Little Aygo delivers a big punch

THERE is something very engaging about the character of smaller cars than most people ever give them credit for and while many might dismiss them as being mere ‘starter cars’ there is a lot more to them than that.

Little Aygo delivers a big punch

For an awful lot of people this breed of automobile is an economic, tax-friendly piece of kit with which they can go about their daily business in a very engaging fashion.

Some might deride them as being ‘town cars’ only, incapable of undertaking longer trips, but such an assertion is not only factually wrong, but also a severe insult to the breed.

Invariably, I find, they are packed with more character and personality than most of their larger brethren and they have practical capabilities many times greater than they are supposed to have.

We test one such micro mini this week in the new Toyota Aygo which was originally — and still is — a joint venture effort between the Japanese giant and both Peugeot and Citroen. This initially saw the Aygo being built on the same production line as the 107 and the C1. The new versions of these cars (the 107 has gestated into the 108, but the other two retain their nomenclature) are still built at the joint venture facility at Kolin in the Czech Republic.

Having first hit the streets in 2005, the Aygo was produced in substantial numbers right through to this year when the new one debuted at the Geneva Motor Show, albeit with facelifts in 2009 and 2012.

But this new car is aimed at breathing new life into a package which was not so much ravaged by time, but by a bunch of other contenders in the segment.

The Volkswagen Group trio of the VW Up!, the Seat Mii and the Skoda Citigo, really ramped up the stakes in this class with a new and fresh take on the theme forged by the Japanese/French axis.

The revamped Fiat Panda added further competition while the Koreans also got in on the act recently with revised versions of the Hyundai i10 and the Kia Picanto.

Even the much overlooked Suzuki Alto has been at this game for years and in times past Toyota left this sort of thing to its Daihatsu subsidiary with stuff like the Charade and the Domino.

There are others of the genre such as the Fiat 500 and the Mini, but taste and fashion have lifted those cars out of the mere ‘city car’ milieu and cast them in an entirely different marketing stratosphere.

Nevertheless, against such stiff opposition as the VW trio and the growing band of manufacturers which has decided that there are profits to be made, Toyota/Citroen/Peugeot decided they had to raise their game, which meant a re-thinking of the product.

To this end the Aygo’s chassis has been lightened and stiffened and its aerodynamic profile improved. High strength steels have been adopted in the construction and greater underbody strength has given the chassis a much stiffer demeanour and helped make the driving experience much better.

However, all of that is hidden under the car’s very dynamic new clothes which give Aygo a different personality to the rather more staid versions which went before. It almost goes without saying that a small car has to have some form of customisation built into it to allow punters effectively design the appearance to their own tastes.

And so it is with the Aygo, whose eye-catching ‘X’ graphic at the front can be chosen in a variety of colours and so too the rear bumper insert and the alloys which can be picked and mixed like goodies in an old time sweet shop. The same applies to interior colours. This factor alone puts the Aygo right back in the mix in terms of potential customer appeal.

On the engine front we now have an updated version of the three cylinder motor which powered the previous car, but which has been modified to improve smoothness and efficiency.

It is still a three-cylinder 998cc petrol unit and that means several things. Firstly, it makes a great — and unique — noise. Secondly, you still have to flog it to get it up to pace — particularly motorway pace. And, thirdly, it is still as thrifty as a Scot on holidays.

With regard to the second point, peak torque does not arrive until 4,300 rpm and peak power of 51 kW (65 bhp) is achieved at 6,000 rpm, which means that if you want to get anywhere fast, you’re going to be seeing a lot of red line action.

But even so, 0-100 kph is achieved in under 14 seconds and top speed is just shy of 160 kph.

It will still return a healthy4.06 l/100 km (68.9 mpg) and emission levels have been reduced to sub-100 g/km at 95 g/km, which, I’m sure you’d agree, is pretty decent.

On the road too the Aygo is far from shabby, demonstrating a solid feel, excellent grip and the handling agility of a cat.

The interior is not a bad place to spend time with loads of modern conveniences, an excellent layout and not too many shoddy plastics. Space is decent for front seat passengers, but tight for those in the back and the boot is decidedly small.

However, the positives by far outweigh any negatives that might be found here and the new Aygo has certainly made the necessary leap from near also-ran in its previous incarnation, to definite contender in its new one.

Little cars like this will always have a place in our heart.

Colley's Verdict

Toyota Aygo

****

The Cost: from €13,180 to €15,380 depending on spec for the five door version.

The Engine: a delightful little three cylinder unit which, while it has to be flogged a bit to extract the maximum from it, is still an excellent unit.

The Specification: the trim levels vary considerably depending on which model you go for, but even at entry level, most modern accoutrements are standard.

The Overall Verdict: a much needed game-changing revisitation for this car especially as so many other manufacturers had bettered the Aygo’s original ideas.

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