68.9mpg economy and 95g/km CO2 though, so fueling and taxing it will be inexpensive. We saw around 60mpg in the easy-to-drive manual and about 56mpg in the five-speed, £700 x-shift automated manual we also drove.
The latter gearbox we’d avoid, unless you absolutely must have an automatic. Like that found in the Smart Fortwo, it’s a disappointingly jerky unit that lurches around under hard acceleration.
It does have a manual mode (via the lever or steering wheel paddles), in which it’s a lot faster and smoother – but that takes technique, and we suspect many automatic buyers choose their transmissions to avoid faffing around changing gear and timing perfect gearshifts, so it seems like a solution for a problem that shouldn’t exist.
The ride and handling is better. It’s not quite as forgiving over bumps as the Up, Mii and Citigo, but it’s not bad. Feels light on its feet, too, and the steering is suitably accurate. Grip is as high as most drivers will require (understeer sets in eventually) and the brakes feel positive.
It’s a doddle to drive around town too. We spent most of the launch getting lost in various Dutch towns and cities, but the Aygo handled repeated U-turns, speed bumps and mini-chicanes with aplomb. Good visibility too, despite the rising window line.
Priced from: £8,595 (x-cite) to £11,295 (x-clusiv) – full details here
CO2: 95 g/km
The city car class has another must-try option. It’s fair to say the new Aygo doesn’t break any new ground in the class, but it’s improved upon its predecessor in most of the areas that mattered, and that’s all it really needed to do.
Importantly, it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve chosen a second-rate option. It doesn’t have the VW Up’s modernist, minimalist feel, but it feels much funkier and features like the touchscreen and customisable interior and exterior give it a unique selling point that not many rivals offer.
It’ll be cheap to run too – extending to its class-leading residual values, five-year warranty and one-year free insurance to drivers over 21. 2013 was Toyota’s best year so far for Aygo sales, despite the model making its debut nine years back. With the new model, Toyota’s targets for even greater sales seem perfectly realistic.