The Toyota Aygo has been setting the standard in the budget city car class for nearly six years. With its lightweight construction, dinky dimensions and frugal three-cylinder engine, it could have been a template for the bold new Volkswagen.
Despite its advancing years, the Aygo still looks the part. A mix of soft curves and rounded lines means the cheeky Toyota isn’t as modern as the sharply edged up!, yet it still has plenty of visual impact. The car in our pictures is a five-door model, but it’s virtually identical to the three-door tested. Our range-topping G0! version features 14-inch alloys and tinted rear windows.
The eye-catching cabin has an attractively styled dashboard and plenty of exposed metal trim, which creates a bright and cheerful atmosphere. As you’d expect from a Toyota, the interior is robustly built, but the plastics feel a little low-rent. Other clues to the car’s entry-level status include the pop-out rear windows and manual mirrors.
Still, you benefit from lots of standard equipment, including Bluetooth, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a neatly integrated TomTom sat-nav that folds out of the dash. Occupants get a decent amount of space, although taller passengers will find the rear seats cramped on longer journeys.
The one-piece glass tailgate helps to keep the Aygo’s weight down, but it opens to reveal a cramped 139-litre boot – easily the smallest here. Still, lowering the split-fold rear bench increases capacity to 751 litres. Plus, the car’s practicality is further boosted by the option of a five-door version.
Despite having the least power of our quartet, the 67bhp Toyota put in a remarkably strong showing at the test track. Thanks in no small part to a low 800kg kerbweight, it sprinted from 0-60mph in 12.3 seconds, which is only 1.4 seconds slower than the Kia managed.
On the road, the Aygo has no problem keeping up with its rivals. The thrummy three-cylinder engine is a smooth and eager performer, while the five-speed gearbox has a slick shift action. Also, the light controls, excellent visibility and compact dimensions make this car an effortless inner-city companion.
What’s more, get past the slightly woolly steering and you’ll find the Toyota’s wheel-at-each-corner stance delivers nimble and balanced handling. Only a relative lack of refinement lets it down. Noise levels are higher than in the VW, while large bumps and potholes upset the otherwise composed ride.
But these are all minor issues when you take into account the Aygo’s cheeky character, low running costs and versatile interior. So has it done enough to stay ahead of its newer rivals?
Chart position: 4
WHY: The cut-price Toyota city car makes a virtue of its low-budget roots. Not only is it affordable to buy, it’s also fun to drive and stylish to look at.