Anthony ffrench-Constant on the Aston Martin Cygnet

Published: 17 February 2011

A first glimpse of this prototype Aston Martin Cygnet caught out and about in Mudfordshire recently does at least confirm that Aston Martin is pretty much spot on with the name. After all, save for that ballerina neck, a junior swan absolutely does not possess one iota of the grace inherent in its parents…

I might, however, have to take issue with the adjudication of a caustic chum who stomped once around the car before opining: ‘Well, you can’t polish a turd… But you can roll it in glitter.’

Not because -hatched as a result of Lexus and Aston sharing a pit lane garage at the Nurburgring 24 hours for two years running - all stubby and, erm, blue, the poor thing could in any way be described as good looking, but because not even the shoehorning of every single key Aston styling cue onto that diminutive bodywork can disguise the impending gleam of Toyota iQ as pantomime dame. Oh yes it is.

Aston Martin Cygnet: actually a very clever car

And, thing is, far from faecal, the iQ’s really quite a clever car. Indeed, were it not for some hilariously blatant tactical voting in the manner of the Balkan states in a Eurovision Song Contest, it, and not VW’s Polo, would have been crowned European Car of the Year for 2010. And if you don’t believe me, check out the Austria, Germany and Portugal judges:

Odd; I was always led to believe the Portuguese hated the Germans… The words ‘rat’ and ‘smell’ spring to mind.

Isn't the Aston Cygnet just a CO2 cheat?

Accepting that the Cygnet must, surely, be first and foremost an exercise in assuaging whole fleet CO2 legislation issues, I still don’t get it. If Aston had stuck to the Buy One Get One Free, his ‘n’ hers garage principle which, I’m led to believe, presaged the whole affair, it might make some sense. But are we seriously expected to believe that there are enough people out there rich and stupid enough in equal measure to pay 31 grand for a facelifted Toyota city car to make the whole deal worthwhile for the company?

Let’s face it, even if, say, Ray Charles can be persuaded that a Cygnet really does look like a member of the Aston stable, it’ll never in a million years sound like one, go like one, or, with iQ underpinnings unfettled, handle like one.

Leather galore, trinkets aplenty

I’m not sure how effective it’ll prove as a brand damage limitation exercise, but, happily, it will, of course, smell like one. Glazing reflections made it impossible for me to satisfactorily snap the interior, but I can report that several blowfly-free cows were slaughtered to bring you a heavily monogrammed interior in which the most notable revision is to the centre console.

Moreover, that astonishing price tag may at least partly be explained by the slaughter of even more of the herd to provide the bespoke, Bill Amburg luggage that will accompany the first limited edition cars to the launch pad. Oh, and, note to Aston: Bill Amburg is so last year, darling. The world of fashion is notoriously fickle and, ferociously expensive, he appears to have priced himself out of the market…

As Ian Callum has proved, with that relentlessly elegant David Brown grille as a starting point, it’s almost impossible to conjure an unattractive Aston. Almost… Never mind, at least that heady 1.33-litre, 97bhp, V-nothing engine won’t lack for cooling.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche