Vauxhall Agila 1.2 club

The latest baby from Vauxhall hits UK soil with sharp styling and a new identity.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The new Agila is a massive improvement on the outgoing model, and a welcome addition to the city car class. Its sharp styling and excellent road manners bring Vauxhall’s smallest offering bang up to date. The only real problems are the costly diesel model, and the Suzuki Splash. The Agila shares its underpinnings with the Japanese newcomer, but is more expensive. It’s still a talented and attractive choice, though.

Small cars with economical engines and low emissions are big news right now – and that’s just perfect for Vauxhall’s all-new Agila.

The fresh model is completely different to its boxy predecessor, and looks set to be a genuine contender in the city car class. We’ve already been impressed with it on European roads (Issue 1,000), so we couldn’t wait to try it on congested British streets.

The outgoing Agila was essentially a rebadged Suzuki Wagon R+, and the new model is following on in that trend, because it’s almost identical to Suzuki’s recently launched Splash.

It still boasts five doors, but within a shell that’s easier on the eye, with a more aerodynamic profile. Inside, there are sharp, two-tone colour schemes and neat touches such as a MINI-style rev counter sprouting from the dashboard on all but entry-level Expression models. However, the hard plastic trim takes the gloss off the overall effect.

The cabin is designed to appeal not only to traditional Agila buyers, but also a new, younger and – according to the marketing types – mainly female audience. However, the attention to details falls down in one area, as activating the indicator stalk produces an irritatingly loud audio tone.

Longer

The new Agila is 20cm longer than its predecessor at slightly more than 3.7 metres. Yet it offers a surprising amount of room inside, particularly in the back, where two adults can travel in comfort. The rear is likely to be used by younger passengers, though, so three seats and belts are provided.

The boot is comparable with its competitors’, and Club and Design models include a useful false floor. They also get a 60/40 split fold rear seat, which extends carrying capacity when flat to a handy 1,050 litres.

There are three engines to choose from. The 64bhp 1.0-litre petrol and the 74bhp 1.3-litre diesel sit right on the 120g/km limit for reduced road tax. However, Vauxhall expects the 85bhp 1.2-litre petrol to account for most sales, and in manual form it returns CO2 emissions of 131g/km.

It’s not hard to see why the bigger engine will be the most popular choice, because the 1.0-litre unit is merely adequate, and the diesel (a first in the Agila range) is simply too expensive. The 1.3-litre CDTI is borrowed from the Corsa supermini, and the 74bhp unit is sluggish when compared with the lively 1.2 petrol powerplant.

It’s out on the road where the new Agila has made most progress. While the old car was basic transport, it’s now very easy – and fun – to drive, whether on city streets or twisting country routes. The four-cylinder petrol engine is eager, if a bit loud on the motorway, and the gearshift on manual cars is slick and assured.

The cheapest Agila is the 1.0-litre Expression at £7,595, but you need to pay £8,895 for a 1.2-litre Club to get extra kit including six airbags, instead of four, MP3 capability on the stereo and electric windows.

Vauxhall expects this will prove to be the most popular trim level in the line-up, and it also includes steering wheel audio controls and heated electric door mirrors.

However, if you’re going to add all the toys, it’s worth looking instead at the Suzuki Splash. It works out cheaper than the Vauxhall, particularly when you factor in the Electronic Stability Program, which is standard on the Japanese car, yet a £400 option on the Agila. But the Vauxhall is still an excellent choice with plenty of appeal for small car buyers.

RIVAL: VW Fox The Fox lacks the visual appeal of the Agila, but it’s bigger and its four-seat layout makes for impressive interior room. It’s also solidly built with effective, economical engines and good road manners for a comparable price. Its residuals are also likely to be better than the Agila’s.

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