Aygo a little city slicker

Small, lightweight and economical city cars have never attracted too much attention from their position in the dimly-lit basement of the UK car market, writes Steve Walker.

Small, lightweight and economical city cars have never attracted too much attention from their position in the dimly-lit basement of the UK car market, writes Steve Walker. These were never vehicles that you'd turn to gawp at in the street and few, if any, will have graced an adolescent bedroom wall.

There's increasing evidence, however, that the city car could be about to have its day in the sun. There's more buzz around compact, fuel-efficient vehicles than at any time previously and, having established itself in the market during the relatively lean times, Toyota's Aygo could be a major beneficiary.

The Aygo is a city car first and foremost, reflected in a sprint to 62mph that takes 14 seconds. Handling is nimble although the steering feels a bit rubbery in its responses. At lower speeds the electric assistance makes manoeuvring the car simplicity itself and the minimal front and rear overhangs mean it's easy to edge into even the tiniest parking places. The fiendishly-tight turning circle means that even if you spot a parking place on the other side of the road, you may be able to throw a quick U-turn to snaffle it.

The 1.0-litre petrol unit is extremely light and this helps the Aygo achieve its excellent fuel efficiency, but it also delivers a sprightly feel under acceleration and a pleasantly purposeful engine note although noise levels have been cut in the latest models. A five-speed manual transmission is the default choice, but Toyota's Multi-mode Manual Transmission is also available as an option, offering clutchless gear changing for those who want to take the drag out of city driving.

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The latest Aygo has had its nuggety styling finessed with larger bumpers that accentuate the curves around the nose and serve to visually lower the car. The grille is also tweaked and although the difference to the original is slight, it's a definite improvement that lends the Aygo a more purposeful edge. The tale of the tape shows a 3.4 metre overall length, which is almost 23cm shorter than a modern MINI.

The interior features a two-tone dashboard with a textured effect, while the door trims feature body-coloured detailing. One of the more eye-catching features is the design of the ventilation controls on the centre console. Two large wheels bookend the console with a translucent panel sitting between them. Coupled with the funky, minimalist instrument panel, they give the Aygo's fascia a very modern appearance.

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The range consists of two main trim levels (Aygo and Aygo+) plus special Black and Blue models, with all versions powered by the same 67bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine and both three and five-door bodystyles available. The audio system reflects the Aygo's modern outlook. The standard set-up features the usual AM/FM radio and CD player but also includes a connection socket for other audio hardware such as an MP3 or a minidisk player. The upper specification models also add an extra pair of rear speakers and some neat tweeters integrated into the car's A-pillars.

With a modest upfront price and tiny ongoing running costs, the Aygo isn't going to break the bank. Expect to average more than 60mpg if you have a restrained right boot (the official combined figure is 62.8mpg) and even in town you should be able to approach 50mpg. Every version is rated at insurance group 1, making the Aygo the ideal vehicle for the first-time driver looking to build some no-claims bonus or anyone looking to cut their motoring expenditure down to the bare minimum.

The Aygo is a fascinating car and one that looks exceptionally well placed to capitalise on our growing fascination with cheap, economical motoring. Marriage of convenience or otherwise, there's little doubt that compared to its French cousins, the Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1, the Aygo looks a more polished, mature product. The styling revisions made to all three models have only added to this impression.

A free year's Toyota Motor Insurance cover is being offered on all new Aygos ordered and registered by March 31, on top of current offers that already provide a �500 saving on the on-the-road price. There is no requirement for owners to have a no-claims bonus to qualify for the deal, but they must be aged 21 or older.


PRICE: �8,258 to �9,841 on the road

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 14.2 seconds; top speed 98mph

MPG: 62.8 combined

EMISSIONS: 106g/km


WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 3,415mm; width 1,615mm; height 1,415mm

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