Toyota Aygo review
It has striking looks, character and is fun to drive. But can the Toyota Aygo match the standards of the latest city cars?
The Toyota Aygo isn’t all that mechanically different from its predecessor, but its looks are refreshingly contemporary with a youthful slant.
There’s not much power or dynamic capability, and while improvements to the sound-deadening make the interior more refined at speed, it’s still some way short of the city car class leaders for motorway driving. Practicality also suffers thanks to the Aygo’s super-compact dimensions.
Yet the latest Aygo maintains the same sense of fun as before, and there are small but worthwhile technical improvements under the skin, including some significant advances in vehicle safety. Plus it’s super frugal, easy to personalise, and well-connected with the latest x-touch multimedia system. So it may only earn three stars from us, but if you like it - you’ll love it!
The original Toyota Aygo really popularised the now-standard formula for a city car - front-wheel drive, three-cylinder engine, a choice of three or five doors and space - just - for four adults. The first-generation car did this formula so well that it was a massive hit for Toyota, and the Japanese brand hasn't tinkered too much with the second-generation model.
Underneath the new car lies many of the mechanicals from the old model, giving it similar dimensions and an identical 1-litre, three-cylinder engine. The biggest upgrade has been to the styling and interior, and the new Aygo debuts with strking manga-inspired looks, and is loaded with new tech.
As with the old car, the Aygo is a joint development with PSA Peugeot Citroen, and the French companies produce the 108 and C1 sharing the same platform and mechanicals. There are more styling differences this time around, though, and the two French offerings also debut a new engine - a 1.2-litre turbocharged unit offering more power than Toyota's engine. There’s little of the radical or innovative fuel saving tech that some rivals employ underneath the Aygo’s skin. There’s not even a stop-start system available in the UK.
The conventional front-wheel-drive platform features MacPherson strut front suspension with a torsion beam rear set-up. While you get ventilated discs brakes at the front, the back end is braked by drums. Steering is by electric-assist rack and pinion.
So the models in the Aygo range are mechanically identical, starting with the entry-level x which features 14ins wheels, projector headlamps, LED DRLS, 2-speaker audio with USB connectivity and hill-start assist.
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The mid-range x-play model highlights include piano black finish for that big ‘X’ styling graphic emblazoned over the front of the car, a 4-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, steering wheel controls for audio and phone, air-con, a rev-counter, height adjustable driver’s seat and 50:50 split rear seat.
The x-pression adds 15ins alloys, more piano black exterior trim parts, fog lights, part-leather sports seats, the x-touch multimedia system with DAB and a rear view camera. For 2016 there's also an x-clusiv model, which adds everything but the kitch sink - albeit at a price.
There is a plethora of ‘personalisation’ options to choose from too, so it’s not surprising that Toyota has put together a trio of themed special editions to help encourage customers to make their minds up in the showroom. x-cite, x-pure and x-clusiv editions all offer exterior colour, style and kit packages that reflect their respective labels.
Aside from the various styling and equipment packages, the only significant options are the choice of three or five door body, a full-length ‘x-wave’ fabric roof, and the ‘x-shift’ automated manual gearbox.
Engines, performance and drive
Owners of the previous-generation Aygo will feel at home behind the wheel of the new model. For starters, the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is carried over from the old car with small but significant tweaks. Overall refinement is improved, but the engine has the same thrummy soundtrack and eager nature.
You can hear it so clearly because Toyota has done a better job at dampening wind and road noise. It's better at motorway speeds, but still falls some way behind cars such as the Hyundai i10 and VW Up! for long-distance refinement and comfort. The Aygo x-wave also loses out a little bit in terms of wind noise thanks to the cloth roof, but it's better than you'd expect.
Steering that’s 14 per cent sharper makes the Aygo ideal for darting around town, although at higher speeds there’s significant body roll. The pay-off for that is a supple ride over bumpy roads.
The steering is light and accurate, the Aygo turns into corners keenly and there’s decent grip. Body movement is better controlled in some rivals, but the Aygo fared well during our braking tests. Letting the side down is the notchy and reluctant manual gearbox shift action, which oddly isn't as pleasant as the previous-gen Aygo's, even though it’s supposed to have been upgraded.
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There may be only one petrol engine available to Aygo buyers, but luckily the 1.0-litre VVT-i unit is an enthusiastic performer that’s happy to rev, filling the cabin with a characterful three-cylinder noise. While some may find it intrusive, others will like the rorty tone. Indeed, Toyota engineers say positive customer feedback focused their minds on reducing road and wind noise, specifically so the engine – without getting any louder - could be heard better.
