To the majority of buyers of today’s conventional city cars, the launch of the new Aston Martin Cygnet must rank as one of the daftest this century. For most of them, small means cheap, and the Cygnet breaks every rule.
At more than £30,000, the baby Aston costs more than double the price of the Toyota iQ that donated all its major components — body, chassis, suspension, engine transmission.
For the extra money you get a proper Aston Martin paint job, a superb hand-fitted and bespoke interior (with as many leather hides in it as are needed to trim a DB9), a series of body mods that give the Cygnet its own visual identity (including a superb extruded aluminium grille from the same supplier as does for the £1million One-77) and the magic of the Aston Martin name.
The Cygnet is quite different from any other Aston Martin. At just three metres in overall length it is the smallest Aston in history. It is its first dedicated city car, and it is probably the slowest Aston in modern times, achieving just 106 mph flat-out, and sprinting from 0-60 mph in 11.5sec — more than twice the time it takes any other contemporary Aston.
Why do we need it? First, because Aston realises that many of its owners also need nippy inner-city transport, and figured they would enjoy driving a luxurious baby Aston if there were one available.
Second, because tough taxes are coming for manufacturers of thirsty cars; the Cygnet’s combined consumption of 54 mpg, plus its modest 120g/km CO2 output, help counterbalance Aston’s monsters. Actually, with the optional CVT these figures are hardly special for such a small car, but they’re a helluva lot better than what you get from a DB9.
In the flesh, the Cygnet is impressive. The Aston paint process gives it a glass-like paint finish (they use the same finishing techniques as for a £150,000 Aston) and once you sample the comfort of the hand-finished interior, with every surface covered either in handbag-quality leather, Alcantara or first-quality carpet, you start to see the millionaire’s case for the Cygnet.
The major components may be by Toyota (and none the worse for that) but the see-touch-feel details are Aston’s own, things such as new instrument graphics, special metal inner door handles, a superb polished alloy gear-gate, a bespoke alloy shift lever and lots more.
On the road, unsurprisingly, the car is all iQ, quietened somewhat by its denser trim. Even the tyre sizes are iQ, though the wheels (standard eight-spoke alloys or an optional 16-spoke set) are designed in Aston’s own studios.
The 97bhp four-cylinder engine feels and sounds energetic up to 50-60 mph. The optional CVT transmission gives easy step-off at traffic lights. In a city car such as this it it’s a much better option than any fiddly five-speeder.
The Cygnet can produce a quite refined cruising performance on motorways if necessary, though passing performance isn’t its forte.
The steering is feather-light and nicely accurate. If you haven’t sampled an iQ you’ll be surprised by the sheer pleasure that flows from using its scooter-like turning circle, especially when it’s a viable three-seater, that can occasionally cope with four – just – if you don’t mind having no boot space.
But whether you should actually buy one depends on who you are. If you’re rich and open to the concept of a luxurious little city car that can be selected from the options list of a new Aston supercar, you may love the Cygnet.
Around 400 people, nearly all big Aston owners, have already ordered one, and the company reckons it can sell 1500 a year. If you’re not one of these people, don’t worry about it. Just don’t give the Aston Martin Cygnet another thought.