Is this the most controversial car of 2011? The new Aston Martin Cygnet is either a fabulously clever way to make a heap of money and cut CO2 emissions, or an abomination not fit to wear the iconic winged badge, depending upon whom you talk to.
Now we’ve driven the Aston Martin Cygnet in its natural city habitat. Read our first drive review to find out why we remain confused and less than convinced.
So what makes the Cygnet a real Aston?
Well, certainly nothing in the engine bay or the chassis itself. Aston has chosen not to alter the mechanical package at all. The Cygnet gets the larger 1.33-litre VVT engine (there’s no 1.0-litre option) with 97bhp at 6000rpm and 92lb ft at 4400rpm. You can have a six-speed manual at £30,995 or a CVT auto at £32,115. That makes this Aston rather, erm, slow. It tops out at 106mph and covers the 0-62mph dash in a yawning 11.8 seconds. However, zipping through London it feels just about quick enough, although it needs to be revved quite hard to deliver the goods.
The real transformation is the exterior styling and the interior detailing. There’s leather everywhere inside and Aston claim is uses the same number of hides to trim a Cygnet as it does a DB9 or Virage. The result is rather odd. It’s great that some of the iQ’s poor quality trim is covered up, but the way the exquisite Aston materials butt up against cheap plastic is very odd.
It can’t quite mask the humble roots of the Cygnet. The grab handles are a case in point. Simple, cheap plastic items wrapped in hand-stitched leather. What did Obama say about pigs and lipstick again? There are 22 different hides offered and 30 exterior colours. If you want a different colour, it’ll be an extra £5495.
Externally the Cygnet only shares a roof panel with the iQ, everything else is bespoke. So there are new door skins, wings, bonnet, light units… the list goes on. Once all the panels are refitted the surface is flatted and then painted in Aston’s own booth for the full Aston-quality finish. It certainly looks beautifully finished and it’s chunkier and more expensive-looking than the iQ. However, most will find the Aston grille looks a bit incongruous. I know we like to moan that all Astons look the same… but this could be a step too far!
Does it feel like an Aston or an iQ going to a bondage club?
Not like any Aston I’ve ever driven. The interior is leagues ahead of the iQ in terms of materials and finish but I’m not sure it actually feels special. Just a bit curious. Dynamically it’s not exactly bubbling with Aston DNA either. The manual ‘box is pretty awful, the ride is unsettled due to that short wheelbase and the throttle response is very soft and lazy. This is, of course, all down to the iQ donor vehicle, but the price and the badge say Aston, so it’s right to expect a higher quality driving experience.
However, this is a car aimed at those with an addiction to luxury brands and deep enough pockets not to worry about the odd zero here and there. The sort of person who might spend £3000 on a made-to-measure suit or £5000 on a handbag. Judging by the reaction around London to the Cygnet, it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. And plenty of people much cooler than I seemed to think it was ‘beautiful’.
Should you buy one?
Well, 400 people already have and Aston can build as many as 1500 per year. That should do wonders for their average CO2 emissions and profit. Aston also claim that new customers are walking in to their dealers to buy a Cygnet and walking out with a V8 Vantage or DB9, too. If that’s true then maybe the Cygnet really is marketing genius at work.
However, we all love cars right? We love them for the way they drive, the engineering ingenuity they represent and the way they make us feel. For car enthusiasts like us the Cygnet holds little appeal. But if it funds the next generation of V8 and V12 sports and GT cars, then good luck to it.