What is the Toyota Aygo?
This is one of the smallest and most economical cars drivers can buy and run. One half Japanese, one half French (Citroën and Peugeot), it has been jointly designed and engineered to share costs in an area of the car market where margins are spread as thinly as butter on a cracker.
Toyota’s version, the Aygo, costs from £8,595, although the company is offering a £600 discount to stimulate interest, lowering that to £7995. There are three-door and five-door models, just one three-cylinder petrol engine and, on certain trim levels, the choice of a manual or automatic gearbox (a £700 option).
The Aygo looks great. It’s packed full of attitude, particularly in its face which looks like it has exploded in the pages of a Japanese manga comic. But bear in mind that because the Aygo, Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108 are fundamentally identical beneath the surface, there is little to separate the Aygo from the other two in the way it drives and performs.
What’s more, there’s little difference in the running costs. Driving asked CAP, a vehicle valuation company, to compare predicted depreciation over five years for the entry-level model in each of the three competing ranges. The entry-level Aygo is likely to lose 67%, or £5395, of its value from new, whereas the C1 and 108 will lose 64% (£5145) and 58% (£4945) respectively. A VW Up should fall by 59% (£5110).
So choosing between them comes down to personal taste, the standard of your local Citroën, Peugeot and Toyota dealerships, and something else that is rather significant. Toyota offers a five-year warranty with the Aygo, valid up to 100,000 miles, which gives two years’ additional peace of mind compared with the French cars.
Small cars have to deliver in two areas of the driving experience or, frankly, they’re pointless. They should visit fuel stations as rarely as the Pope utters expletives, and be as much fun as a fairground ride to drive.
The Aygo does a pretty good job on both counts. Toyota claims the 998cc three-cylinder engine consumes a gallon of petrol every 68.9 miles, and during our tests we had little trouble achieving over 60mpg, even in rush hour traffic.
That frugal nature means owners needn’t drag themselves to the Post Office once a year, as the Aygo is exempt from road tax thanks to CO2 emissions of just 95g/km. To think that it does this without using a stop-start system for the engine – presumably a matter of keeping the car’s cost as low as possible in the UK – makes it all the more impressive.
The 69bhp engine has a distinctive rasp that’s ever-present on the move. That said, the Aygo cruises quietly at 70mph, despite its short gearing. In fifth (top) gear, the engine is turning over at 3,100rpm, which is relatively high. At least it keeps it feeling perky and means there’s no need to change down a gear when faced with an incline on a motorway.
Whether dicing through city centres or charging around bends on a country road, the Aygo feels light on its feet, helped in part by steering that responds eagerly, and a safe and predictable handling balance right up to the moment the tyres give up their grip on the road.
Surprisingly, it feels fit for a trip from one side of the country to the other, not something you’d have said about the last-generation Aygo. Small cars often feel as choppy as a dinghy at sea, but the Aygo has a supple, composed ride that makes it suited to long trips, even if there is some roar from the tyres.
Perhaps the best thing is the car’s size. It’s small enough to park with ease, and the glass tailgate gives an excellent view of what’s behind you when reversing into a parking space. Precision parkers won’t be able to do any better than when driving an Aygo, and it rather makes the rear-view camera redundant.
Toyota boasts how the Aygo has many big car features, yet there are some essentials missing. These include height-adjustable seatbelts for those in the front seats and rear windows that can be lowered. It illustrates how the car has been built to a price.
Then there are the seats. They look jolly sporty – the sort of things typically found inside a hot hatch such as a Golf GTi – but proved uncomfortable for the majority of our testers. There’s no support for the top of the shoulders or base of the spine, placing pressure on the middle of the back.
However, the Aygo is well packaged. For example, with the driver’s seat is set for a 5ft 8in tall individual, a similarly tall person can fit in the back seat, albeit with their knees pushing against the back of the front seat. But with such small rear windows, which can only be opened using old-fashioned hinges, it feels very enclosed.
The back seat comes with two ISOFIX mounts for child seats, but the 168-litre boot is small. After three attempts, and some heavy manual labour, we managed to fit a Bugaboo pushchair into it, but the thing practically had to be stripped down to a bare frame and then rebuilt upon arrival.
The dashboard is simply presented and many of the functions are co-ordinated by x-touch, a 7in touchscreen that operates the audio and phone connection. Toyota offers MirrorLink, which connects to certain smartphones and replicates the phone’s screen and applications on the car’s display. Sat nav – or, in Aygo speak, x-nav – is a £395 option.
Some of the instruments aren’t bright enough, particularly the gearshift indicator, which goes unnoticed on a sunny day. And to adjust the trip computer, the driver has to reach through the steering wheel, which is a serious fail as far as safety goes. It should have been a button on the steering wheel, or a stalk.
The ventilation system uses an air diffuser in the centre of the dashboard, instead of a pair of individual vents. It’s not very effective, blowing air over passengers’ heads and lacking any adjustment.
The one to buy
Price: From £9,795 (correct at first publication)
Engine: 998cc, three-cylinder petrol
Power: 69bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque: 70 lb ft @ 4300rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 14.2sec
Top speed: 99mph
Fuel: 68.9mpg (combined)
Road tax band: A
Dimensions: L 3455mm, W 1615mm, H 1460mm