The pleasing tone is fortunate, as particularly long first and second gear ratios mean you need to rev the engine hard to produce power. But there’s plenty of performance for nipping around town and the revision in ratios means the engine does feel less strained at a sustained fast cruise, compared to its predecessor. The Aygo’s 69bhp is developed at 6,000rpm, and 95Nm of peak torque is delivered at 4,300rpm.
The x-shift automated manual has slightly shorter gear ratios, so feels as though it picks up speed quicker around town – it blips the throttle on downshifts, too. The official performance figures are pegged neck-and-neck for both transmissions though, as each version takes the Aygo from 0-62mph in 14.2secs. Maximum speed for both is 99mph.
Technical upgrades over previous versions of the 1.0 engine are focused on better combustion efficiency, reduced internal friction and exhaust gas flow optimisation. That means you get a new cylinder head with slightly higher compression, plus an exhaust gas recirculation system and freer-flowing catalytic converter among other detail changes.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Although the 1.0 VVT-i is fundamentally the same unit as used by the Toyota Aygo’s predecessor, it’s been re-engineered for the new model. A higher compression ratio of 11.5:1, a new low-friction timing chain and a cylinder head with built-in exhaust manifold to save weight have all helped to improve fuel efficiency and cut emissions.
The mods allow Toyota to boast of raising the engine’s thermal efficiency (the amount of the fuel’s energy it converts to power) to a class-leading 37 percent. That’s impressive, but it’s a cautionary thought that even in an economy-minded city car like this you’re losing 63 percent of the energy in your petrol tank to (mainly) waste heat and friction. And that’s in those rare moments when the engine is running at peak efficiency.
Still, the numbers look good. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions have improved by 3.3mpg to 69mpg and 4g/km to 95g/km of CO2 in the five-speed manual model, while the x-shift auto returns 67.3mpg and 97g/km.
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Everything qualifies for free ‘road tax’ thanks to emissions that put the Aygo in VED band A. You can also take advantage of Toyota’s attractive finance plans that will get you behind the wheel for less than £100 a month.
Perhaps the implied ‘youth’ appeal of its zingy styling makes a difference, but it’s more likely to be design details like those relatively expensive projector headlamps that mean the Toyota Aygo will cost you more to insure than some of its more staid-looking city car rivals.
The entry-level Aygo x is rated insurance group six, and the rest of the range falls into group seven.
By way of contrast the entry-level Hyundai i10 starts the bidding off with an impossible-to-beat insurance group one, while the Skoda Citigo, VW up! And SEAT Mii all undercut the Toyota’s group ratings too.
With Toyota expecting to sell a quarter of all European Aygos here in the UK, there isn’t likely to be a shortage of used models on the market.
In fact, there’s been a bit of downward pressure on city car values as a whole, as availability of used models increases. That said, because new prices are relatively low, any percentage shifts may not look too painful when converted to cold hard cash.
Still, some industry predictions have the Toyota Aygo faring worse than cars leaving the same Czech factory wearing Citroen or Peugeot badges. So you may well be looking at an average drop in value after three years of close to 70 percent for the entry-level Aygo, with the Peugeot sneaking-in under 60 percent, and the Citroen splitting the difference.
Interior, design and technology
Toyota has taken a bold approach with the Aygo, ditching the old car’s soft curves and rounded details in favour of sharp edges and eye-catching angles. Highlights include the swept-back headlamps, rising window line and tall tail-lights. The double-bubble roof panel is particularly eye-catching.
The same youthful approach continues inside, where there’s a gloss black dash finish and a large touchscreen infotainment system, plus a circular steering column-mounted pod that houses the speedo plus digital fuel and rev readouts. Yet while it appears modern and is solidly screwed together, the hard plastics on the dash and doors look and feel fairly cheap. Those details are mainly noticeable because the cabin as a whole is so much more sophisticated than the old car's - the penny-pinching trim predictably stands out.
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The big draw compared to rivals like the VW up! and Hyundai i10 is the funky design inside and out, and level of personalisation available on the Aygo. The Japanese hatch is emblazoned with a distinctive ‘X’ running from the A-pillars to the front grille – just one of a number of parts that can be swapped around in a variety of colours.
There’s the allure of that 'x-wave' retractable cloth roof for £850, and Toyota’s new x-touch smartphone-optimised infotainment system brings it bang up to date. Buyers can change the colour of the ‘X’, wheels and rear bumper, as well as a selection of snap-in interior parts. It’s a tactic designed to attract young, fashionable customers to the brand, and proves Toyota is trying to put an era of bland designs behind it.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
There are no complaints about the standard kit list, and x-pression cars benefit from air-con, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth. A real highlight is the x-touch multimedia system, which features an intuitive set-up that pairs quickly with a smartphone.
