Slick gearbox, funky design and great fun to drive with impressive fuel economy
Welcome to economy class! The latest addition to the Auto Express fleet may be small, but as the Toyota Aygo is one of the lowest-priced new cars on sale, it's perfect for bargain-hunters. Yet can cheap be cheerful? It's my mission to count the costs of budget motoring over the next 12 months...
First impressions are vital, and what immediately struck me about the Aygo is its size - it's tiny! The swooping headlamps, distinctive grille and rounded tail-light clusters are smart, and the Toyota certainly looks better than the bulbous Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107, with which it shares most components.
Behind the wheel, the Aygo is roomy, even for tall drivers, while build quality appears to be up to Toyota's usual high standards - it will be interesting to see if the Czech-made city car can maintain the firm's solid reputation over the coming year.
On my 90-mile round trip to our office in London, I've been pleasantly surprised by the Aygo. As my route includes a lot of dual carriageways, I was worried the 1.0-litre engine would be slow and sluggish, but it has proved revvy and responsive, thanks in part to the Aygo's light weight.
The Toyota may not be the fastest car, but it keeps up with traffic well. And although the three-cylinder unit is a bit loud, it isn't particularly tiring; the CD player has an MP3 connection, so you can drown out any drone with your favourite tunes.
Gradual uphill slopes see the Aygo lose momentum, but the slick-shifting five-speed box is good to use, and a quick downchange soon gets the Toyota back up to pace. A blend of fast roads and city traffic has resulted in economy of 46.7mpg in the car's first 2,000 miles - we hope to get closer to the 61.4mpg official combined figure in time.
There are some criticisms, though. The Aygo's boot is minuscule, the load lip high, the opening narrow and the glass tailgate flimsy. There's no glovebox, while the rear windows are pop-out items and the interior light only illuminates if the driver's door is open. I know the car has been built to a budget, but this cost-cutting is a bit too obvious.
Still, the Aygo's frugal economy and neat cabin are appealing. It will be interesting to see if the cheap seats offer as much entertainment as larger, more luxurious machines in the months ahead.
Having covered a lot of miles in an Aygo last year, I was happy to see one join our fleet. It's the simplicity of the driving experience that appeals. While the Toyota isn't as practical as some rivals, I like the interior design and the clever use of materials. It's basic, but it feels well built and I think the little three-cylinder engine adds character.
- On fleet since: March 2006
- Price when new: £7,460
- Running costs: 23.1ppm
- Mileage: 2,007/46.7