The Aston Martin Cygnet is perfect for inner-city fans of the brand. For the rest, it's an expensive and quirky distraction
What is it?
If there were a prize for the daftest car to be launched so far this century, the new Aston Martin Cygnet would have to be a strong contender.
This, at least, is what most people who buy city cars will think. For most of them small means cheap, and the Cygnet breaks every rule.
At £30,995 the baby Aston costs more than double the price of the £12,500 Toyota that donated all its major components — body, chassis, suspension, engine transmission.
For the extra cost you get a proper Aston 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 million-pound One-77) and the magic of the Aston Martin name.
What’s it like?
The Cygnet is quite different from any other Aston Martin. At just three metres overall 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 11.5 seconds — 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 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 (which costs another £1000 or so) 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 car 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 like 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 this car it it’s a much better option in a city car 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 if you don’t mind having no boot space.
Should I buy one?
Depends who you are. If you’re rich and are open to the concept of a luxurious little city car that can be selected from 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.
Aston Martin Cygnet 1.33 auto
Price: £30,995; Top speed: 106 mph; 0-60mph: 11.5 sec; Economy: 54.3 mpg; CO2: 120 g/km; Kerb weight: 920kg; Engine type, cc: 4cyl 16v 1.33 litre petrol; Power: 97bhp at 6000 rpm; Torque: 92 lb ft at 4000 rpm; Gearbox: CVT