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Better still, if you’ve got an Android device, you can use the Mirrorlink function to duplicate your phone’s menus and graphics on the Toyota’s touchscreen. While the basic x model has USB connectivity for the stereo, you need to upgrade to the x-play for steering wheel audio controls.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The new Aygo is slightly longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, so looks a little less truncated from some angles, even though it has an identical wheelbase.
There are two bodystyles offering three or five doors, and the window/glass area differs between them. The five-door version’s side glass extends to meet the rear light clusters giving a sense of added length. Unfortunately it’s an illusion, and you shouldn’t be surprised to learn rear seat passenger comfort is not a strength in either Aygo version.
There is a pair of three-point seat-belts in the rear for adults, and no space for a third, but a pair of ISOFIX child seat mounts is standard in the back too.
The news is better up front, where the driver sits relatively high up with a good view out. There’s a reasonable range of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel – although not quite enough for taller drivers, who may struggle to get comfortable.
There are two cup holders, a good-sized glove box and door bins big enough to hold a 500ml bottle of water.
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The Aygo is a very compact car, so perfectly at home in the city where its dimensions make it a breeze to thread down side-streets and fit in even the smallest parking spaces.
It’s actually a few mm longer than the previous generation – 25mm to be exact – but 5mm lower. The front and rear tracks have been widened by 8mm to improve the stance, and while the wheelbase is the same as before at 2,340mm, Toyota has still managed to find an extra 9mm of cabin space. It’s still a smidge shorter than a Hyundai i10 or Skoda Citigo, but the trade-off in lost practicality is evident the moment you need to carry passengers or put luggage in the boot.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Front headroom has improved slightly, despite the lower roofline thanks to a curved ‘double-bubble’ roof and front seats lowered by 10mm. However, the small side windows at the back and high-backed front seats make the rear feel claustrophobic and legroom is seriously restricted even for smaller passengers. Rivals like the Hyundai i10 feel significantly roomier. The five-door model makes things easier for rear passengers to get in and out at least, which makes it the pick of the range.
The £850 'x-wave' option brings an electrically retractable folding roof that slides back to the rear headrests in around ten seconds, or bunches up halfway to act as a sunroof. If you look below the roofline, however, the Aygo's lines – and more importantly its passenger accommodation - are unaffected.
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The new Aygo makes the most of its compact dimensions with a deep but shallow boot that’s 29 litres bigger than its predecessor's at 168 litres – enough for a couple of suitcases or a set of golf clubs.
It will be fine for many owners’ purposes, but if cargo capacity is your main consideration, the Aygo does lose out badly to the Hyundai i10, VW Up, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii, all of which offer capacities north of 250 litres.
The design isn’t ideal either as there’s a fairly high lip between the boot floor and your luggage, and the rear seats – with optional split fold – don’t even lie flat, instead leaving an awkward step.
Reliability and Safety
A string of recalls has taken its toll on Toyota’s reputation for quality and durability. Yet while it slipped down to 17th place in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, owners rated its cars eighth for reliability in the 2015 poll.
On top of that, the Aygo feels robustly constructed, while the engine is based on the tried and tested unit used in the old car.
There was good news in the NCAP test results too, when the latest generation Aygo moved up – along with its Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 siblings – to a four star rating from its previous three stars. Adult and child occupant safety were both rated at 80 percent in their relevant tests. The four star rating puts the Toyota in the top rank in the city car class – a class where financial restraints mean fewer active and electronic safety aids are typically deployed, limiting the scope for 5-star awards.
That said, all versions of the Aygo get four airbags, Isofix child seat mountings, stability control and tyre pressure monitoring, while you can spec-up on options like the range-topping x-clusiv special edition’s reversing camera and automatic lights.
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The Toyota Aygo comes with a five-year warranty - and a 100,000 mileage limit – that will bring valuable piece of mind to anyone considering holding onto their car for a while. The offer beats the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 by two years, in spite of the fact they’re built in the same plant.
Toyota also offers a strong three year paint defect warranty, and 12 years anti-corrosion cover – although you’d need to be dedicated to keep the dealer inspections up to date that long.
The Toyota Aygo requires a major service every 20,000 miles, with a first intermediate service at 10,000 miles and at subsequent 10k intervals in-between the majors.
The fixed price dealer services are £99 and £179 respectively, and you can pay up front using one of the dealer service plans, or even spread the cost with monthly instalments.
Service costs are comparable to the Hyundai i10 which costs from £349 for three years inclusive maintenance, but less than the VW up! which costs from £16 per month – equal to £576 over three years.