Toyota has rediscovered its verve in recent years. A point proven no better than by the GR Yaris, a genuine 10/10 hot hatchback that couldn t be much further in spirit from the actually-quite-good-too Yaris Hybrid.
So where does that leave the little Aygo, once the doyen of the city car world (until the VW Up turned up ) and formerly the only piece of funk you d find in the whole Toyota range? Well, it s soldiering on, 15 years from its first conception and six years on from a major update and vast facelift in 2014.
It continues to be built in the same Czech factory as the original, still alongside the Citroen C1 and the Peugeot 108, which share its engine, chassis and, most importantly, the costs of designing and building it. When they arrived in the mid 2000s they were a revolution, breathing new life into a corner of the market that s since gained the Up (and its Mii and Citigo siblings, wonder where that idea came from ) as well as the Fiat 500. All of which are now broadly plug-in offerings, rivalling fully electric contenders such as the Honda e.
Which all rather makes the once revolutionary Aygo seem a little old-hat, powered purely by 1.0-litre petrol engines. It now only comes in five-door form, too, and with an entry price north of 12,000, you get a handful of modern tech as standard, where the original Aygo launched below seven grand with suspending string on only one side of its parcel shelf to pinch as many pennies as possible. So you now get air con, smartphone integration, a reversing camera and basic active safety stuff including lane departure warning as standard. Though for anyone missing the days of a proper windy-windowed, black-bumpered budget special, then rest assured base Aygos have steel wheels with plastic caps, while everything north of 14,000 in the range gets alloys.
There s no hybridisation available here making this the only Toyota that isn t a sports car, Hilux or Land Cruiser without the option but the engine itself has had a fair bit of attention since launch to keep it nice and efficient. The Aygo s last update saw the 1.0-litre VVTi three-cylinder get a miniscule power boost up 2bhp, bringing it to 71bhp and a handful of mechanical changes: a new fuel injection system, reshaped combustion chambers, a new exhaust gas recirculation system and a new balancer shaft, all in the name of increased efficiency. Toyota also added additional sound deadening panels to the back of the dashboard, the inside of the doors and the windscreen pillars, too, in an effort to make the Aygo more refined at cruising speeds.
Toyota also frequently adds special editions to the Aygo range, the latest being the grey n orange JBL Edition which you see here. It s two grand more than a basic Aygo and comes with a whopping great stereo (by tiddly car standards ) thrown in, among other options. The subwoofer is so big it s turfed out the spare wheel, which is replaced by a tyre repair kit.
Enough to keep Toyota s most wee car relevant in a corner of the market undergoing an electrical revolution?
Toyota Aygo Engines, Performance & Driving
Small cars are designed and built on tiny budgets because the return on that investment is so small. It stands to reason – no matter how many Aygos you flog, you re not going to make as much profit as if you were selling the same number of a bigger car.
The surprise, then, is that Toyota didn t just add retina-troubling new paint options and minor styling tweaks with the Aygo s last facelift, but it has also had a go at the steering and suspension to make the Aygo sharper to drive, something we suspect most owners will never even notice.
The electrically boosted steering has been given new software, while the dampers and springs of the suspension have had a bit of a tweak and the result is rather good, actually.
Okay, we re not talking GR Yaris or GT86 levels of fun here, but the Aygo s steering is well-weighted, quite quick and tells you at least a little of what s happening under the tyres. Meanwhile the suspension does a pretty good job of balancing the need for the Aygo to be good at dealing with city centre lumps and craters (which is, after all, its defining purpose) and yet being stable and sure-footed on bigger roads (which isn t, really, the point).
The 1.0-litre engine is game, too; 71bhp isn t bad for a tiny unit like this, and as with almost all three-cylinder engines, it revs with a fizzy enthusiasm. The 0-62mph time of 13.8 seconds means you re in danger of being overtaken by erosion if you re on a coastal road, but once on the move it s fine.
