2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i review

This week DTW has the new Toyota Aygo on test. Launched at the 2014 Geneva motor show, it´s only just arrived on the market. So, how did the car fare during a punishing three day investigation involving child-seats, sand and small pebbles?

2014 Toyota Aygo: it´s small but is it practical?
2014 Toyota Aygo: it´s small but is it practical?

The technicalities.
The engine is the 59 HP 1.0 VVTi in-line three pot. The “VVT” part stands for variable valve timing which has been around since 1996. The bore and stroke are 71 mm and 84 mm respectively. The Aygo comes with stop-start technology and this functioned well enough for me to learn to trust it. It can start the car faster than I could and this eliminated a lot of useless idling while waiting at lights.  Simply stop the car, take your foot off the clutch and the engine cuts. When you stand on the clutch again the engine fires up…and off you go. The rest of the engineering details are at the automatic washer-drier level and I will scoot past them. But it has rear drum brakes, I note.

2014 Toyota Aygo front head on

Appearances
We´re in the era of cars as marketing and the Aygo, as a value-led proposition, is all about customisation and personalisation … just like a 1960s Mustang, but with a very much smaller engine. Toyota make a big deal of the number of variations available and there are lots and lots and lots of them.  The rental firm who provided this car served up a black on white version, which reminded me of the 1986 Alfa Romeo 75 which also had a thick slather of plastic stretching from nose to tail. I don´t find the possibility of personalisation all that appealing.  I want useful choice, thanks. What matters to me is the car underneath: is it any good or not? I hope  one can walk into a Toyota showroom and pay someone to tick the boxes so as to speed one’s exit from the premises without having to assess 3938497 possible combinations. Choosing between three colours of plastic exterior trim alone would give me a nose bleed.

The car´s styling is striking but also very post-modern. This not a minimal car in the VW Up mould. Form and function have parted company at Toyota. Most of the black graphics at the front are decorative (see the photo below). The rear is more convincing and I rather like it. If some people find the severity of the Up! family more appealing I could well understand.

That´s a lot of make-up.
That´s a lot of make-up.

Which version, sir?
Today´s car is the x-play version; base models don´t get the split-folding seats and rev-counter. The rental firm had added some options such as the reversing camera and alloy wheels. That made this car somewhat different from the UK models, being somewhere between the second and third of five trim levels (from £9800 to £11,000). Compared to a larger car, I missed nothing except a decent ashtray. Maybe one-hit electric window controls might have been nice for the driver´s side. The rear windows are of the push-out type, a solution I remember from someone´s Corolla in the 70s. So Toyota do respect tradition after all.

That console is not really needed. I´d like to see it gone. And the sockets are ugly.
That console is not really needed. I´d like to see it gone. And the sockets are ugly. But someone did a good job on those air-vent surrounds.

Comfort and space?
It´s been at least fifteen years since I drove something so small: that was a Smart car which had no back seats at all. And no boot. Since then I have been living it up in in mid-size cars and bigger. So, there was a little acclimatisation to do but not much. The rear seats

Daft graphics.
Daft graphics.

of the Aygo are quite acceptable for children in terms of space. But they may dislike the consequences of the high, rising waistline (see the photo below). They don´t have a good view out sideways and see nothing in front but the gap between the front seats and a lot of grey upholstery. I sat in the back and found the side-glass so small as to be reminiscent of the window of a jet airplane. The next thing to note is the very tiny boot. Toyota UK quote the volume with luggage packed up to the roof as being 198 litres. I think few will like driving with the rear window obscured. If you pack to the level of the top of the rear seat there´s 168 litres, enough to hold one medium sized wheelie suitcase and some small squashy things jammed around it. With the rear seats down, two adults could, however, pack enough for a driving holiday and even take back some souvenirs.

Trikes require a lot of space.
Trikes require a lot of space.

