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Vauxhall Agila 1.2 (2008) review

Published:22 February 2008

Vauxhall Agila 1.2 (2008) review
  • At a glance
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Gone is the felled phonebox look of the old Agila. Here is the newest, smallest member of Vauxhall’s ‘monocab’ family, slotting below the Meriva and Zafira and offering a budget-conscious, utility-focused baby sibling to the Corsa. But haven’t we seen it before?

I thought the Agila looked familiar…

Certainly does. That’s because the new Agila is really a rebadged Suzuki Splash. Sheet metal changes are limited to the re-profiled bonnet, plus there are different bumpers and lamps front and rear. It’s basically the same inside too, although the Vauxhall gains brighter plastic hues for the dashboard – extremely bright in the case of CAR’s blue test car.

And under the bonnet?

Vauxhall is claiming two brand new powertrains for the Agila and, fair enough, the 1.0-litre three cylinder and the 1.2-litre four are new to Vauxhall. Yep, you guessed it, they’re Suzuki engines, competitive in terms of power output (64bhp and 85bhp respectively) and CO2 – especially the 1.0, at 120g/km.

The 1.3 CDTi matches it for emissions, and that’s the familiar 74bhp diesel engine from the Corsa and Meriva. But diesel-powered city-cars make little sense in Britain, and the 1.2 petrol (131g/km) is expected to be the biggest seller. Vauxhall charges a £1600 premium for burning oil, which would take quite a few miles to pay off at 62.8mpg, when the 1.2 manages 51.4mpg. The thrifty 1.0-litre splits the two on fuel efficiency at 56.5mpg.

Why is Vauxhall’s baby so tall?

The Splash is based on the Suzuki Swift, and is marketed as a mini-MPV alternative to the supermini. Vauxhall already has the Meriva to do that job, the next generation of which will grow and become more sophisticated. So Vauxhall takes on the likes of the C1/107/Aygo trio with a more spacious proposition. If you really want to pinpoint a rival, think Fiat Panda.

So it’s roomy then?

The Agila uses its height to its advantage  by seating its occupants upright. It’s a full 50mm taller than the Panda and a useful 200mm longer too, so you’re getting a lot of metal for your money.

Yet, while Vauxhall is keen to call the Agila a proper five-seater, the reality is that it’s comfortable only for four adults if they’re reasonably slim and an inch or two less than six feet tall. The large rear doors make getting in and out of the back easy though, so it’s perfect for school runs.

A single action drops the rear seat, making for a flat load floor, but the seat base collapses rather than tipping, so there’s no bulkhead to ensure your goods don’t pile forward when you brake. In van mode there’s 1050 litres of space – nearly 200 litres more than the Panda. Seats up, it’s much closer (225 versus 206) – enough for schoolbags or a supermarket run.

Enough of practicality. Is it fun?

The interior will certainly brighten your mood, thanks to its vivid colour schemes, and the 1.2 four cylinder responds with an eager thrum when you gun it. Acceleration at town speeds is quite nippy and the gearbox is light in action but not so slick you’d swap cogs for fun. The steering is a similar story: undemanding, consistent but devoid of real feedback.

Through corners, the Agila rolls less than you might expect and it’s basically competent, if boring for enthusiasts. The ride is mostly buoyant, only becoming crashy over seriously broken surfaces. The rest of the time it’s unobtrusive but not standard-setting, though far more comfortable than the Aygo.

Vauxhall is keen to stress that the new Agila isn’t just a city-car. It’s certainly a more serious proposition out of town than the original, able to cruise at motorway speeds without a great deal of fuss, though you’ll be dropping to fourth if the gradient gets steep. Think of it as a decent cross-county traveller, rather than cross-country.

What about finish?

You won’t find a single stretch of finger-friendly plastic in the Agila, but nor would you expect to. It’s all hardgrained yet feels tough enough to cope with everyday family life. Even 1.0-litre base models come equipped with ABS, power steering and a CD player. The mid-range Club gets a funky Smart-style pod-mounted tachometer, electric windows, mirrors and central locking (and all three engine options); top Design models offer air-con and alloys too. £1000 buys an auto-box for 1.2s.

Verdict

Vauxhall’s gone for spaciousness to compel Agila buyers, and it certainly feels like a much more mature (if less original) proposition than the C1/107/Aygo clan if you regularly carry passengers. The £7595 1.0-litre base model is excellent value for volume with a mainstream badge, but its lack of power might rule it out as anything other than a city-car.

The top-spec test car is listed at £9595, still decent value considering its equipment spec, but it’s £800 more than a Fiat Panda Eleganza 1.2. It’s more spacious than the Panda though, which means that the real competition is rather more insidious: the equivalent Suzuki Splash is expected to undercut the Agila by £500.

Specs

Price when new: £9,595
On sale in the UK: March 2008
Engine: 1242cc 16v 4-cyl petrol, 85bhp @ 5500rpm, 84lb ft @ 4400rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 12.3sec 0-62mph, 109mph, 51.4mpg, 131g/km CO2
Weight / material: 990kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3740/1680/1590

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 rear three-quarter
  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 interior
  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 engine
  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 front three-quarter
  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 side
  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 rear three-quarter
  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 interior
  • Vauxhall Agila 1.2 rear
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