Toyota Aygo Interior Layout & Technology
Ah, if only the Aygo s cabin looked and felt as sophisticated as the chassis and steering. Remember we said that this was a car that, in its fundamental form, had been around since 2005? Well inside, it really shows.
The main instrument binnacle tries to ape the Fiat 500 s all-in-one layout, and it has been jazzed up a little by giving the big analogue speedo a jet-turbine style background, but the central digital display looks like a cheap watch and it s certainly not what you d call inspiring.
Things liven up a bit if you look to the centre of the dash, because there you ll find a smart seven-inch touchscreen, built for Toyota by audio experts Pioneer. It s a neat unit, which looks nice and works well especially given how quickly it hooks up to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and in really high-def, too so millennials can minimise the seconds spent away from their Spotify playlists.
The front seats are good, with tolerable comfort and support, but the rest of the cabin is a bit of a let-down. You can liven things up, if you like, with some body-coloured panels, but for the most part it s just a small box filled with cheap grey plastic.
And it s really small – legroom in the back is tight for anyone who s outgrown Pok mon, and the boot – at 168 litres – is properly tiny, almost 100 litres smaller than you ll find in the back of a Volkswagen Up or a Kia Picanto. The way the doors clang shut is hardly confidence-inspiring, either.
On the upside, the extra sound-deadening work has been successful, and the Aygo is quite refined at a 70mph cruise. You d not really mind taking it on a long motorway journey, so long as you re not sat in the back.
And as for that optional JBL stereo? Well, it s decent, but the Aygo doesn t feel like the best environment for it to be punching out in. Pop your fancy home cinema system in a shed and it won t sound at its best. But the orange flashes it brings to both interior and exterior sit right at home in a cheap n cheerful prospect like this, and the rest of the upgrade (nicer alloys and automatic air con) probably justify the price premium as much as the punchier audio.
Toyota Aygo Price, Running Costs & MPG
All that cheapness and smallness in the cabin does fade into the background a bit when you remember the two salient facts about the Aygo. One, it s going to be seriously cheap to run. Two, it s a Toyota so it s probably never going to break.
The Aygo (and its Citroen and Peugeot relations) have strong showings in the various reliability surveys, and the fact a lot of the interior can trace its roots back to 2005 proves not only that they know how to screw it together very well, but also that there won t be swathes of tech to go wrong. If the worst does happen, you ve got a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty backing you up.
Toyota claims 56.6mpg and 114g/km of CO2 emissions on the WLTP cycle. Which aren t jaw-dropping nowadays, but with no turbos or electrification to skew the results in tests, they ll both be eminently realistic and achievable too.
Is a purely petrol engine with no mild-hybrid assistance, like even the outgoing Fiat 500 and Panda offer cool? Well, when your car weighs less than 900 kilos, like this Aygo does (even with a thumping subwoofer on board), then a weeny petrol engine is all you need to achieve 50mpg when you re not trying, and closer to 60 when you are. For those latching onto the scaremongering headlines about electric cars only by 2030! and the like, you can see the appeal in a cheap (ish), simple car like this.
Verdict on the Toyota Aygo
If you re expecting the Aygo s smallness and cheapness to make it dreary, then you might be surprised to learn it s quite good fun to drive.
The chassis and steering are far more game than they ve any right to be in a car this budget-centric. You can really feel the age of the basic design in the cabin, though, and that, alongside the tiny boot, puts it behind the likes of the Volkswagen Up, Suzuki Ignis and the Hyundai i10.
Indeed, the Aygo s big issue is how much the class of cars around it have moved on in recent years. With limited passenger and boot space and zero electrification options, it s a little old-hat compared to the vast majority of its rivals. But it ll be pennies to run and if weeness isn t a problem and perhaps, in fact, a virtue if you re new to driving, or someone who only ever travels alone then there s plenty to like here.
Source : Topgear.com/car-reviews/toyota/aygo