What is it?
The Toyota Aygo – in retail form, and in the UK. It’s been all pre-production drives abroad before this, and while there’ll be a full road test examination in short order, this initial car – one of the few in the country – earns another first look.
Much about it we have learnt before. This is a marginally bigger follow-up to Toyota’s popular city dweller which has been on sale since before Twitter was born. It continues to share a platform with PSA Peugeot Citroën, although aside from the rear passenger door and the angle of the windscreen, not a single body panel is the same.
The Aygo is differentiated even more clearly by the x-graphic on the nose; as brazen a love-or-hate feature as it’s possible to imagine. The shape, of course, is largely incidental – the point is that you can swap out the inserts (quickly, via a dealer) for new ones, thereby personalising your car. Given that there are currently only three colours to choose from, your options are somewhat limited, but you get where Toyota is going.
Its thinking continues inside, where a more uniform architecture can be similarly customised with two levels of interior pack that swap out much of the glossy dashboard plastic (in as little as seven minutes, we’re told). If that weren’t enough, you can also have the distinctive double-bubble roof in a contrast coloured decal.
All of that’s on the option list; as standard in the UK, both the 3 and 5-door Aygo come in three grades: x, x-play and x-pression, with two special editions: x-cite and x-clusiv. As ever, the mid-spec trim will be the seller, but the DAB-equipped, alloy wheeled and x-touch media carrying x-pression looks tempting despite a sizable premium.
The x-clusiv driven here is only a few hundred pounds more than that and largely adds styling enhancements to justify its short price hop. There’s currently only one engine to choose from; the three-cylinder 1.0-litre VVT-i carried over from the previous Aygo, albeit in revised format. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with Toyota’s automated manual X-shift a £700 option.
What's it like?
Our yardstick for city cars has moved up a notch or two since the introduction of the impeccably mannered VW Up, but the core credentials remain unchanged: about town convenience, a bit of sprightliness beyond and moderate motorway ability. The Aygo pretty much nails all three. Light control surfaces, its small size, tight turning circle and good visibility make the Toyota a natural urbanite - much as its predecessor was.
In the wider world, the news is better still. Thanks to additional spot welds and a higher use of high-tensile steel, this is a stiffer, lighter Aygo – and it shows. The ride is busy, but very well-judged and rarely seems overloaded; meaning that there’s plenty of play to accommodate some mid-bend surface turbulence even when cornering. The result, when combined with decent grip levels and an even-tempered front end, is a city car that can happily be driven with vigour.
The engine is somewhat less of an attribute. Near the beginning of the Aygo’s life cycle the 1.0-litre unit was an award-winner; now, even tweaked for slightly more power and still better efficiency, it feels off the current three-pot pace. The engineers have reorganised the gearing for a bit more low-range perkiness, and this helps, but there’s a noticeable mid-range flat spot to go with a predictably limited amount of gusto.
By and large, though, this doesn’t detract from the experience. The lowering of the hip point in the front is a boon for keen drivers, but the packaging elsewhere is just as accomplished. The double-bubble roof – unique to Aygo – helps facilitate an impressive amount of back seat headroom. The Aygo ought to seat four sensibly sized adults without a eliciting a groan from any of them. The boot has been made more accessible too; although there’s still a mighty lip to heave shopping over before you’ll find the floor.
Compared with the Up, there are some questionable plastics dotted around the cabin, but if your eye isn’t drawn to the possibilities of those extra colour options, then the 7-inch x-touch screen ought to do the trick. Again, this is a shared item, but that doesn’t detract from its appropriateness - the intuitive, simple menu, easy-peasy connectivity and standard DAB tuner easily proving a match for any of its current rivals.
Should I buy one?
A two-hour spin suggests yes. Over the last few years we’ve applauded most loudly for the Panda’s practicality and sense of fun, and the Up’s polish and maturity; the Aygo, with some sensibly selected updates and gently innovative ideas, appears to have earned mention in the that exalted company.
As Toyota has already acknowledged, there is more competition than ever for a new small car - not least from the PSA alternatives which will certainly be cheaper - but, at the moment, its latest contender looks set to immediately return to our city car top five. How high up? Well, that’s what the road test is for.
Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i
Price £11,695; 0-62mph 14.2sec; Top speed 99mph; Economy 68.9mpg; CO2 95g/km; Kerbweight 900kg; Engine type, cc three-cylinder, 998cc, petrol; Power 69bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 95lb ft at 4300rpm; Gearbox five-speed manual