First drive: 2014 Toyota Aygo
What is it?
It's a small car with character. Whether that character appeals to you is of course your decision but we feel Toyota deserve credit for livening up the cityscape with a car that's anything but 'vanilla'. There's no mistaking that X on the front grille and with a host of personalisation options available in a range of colours, new Aygo will be brightening up a high street near you pretty soon. Available with three or five doors, it features Toyota's award-winning Optimal Drive 1.0-litre VVT-i petrol engine and boasts class-leading levels of power and torque. Toyota is hoping the car will prove a force to be reckoned with in the increasingly busy A-segment. The company's target is to shift 24,000 examples by 2015, which would mean they'd grab a nine per cent market share of the segment.
What's under the bonnet?
New Aygo features a comprehensively revised version of Toyota's award-winning three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine. The unit has been re-engineered to run with a higher compression ratio, and has an improved combustion chamber designed for better efficiency. Friction losses have also been reduced, notably by using a new low-friction timing chain. There's more power and torque: 68bhp (51kW) at 6,000rpm and 95Nm at 4,300rpm; 85Nm of torque is available from as low as 2,000rpm. Toyota says the engine is still very 'sprightly' though – but we're not sure they've chosen the right word there. Sprightly to us conjures up an image of a 90-year-old who still likes to do a spot of line-dancing.
What's the spec like?
In a word, pretty impressive. And we think it's a plus that everything is nice and easy to understand. City car buyers are busy people, they haven't got time to pore over endless spec sheets! The line-up consists of three grades: x, x-play and x-pression – plus x-cite and x-eclusiv special edition models.
Cars in the x bracket are priced from £8,595 and come with LED lights, 14-inch steel wheels, front power windows and remote locking. The x-play cars (from £9,795) add a glossy black front X, air-con and Bluetooth, while x-pression (from £10,995) adds front fog lamps, partial leather seats and the x-touch multimedia system, with reversing camera. The two special editions feature a number of specific styling and equipment elements such as gloss black alloys, chrome internal door handle finish and dusk-sensing headlights.
Just a few! According to Toyota's figures, in 2005, there were nine cars in the A segment; now there are 20. The Hyundai i10; Skoda Citigo, VW Up!, Seat Mii and Kia Picanto are all cases in point.
What's it like to drive?
We liked it. The dashboard layout is intuitive, visibility is pretty good all-round and the car handles well. The pedals need the lightest of touches (our size-10 clodhoppers resulted in some rather juddery acceleration and sudden braking to begin with) and although we know the level of engine noise has attracted criticism in the past, there's still a distinctive sporty note that to our ears was not unappealing. The car is nimble around town, with a dinky turning circle, and a doddle to park in the tightest spots. The reversing camera is a real boon here.
The AOL Cars verdict
When the Aygo was launched in 2005, it didn't have too much competition in the city car segment. Now the situation is very different, with a crowded marketplace and far more choice for buyers in this particular market. However, with its mixture of technology, personality, and competitive pricing, it should do well and deliver Toyota the sales figures they're after. The X-shaped grille, its most distinctive feature, is a bit like Marmite – buyers will either take to it or reject it.
Engine: 1.0-litre, 3 cylinder petrol
Max speed: 99mph
0-60mph: 14.2 seconds
Emissions: 99 g/km CO2
Author: Dave Brown