► High-spec X-pression X-wave tested
► Faces up to VW’s Up and Hyundai’s i10
► Priced at £12,390, aimed at young urban drivers
The first-generation Aygo, jointly developed with Peugeot and Citroen, was a fine first rung on the Toyota ladder. Launched in 2005 and in service for the best part of a decade, it was Toyota’s first foray into the city car sector. The Aygo’s combination of perky styling, keen pricing and excellent reliability saw just over 760,000 European buyers sign on the dotted line. So plenty of pressure for this second-gen model, launched under the aren’t-we-clever tagline of Go Fun Yourself.
As the sun is trying to make us believe it’s summer, we tried the X-pression X-wave manual model, which comes with a vast fabric sunroof and is priced at a toppy £12,390. Big not-so-fun money for a small car, compared to its French siblings and German and Korean rivals…
Go fun yourself, indeed… about as contrived as its styling
Its design ethos – rather dubiously entitled J-Playful – is inspired by ‘Japanese youth culture’. Being neither young nor Japanese meant we hated the external styling on first acquaintance, with its slashed face, lashings of glassy black plastics and mark-of-Zorro rear light clusters. Which means Toyota’s designers may have got it spot on, but we can’t help thinking the X motif will date quickly, even if the grille, wings section and back bumper insert can be quickly changed to encourage buyers to update and customise their car. Let’s call it distinctive, and leave it at that.
The cabin is all a bit Roppongi, too.
Yup. Toyota’s designers didn't bottle it when it came to styling the cabin, which looks like a Transformer half way through morphing from robot to combine harvester, or whatever it is they transform in to. For the most part, it works very well. It’s roomy up front, visibility is good, the controls are intelligently configured, and that seven-inch ‘x-touch’ infotainment touchscreen uses MirrorLink to display your mobile phone screen. Neat. Pity then that a lot of plastics are harder and shinier than Lego blocks, the steering column only adjusts for rake and room in the back and boot is tighter than George Osborne on an austerity drive. The Up has the cabin licked for quality, Panda beats it in the charisma stakes, and the i10 feels like it comes from a class above.
Looks well equipped, though
It is, but then it should be for the price. Highlights include hill-start assist, air-con, rear-view camera, that folding fabric roof, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, multi-functional steering wheel, projector headlamps, LED daytime running lights and 15-inch alloys. Plenty of toys to pass the time while you saunter to 60mph…
What’s it like to drive?
Slow, in a word. The thrummy 998cc triple dishes up a decent 69bhp at 6000rpm and while it’s quite happy to be wrung out to its redline, its biggest shortcoming is that it’s naturally aspirated. There’s 70lb ft on tap but it only arrives at a high-ish and vocal 4300rpm. Below that the engine feels dull and dozy, which means you have to keep the revs up to make progress that in any way does credit to those zippy looks. Every time the rev counter swings past 2000rpm you’ll wish a little blower would start whistling and that the scenery would start moving by at a pace that wasn’t measured by a sundial.
Things are made worse by intergalacticaly long gear rations, stirred through a sloppy and vague gate. So rather than a set of short and punchy low gears to help the Aygo into, past and out of fast-moving city traffic, you have first which is good for 25mph, and second which will take you beyond 50mph. Fast roundabouts call for plenty of revs and nerve, motorway slipways demand gritted teeth and white knuckles. The upshot of this lethargy is competitive combined economy and CO2 figures of 68.9mpg and 95g/km. Thing is, if you drive it with even the slightest flicker of enthusiasm, that economy will drop to a real-world 50mpg.
What about ride and handling?
Also a mixed bag. This Aygo rides on the heavily overhauled platform of its predecessor. It’s now lighter – the Aygo weighs in at a lithe 840kg, compared to the portly 929kg VW Up – and stiffer, which translates into enjoyably taut handling. The Aygo peels into corners with an engaging alertness and responds keenly to inputs from the lifeless but direct steering. It's no kart, but it can be sewn through corners with satisfying nimbleness. And the brakes feel strong and respond smartly.
Pity the ride quality is a bit iffy. While the secondary ride is controlled with body movement kept well in check, it’s the small stuff that leaves the car feeling restless and unsettled. It patters and jitters over anything but the smoothest roads. And we all know how many of those there are in this country.
If you’re keen on statement style, connectivity and creature comforts the Aygo is not without appeal, the fabric-roofed X-wave in particular if you enjoy alfresco motoring without being blasted about. But with many more talented, rounded and price-sensitive rivals out there, Toyota’s city hotshot left us no more than lukewarm.