The Toyota Aygo is PARKtastic ... but it is very much a City slicker
Economy class carrier sluggish on open road
Vulture at the Wheel Toyota had good reason to be pleased with its little Aygo. Launched in 2005, it went on to sell over three-quarters of a million units in Europe alone. That number doesn't include the near identical Citroën C1 and Peugeot 107 cars that also rolled off the Toyota-Peugeot-Citroën Automobile joint-venture production line at Kolín in the Czech Republic.
Variations on a theme: Toyota's new Aygo
The city car market has gathered pace since 2005 though and the new Aygo is up against some truly excellent little motors like the Volkswagen Up, Ford’s cute’n’curvy Ka and Hyundai’s new i10. The question is then: can Toyota’s funky urban runabout and its Gallic brethren, the new Citroën C1 and the Peugeot 108, still cut the A-segment automotive moutarde?
In a surprising turn up for the books, the new Aygo looks like a genuinely bold and interesting bit of design. Why surprising? Well, can you remember what the current generation Auris or Avensis motors look like? Exactly. Bland is the word I’d use for Toyota’s current design language, and then only if I was being polite.
#Ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road...#
The Aygo’s design is apparently called J-Playful in Toyota-speak but don't ask why, I’ve no idea. Her indoors reckons it looks like an angry insect. Me? Being half Scot, I see echoes of the Saltire in that bold cross pattern slashed across the nose, especially in the blue-and-silver colour scheme that my review car rocked up in. Compared to the rather globular “let’s offend no one” design of the original Aygo, the new car is breath of fresh air and, from the front at least, genuinely distinctive.
Check the boomerang light clusters
To cater to the sort of people who think personalised number plates are cool, Toyota has made the front grille, rear bumper insert and front wing sections of the new Aygo easily interchangeable. That’s so owners can subtly customise their car at any point in its life. The same goes for a wide variety of interior trim though that’s hardly a new feature on a car in this class.
Small engine but could be smoother
Sadly Toyota has been a little less bold under the bonnet. Powering the new Aygo is an “improved” version of the 3-cylinder 12 valve 1.0L VVT-i petrol engine that was used in the original car. It’s not a bad engine, but its age is starting to show and all those improvements are aimed primarily at saving petrol and reducing emissions, rather than making it a power plant more appealing to the enthusiastic driver. Compared to the latest and best small engines, it’s frankly just a wee bit rough around the edges and a little low on torque.
Talk the torque
While 69 horsepower and 95Nm (70lbs-ft) of torque sounds like enough on paper, you discover those peaks arrive at 6,000rpm and 4,300rpm, respectively. If the engine was more refined, the noise it makes more mechanically tuneful and the vibration better isolated, then driving the Aygo with gusto wouldn't be such a chore. After all, it’s not in the Twin-Air powered Fiat 500. Yet the fact remains that the engine is rather unrefined and all too audible. It doesn’t make for calm progress, even by class standards.
A sharp looker but not so new under the surface
On the open road, the peaky nature of the power delivery becomes annoyingly apparent. Put your foot down in top gear at 50mph and nothing – and I really do mean nothing – happens. Granted this is a fuel-sipping town car, so I hardly expected it to surge towards the horizon like a bull rhino after a mate on heat but still, the lack of get-up-and-go came as something of a disappointment.
In other ways the drivetrain is more successful. With a top speed of 99mph and a 0-62mph dash time of 14.2 seconds the Aygo can mix it on the open roads or motorway network without things getting too scary. Even if you spank it, you’ll still see over 50mpg. The five-speed gearbox is light and precise too. CO2 emissions of 95g/km are pretty darned good for a non-hybrid. And the Aygo is an eminently chuckable little bag of bolts on the highway.
Cabin a bit cheap to the touch and on the eye
Hustle the Aygo down a twisty road and you’ll find it sharp, predictable and forgiving. Just like a modern small car should be. If the tarmac starts to fall apart you will notice it though. On smooth roads everything is fine, but the noise and vibration caused by rough surfaces can all too easily be heard and felt in the cabin. Once again we are back to the matter of refinement and noise insulation, or rather the lack thereof.
Speedo and 1970s rev counter
The lack of refinement isn’t overcome by the cabin ambience either. Once ensconced behind the wheel of the Aygo and you come face to face with one of the automotive world’s uglier instrument binnacles. The gaudy orange colour scheme and weird 1970s-style vertical rev counter do nothing to make the Aygo’s dash look attractive, sophisticated or modern. Quite the reverse, but maybe a hint of retro is the intention.
The 7-inch touch screen supports MirrorLink
The multi-function 7-inch touch-screen communication and media centre is more successful and usefully it comes with MirrorLink smartphone connectivity built-in. But as a piece of design it’s not as clever or as affordable as the dash-mounted pod you get in the VW Up. You can only have the Toyota system as a £295 option on the £9,795 x-play model and above, while VW’s alternative only costs £275 on even the entry level Up.
Take your pick
The Aygo is only 3,455mm long and 1,615mm wide, which makes it a tad smaller than even the hardly vast Up. Even so, for such a small car there is a decent if not groundbreaking amount of space in it. The five-door version will easily let four adults get in, travel in some comfort and then get out at the other end with the blood still flowing to all their limbs. With 168 litres of boot space available when the rear seats are up it will carry some of their luggage too.
The boot is spacious but the parcel shelf is very flimsy
I wasn't massively taken back by the interior build quality and from Toyota, as I had reckoned on better. Take these two prime examples: the gear knob had a habit of rotating in my hand and the flimsy rear parcel shelf pretty much fell off and apart every time I looked at it. Beyond that the whole cabin felt far more plasticky than I expected. The comparison with the VW Up is not flattering. That feels like a small, minimalist version of the Golf. The Aygo on the other hand just feels like it has been built down to a price.
Small car but no shortage of doors
Assuming the Aygo still sounds like your bag of bananas should you pick the Toyota over the Citroën or Peugeot models in the bunch? I'd say yes. The Citroën is a little prettier on the outside, unlike the Pug which is a dull lump that sadly does not look at all like a small 208. Under the skin and inside, all three cars are near enough identical but the Toyota is on average around £250 cheaper spec for spec. If like me you're part kilt wearer the Aygo is obviously the one to go for thanks to that Saltire nose job.
The Reg Verdict
I’m in two minds about the new Aygo. I like the looks, the packaging and the handling. And around town the performance is fine. But the ugly dash harks back to a bygone era, interior build quality is less than impressive in places and engine noise is significantly more intrusive than it is in the VW Up. The rather gutless open road performance came as a bit of a disappointment too, notwithstanding the Aygo’s urban-focused market segment. Granted the cheapest Up will cost you around £800 more than the cheapest Aygo but the VW would still be my choice. ®