Toyota chose Rome for the international press launch of their new Aygo baby car for two good reasons. One is Rome’s legendary traffic density - though the traffic is far better managed than that in Dublin. The other is that Rome is THE small-car city of Europe. More smarts are sold in Rome than anywhere else, for example - while the most popular vehicle of all seems to be a 400 cc scooter!
The Aygo is a co-production with PSA Peugeot/Citroen, whose cars are called respectively 107 and C1.The partners setup a new production company on a green-field site at Kolin, 60 km outside Prague in the Czech Republic. When in full production next year, the factory will produce 300,000 cars per annum, one third for Toyota and two thirds divided between Peugeot and Citroen. Some external details apart – front face particularly - the cars are otherwise identical. In the partnership, Toyota is responsible for production and the petrol engine, while PSA supplies the diesel engine and handles procurement. Initially, only the 1.0-litre petrol-engined car will come to Ireland when the vehicle is launched in September, while a decision will be taken about the 1.4-litre HDi diesel later. This is a new petrol engine, developed in conjunction with Daihatsu. It produces 68 bhp, is built completely of aluminium and at67 kg, is claimed to be the lightest car engine in the world at present. It can be bought with either a traditional 5-speed manual gearbox or with a multi-mode semi-automatic transmission.
The Aygo is built in both three-door or five-door body styles and itis really a matter of personal preference as to which model to purchase. Both versions will be offered here by Toyota Ireland. The Aygo is a small car but its upright design makes it quite spacious, not to mention the fact that the wheels are pushed out to the very extremities of the body. It is easily possible to fit two tall adults into the rear but knee-room is limited, particularly for the long-limbed. The boot is really very small and no serious shopping could be considered unless one was able to tip up the rear seats, which makes a decent amount of room available. The rear seat is split 50:50, so one person plus goods can be carried in the back if required. Toyota is aiming this car at trendy youngsters in large urban areas and has decided to take an unconventional approach towards marketing its new baby. Publicity will be found in music magazines; shown at stands at music festivals and by cheeky words and graphics on T-shirts. No effort will be made to sell it to senior citizens, who usually buy a reasonable percentage of small cars. From the car’s friendly face to the funky interior, the ambience is welcoming.
As the car is quite high, it is very easy to enter, even for the tall. The elevated driving position is a boon also, as the driver has a very good view of the road. As well as helping visibility, this also makes things less stressful when you are behind the wheel. Only black point here is that a very thick C-pillar makes the three-quarter rear view problematic from the driver’s seat. Although one may look askance at having only 68 bhp under the bonnet, the fact that the car is cleverly built makes it very light, just 830kg, in fact. This results in a very good power-to-weight ratio. In turn, this means that performance in the city is quite peppy. Furthermore, the car was well able to hold its own on the fast Autostrada around Rome.
As with most modern 3-cylinder engines, this one is always willing to rev and gives the feeling of being completely unburstable. Other benefits are that the fuel-consumption figures, even when driving hard once dense traffic was left behind, are extremely good and emissions are getting very close to those achieved by the hybrid engined Prius though the latter is a much larger car, of course. The 5-speed manual gearbox has a very slick change and the multi-mode version, after a very short period of acclimatisation, was easy to use and mostly jerkless. No doubt, regular owners would master the art of having completely “nod-free” shifts. Taken off the Autostrada and on to country roads, the ride was good for what is a small, light car. The suspension works well and passenger comfort remains acceptable at all times, though clearly the ride is on the hard side, which is felt on poor road surfaces.
Relatively narrow, high profile tyres certainly help here but there is no sign that they have an adverse effect on handling and road holding, which remain good at all times. There are several curious things about the Aygo, not least of which is that there is not one storage area in the cabin, which has a cover or lid. However, the simplicity of the dashboard shows how all the things necessary for a contented motoring life can be arranged. There is only one instrument-- a very large circular speedometer directly in front of the steering wheel, though if you buy the sport version you get a rev counter out on a separate stalk. The ventilation controls are simplicity itself to use -- a/c was included on the test cars – but don’t hold your breath to see it on cars from the Irish importer!
However, you don’t have to look too carefully to see the cost-cutting measures that have been necessary to build the car for a price, which will be low enough to attract young people on main European markets.(Ireland’s stupid VRT will ensure that young Irish people still risk their lives in highly modified 1993 Nissan Micras and the like, instead of driving a small car built to the very latest safety standards.) The thin-skinned doors shut with a metallic clang, and the tailgate is just a lift-up piece of glass. This means that you have to heave your luggage over a very high lip, all the more reason to buy a five-door version and there are quite a few exposed bolts on view in the cabin. Indeed, if your car has electric windows, you cannot open the passenger one from the driver’s seat.
Engine 998cc 3-cyl, 68bhp, 93Nm torque
Boot Capacity 139-litres
Acceleration 0-100km/h 14.2 secs
Top Speed 157km/h
Price €12,500 est
Transmission Five-speed manual, front wheel drive
Economy 4.6 litres/100km (61mpg)