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Vauxhall Agila

We've already been impressed by the Suzuki Splash. Can Vauxhall improve on the package?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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The Agila captures perfectly the funky, small city car image with its sharp looks and lively interior. Cabin space is at a premium, but foldable rear seats and masses of headroom make the most of what little room there is. The revvy engine suits the motor’s character and handling is sharp, while supple suspension and a comfortable ride belie its size. This market segment is growing rapidly, and Vauxhall is clearly on to a winner here.

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Small motors are big news! And as our towns grow ever larger, it’s the most compact that are setting the pace in both practicality and popularity. The city car sector, which includes models such as the Fiat Panda and Ford Ka, has expanded dramatically. Now Vauxhall is tackling the competition head on, with its all-new Agila looking for a slice of the action.

Developed alongside the Suzuki Splash, which we drove for the first time last week, the new model is a radical departure from the original.

It’s 20 centimetres longer and six centimetres wider, but has youthful, cheeky looks. With crisp bodywork and a sporty silhouette, especially with the optional 15-inch alloys, the car certainly turns heads. The bumper and tailgate are very much in line with the Corsa, while the nose gets Vauxhall’s distinctive V-shaped grille.

The overall effect creates a car that’s clearly working hard to appeal to fashion-conscious drivers. Climb on board, and the dashboard – which is lifted from the Splash – is neat and functional. Highlights include a pod-mounted rev counter and oversized speedo. The arrangement is clearly reminiscent of the new MINI, and is well executed throughout.

These touches, along with Agila- embossed fabric on the seats, add enough character to divert your eyes from the sea of rock-hard plastics that spoil the appeal of the other-wise upmarket cabin. Impressively, the Agila makes the most of its modest dimensions. There is enough room for five adults on a short trip, with generous headroom creating the illusion of a much more spacious cabin.

In the back, you’ll find a 225-litre load bay, with extra storage under the hinged boot floor. Fold the rear seats flat, and 1,050 litres becomes available. An optional powered tailgate is also a first in this class.

Based on Suzuki’s excellent Swift, the Agila proves perfect for darting in and out of traffic. But it’s the smooth ride that takes centre stage.

Whether soaking up bumps on rough city streets or cruising along on the motorway, the supple suspension gives the feel of a much larger vehicle. Both petrol engines on offer are supplied by Suzuki – we tried the 1.2-litre model with 85bhp, and this eager, rev-happy powerplant perfectly suits the chassis’ swift reflexes. Add this to the ultra-light pedal and steering actions, and driving in frustrating stop-start traffic quickly becomes fun, instead of the usual chore.

There is also a three-cylinder 64bhp 1.0-litre petrol unit, and for diesel fans, a 1.3-litre CDTI from the Corsa with 74bhp. Both of these units emit only 120g/km of CO2.

A choice of three trim levels is on offer. The entry-level Expression spec, which is only available on the 1.0-litre, comes with ABS, a stereo CD player and body-coloured bumpers, and costs an attractive £7,595.

Vauxhall expects the Club trim to be the biggest seller in the line-up, as it’s offered with all three engines. It adds steering wheel audio controls, heated electric door mirrors and the extra storage beneath the boot. Prices here range from £8,495 up to £10,495 for the diesel version.

Top-spec Design trim, as on our test car, is reserved for only the 1.2-litre petrol and oil-burner variants. Here, prices start at £9,595 and rise to £11,195. An automatic gearbox can be added as a £1,000 alternative to the five-speed manual, but this is only available on the 1.2-litre model.

Overall, the Agila is a polished effort from GM, even if plays it safe. However, the model does demonstrate a great awareness of what the modern city customer wants. Stay away from the unnecessarily expensive and sluggish diesel engine, and the agile Agila is a sensible, entertaining choice.
 

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