REVIEW DATE: 12 Sep 2007
Andy Enright reports on the Toyota Aygo citycar's quest to win hearts and minds.
There have been some fascinating partnerships between car companies down the years. Quite how Citroen and Maserati found themselves in bed together to produce the Citroen SM makes bizarre reading. The experiment between Saab, Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia back in the eighties to produce a common family saloon platform also had mixed results. Volkswagen, SEAT and Ford all made hay with their MPV vehicle collaboration and the same can be said for the Citroen, Peugeot and Fiat MPVs that subsequently usurped the throne. Toyota's Aygo is the result of another triple pronged assault, this time in conjunction with Citroen and Peugeot, and the target is the citycar market.
Compared to its Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1 counterparts, it's obvious that Toyota have gone to greater lengths to visually differentiate the Aygo. This is reflected in a marginally higher sticker price, but for many the treatment of the front grille and lights and the smooth way the rear lamp clusters have been integrated will be enough to swing the balance. Built in the Czech Republic, the car will be sold in volume. Toyota are aiming to shift 100,000 units per year across Europe but they shouldn't find that a problem.
The range starts at £7,000 and consists of two main trim levels (Aygo and Aygo+) plus special Platinum and Blue models, with all versions powered by the same 67bhp three-cylinder one-litre engine. Both three and five door variants are offered and although the initial show cars wowed the crowds with their seventeen inch wheels and non-standard paint jobs, the production ready cars are also very neatly finished.
The front and rear overhangs have been kept short so as to maximise interior space and make parking simple. The tale of the tape shows a 3.4 metre overall length, which is almost 23cm shorter than a modern MINI. The interior features a two-tone dashboard with a textured effect, while the door trims feature body coloured detailing. One of the more eye-catching features is the design of the ventilation controls on the centre console. Two large wheels bookend the console with a translucent panel sitting between them. Coupled with the funky, minimalist instrument panel, they give the Aygo's fascia a very modern appearance.
"The Aygo moves the game on in terms of citycar styling and sophistication"
The steering column is adjustable for both reach and rake, the speedometer binnacle moving with the wheel. Coupled with plenty of driver's seat travel and ample headroom, there shouldn't be a problem getting comfortable behind the wheel of the Aygo. Sitting behind a tall driver is another issue altogether and rear space is a little pinched with the front seat at the back of its travel. That's perhaps forgivable, as there is only so much that can be done within the strictures of a 2.34 metre wheelbase.
The audio system reflects the Aygo's modern outlook. The standard setup features the usual AM/FM radio and CD player but also includes a connection socket for other audio hardware such as an MP3 player. The upper specification models also add an extra pair of rear speakers and some neat tweeters integrated into the car's A-pillars. Even the entry-level car is well equipped and includes colour keyed bumpers, twin front airbags, and anti lock brakes with the backup of electronic brakeforce distribution. The + grade adds colour-keyed door mirrors and handles, electric front windows, a split folding rear seat, remote central locking, a keyless entry system, side airbags and an ISOFIX child seat attachment. Considering the bargain basement pricing of Citroen and Peugeot counterparts, it's this model that looks set to be the most popular Aygo.
Air conditioning is an option for the + and two options packs are available. The 'Travel Pack' features Aygo-branded Samsonite luggage. This constitutes a glove box bag, a trolley and a rucksack. Likely to prove more popular is the 'Mobility Pack' which adds a TomTom Aygo satellite navigation pod with a three-year warranty, map update package and radio integration.
The Aygo is a citycar first and foremost, reflected in a sprint to 60mph that takes 14 seconds. The good news is the fact that the 1.0-litre petrol engine is predictably excellent in terms of fuel economy and emissions. The combined economy figure is 61.4mpg and emissions are pegged at a laudable 109g/km. These figures are helped by the fact that the 1.0-litre is billed as the world's lightest production engine. A five-speed manual transmission is the default choice, but Toyota's Multi-mode Manual Transmission is also available as an option, offering clutchless gear changing for those who want to take the drag out of city driving. Effort is further removed by the fitment of electrically-assisted power steering, making light work of turning the Aygo about face in just 9.46 metres.
The Aygo is a fascinating car. Although some cynics have suggested that Toyota needed a low emission car in order to continue selling hugely profitable Landcruisers due to global CO2 weighting regulations, it's a worthy entrant to the Toyota line up. Marriage of convenience or otherwise, there's little doubt that compared to its French rivals, the Aygo looks a more polished, mature product. Whether it will sell as well given Citroen and Peugeot's excellent promotional track record with small cars remains to be seen but the Aygo has brought a welcome dose of style and sophistication to a market traditionally populated with econoboxes. For that, if nothing else, Toyota should be applauded.
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