WORDS: Mike Humble
PICTURES: Jacky Lawler
Little cars have never really been my kind of bag really. I experimented with a slightly customised Austin Mini that had been re-engined with a 1275cc plant in my mid 20s and the whole experience left me cold – quite literally… as it froze me solid in the winter and point blank refused to behave when it was damp. The super-mini sector has never been more important to car manufacturers as buyers downsize in the name of economy as cost, as a result, you no longer have to compromise between comfort and user friendliness. After driving a few UK built Toyota vehicles, just out of interest, I thought it would be good to see how overseas built examples stack up in terms of quality and ability.
The all new Aygo which originally was a joint venture with PSA (Citroen C1 & Peugeot 107) has recently gone through a significant update along with a current memorable T.V commercial making great play on the term – FUN. When the vehicle arrived at my office, I wasn’t exactly side splitting with mirth at this little quirky styled 3 door hatchback – the 1.0 X Play. The word that springs to mind is “happy” – yep, that’s what it is – a very happy looking car. Also, its very nicely nailed together too – which in fairness is everything you would expect of a Toyota, a nice blemish free silver paint and close and even fitting panels. Remote central locking is standard and once plipping the button to gain entry, the “happy” theme is continued on the inside.
The 1.0 X-Play comes well appointed with items such as electric windows, air conditioning, DAB & multi media audio and heated / electric mirrors. The miniscule exterior dimensions actually hide what is a very space efficient interior once you clamber inside. You have decent door pockets, cup holders, oddment space and trinket holes down on the floor along with a fair sized glovebox. Right ahead of you is a simple yet very stylish instrument binnacle of the same essence as an old Fiat 500 that contains a neat vertical L.E.D rev counter. In the centre of the dashboard is a very bold looking screen which is part of the trip computer and audio system. The graphics of this are multi coloured and smile inducing – especially in standby mode when a large image of a digital clock appears with digits that flip over akin to a bedside clock radio.
The high backed drivers seat is well trimmed in a two tone cloth, height adjustable and slides forward helping passengers gain access to the pair of rear seats. It’s a good driving position and the seat is comfortable looking quite sporting on a first look, but the side bolsters are way too soft and its easy to find yourself slipping sideways during tight or spirited corners. Also, the mirror adjusting button is a long stretch away and the window controls don’t illuminate at night – the glove box lacks any night time lighting too. The pedals are light in action with the clutch only requiring a few inches to press fully with no “offset” noticeable on the brake or throttle positioning. Plenty of headroom and lofty seating is spot on for driving in the urban jungle and the Aygo also had pretty good visibility front and rear with few serious blind spots.
The chunky steering wheel was leather trimmed and positioned dead ahead for the driver, its height adjustable too moving up and down only in unison with the instrument binnacle. Around the town, the perky 1.0 VVTi bumbles along merrily with a distinct 3 cylinder off-beat thrum – only when idling can you feel the distinct lack of an even number of pistons and even then its not offensive. The brakes are fine and sharp and the electric steering is light and quick and still retains a little bit of feel at the rim unlike some rivals that can feel like an arcade game. Owing to the short wheel base, the low speed ride can be a little choppy and bouncy on rough roads, but the firm suspension pays off with decent handling further up the speed range. Venture out into the big wide free world the Aygo remains a jolly little car.
Drive the car hard and the thrum turns into a growl that induces a smile on your face. The five speed gearbox changes with a little imprecision but the action is short and light – allied to the light clutch you can make some really snappy changes if you’re in a hurry. Right footed progress can best be described as adequate though the 1.0 3 potter pulls quite well from lower revs considering the ratios are quite high for such a small car and engine. Motorway cruising is fairly relaxing as the choppiness of the ride is much better at speed and 70mph shows just 3200rpm on the LED bar graph rev counter. There is some road and suspension noise in the background but should an emergency long distance journey be required with the Aygo – you wont find it a let down on a longer journey.
So what we have overall?
Well, it’s a chirpy cheeky little car that doesn’t quite excel in any area but neither does it bitterly let you down. You have plenty of space with not an inch wasted, there’s a little boot that’s just enough for two with rear backs that fold down. In most cases it’s refined and the build quality is pretty good despite plenty of painted metal and hard plastic on display. It handles very tidily with nice weighted steering, has strong brakes, plenty of visibility, is well appointed, has a keen price tag (under £10K) and amazing fuel economy to tempt the city dweller inside. Only the lack of side bolster support and optimistically high transmission gearing spoils the driving package in my view, but in its defence, it’s a city car not a track car. Sure it has plenty of rivals snapping at its heels such as the Hyundai i10 and MG3, but the Aygo in my view roundly trounces both in terms of quality, brand perception , residual value and that all important customer confidence.
The HUMBLE opinion:
A very likeable car!
The Aygo sits in a crowded marketplace so is unlikely to take the sales by storm, but its bound to make an impression partly due to the current imaginative T.V commercial. I found the car everything you would expect of a modern Toyota, namely… well built, easy to operate, good value for money and almost guaranteed to run the distance – most things of paramount importance to a small car buyer. Rock solid four square dealers and a keen price put the icing on the cake for what is a really enjoyable little car – some rivals may be cheaper but the Toyota Aygo X-Play is good value for money besides being much less of a risk than other small cars on the market. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, low emissions and the ability to put a smile on your face – its certainly worth considering.
OUR RATING: 8/10
The Low Down
Toyota Aygo X-Play 1.0 3dr
Engine / Geabox: 998cc 12v triple / 5 speed transmission
Power / Torque: 69bhp / 95Nm
Fuel Economy / Co2: 68.9mpg (63mpg on test)
Brakes: Disc & drum with lever park brake & ABS / EBD
Suspension / Steering: All round coils / EPAS Steering
Insurance Group: 7E
VED Banding: Group A
POINTS TO COMMEND: Clever use of space – Good overall build quality – Nice to drive – Motorway refinement – Well equipped – Cute and friendly styling – Good manufacturer warranty and back up – Fuel economy – Keenly priced.
RESERVATIONS: Gear ratios optimistically high – Front seat bolster support almost non existent – Engine a touch noisy when hurried – Some ergonomic niggles – Gearshift quality is imprecise and notchy when cold – Sits in a very crowded market place.