The front seats are comfortable though I am dead average in size and weight, note. The height and tilt-angle of the base adjust in a combined movement (shades of the Peugeot 604?) while the speedo and steering column can be tilted up and down thought not so very much – was it really worth it to engineer eight degrees of motion? Ergonomically nothing stood out, barring the juvenile graphics of the dash-mounted screen. The clock graphic has the image of reflections and looks to be angled to the driver.  If this could be changed I didn´t find out how. The HVAC controls, while not exactly butter-smooth, made sense and I liked the fact they were mechanical. If you turn up the air flow to full-blast the air-vent can be made to whistle at tremendous volume. It was very confusing but a quick twiddle of the eye-ball-style vent made the noise go away.

The white part is metal and the fit of the plastic trim is so tight it looks to be painted on. Impressive.
The white part is metal and the fit of the plastic trim is so tight it looks to be painted on. Impressive.
This window line is too high for small folk. It would be nicer if lowered to where the orange line is. Opel do it that way,
This window line is too high for small folk. It would be nicer if lowered to where the orange line is. Opel do it that way,

Driving
The car is nimble with a decent ride. I was impressed at the car´s grip and willingness to be chucked around tight corners. The vehicle´s construction is such that it feels tightly screwed together but the absence of sound-proofing somewhere under the body work means you hear the thumps of the road and the engine roars loudly when you accelerate from stand-still. It should be borne in mind that the engine actually sounds alright. It has a bit of a growl and reminded me in a vague way of the Citroen 2CV’s twin-pot air-cooled motor. At 100 km per hour the Aygo´s interior is quiet enough to have a relaxed conversation. As it is, the car is actually fun and practical enough; oddly, driving around town was where I didn´t feel as if the car was as small as it really is. The fact you can´t see the frontal extremities doesn´t help.The parking camera is a dangerous device. It makes you forget to look at the side mirrors unless you concentrate.

Cool graphics on the side are not standard.
Cool graphics on the side are not standard.

The steering is direct and the turn-in is as good as I could expect of such a car; better than that, I think it had no slop at all and is quite direct. The car seemed to do what I wanted as soon I asked it. Less pleasant, the gearchange had a notchy quality, especially in the upper speeds (five in all). I also found it harder than I expected to anticipate the recommended upshifts and downshifts.

Economy and numbers and calculations
DTW´s test covered 268 km of varied driving. The car needed 14.77 litres, or 3.2 gallons of petrol. That means it consumed petrol at the rate of 52 miles per gallon with two adults, two children and a boot full of luggage. However, Toyota claim 68.9 miles per gallon on the combined cycle. The fuel tank holds 35 litres or 7.7 gallons. At our observed rate of fuel consumption one can travel 404 miles between refills. That means that if you drive from Calais to Cap Ferrat, you may only need to refuel at the half way stage, six hours into the trip, between Dijon and Lyon. You won´t need to refuel again before reaching your destination.

Cheap but effective design.
Cheap but effective design.

Lessons
What I learned from this experience is that there might very well be a space in the market for an Aygo with 390 litre boot. I liked the low price, the fuel-efficiency and the features but not the tiny boot. The kids are too small to complain about the roominess or lack of it. As a driver, I could imagine being able to take this car a long way in one day. Stopping this from being a viable proposition is the tiny boot which is “a squash and a squeeze” (as Julia Donaldson might say). But if you do want a bigger boot you generally get a car with a longer wheelbase as well: you go up a class. Yet there must be a lot of families with one or two kids under eight who don´t need the rear passenger space so much as boot space. Cars with these characteristics exist in other markets: the Honda Brio or the new saloon version of the Ka, for example. I think that whatever other motoring writers say about small saloons (they often are not pretty), they are very useful for parents and their small children on the move. If you want a car this small with a big boot, you´ll have to go and get a ’94 VW Polo saloon.

Conclusion
The Aygo offered fun driving, decent refinement, very acceptable fuel consumption and useful performance. The downsides are almost unavoidable corollaries of the car´s advantages: the small boot, noisy suspension and absent luxuries. Where I would suggest some euros could be spent on the car is in better interior lighting. Both the boot and the rear passenger area lack lights and for parents fiddling with seat-buckles or trying to find lost toys this can be a pain. But that´s about it.

Verdict: fun motoring and practicality at a reasonable price.

The Aygo in numbers (source: Toyota UK)
Exterior length (mm) 3455
Exterior width (mm) 1615
Exterior height (mm) 1460
Front tread (mm) 1425
Rear tread (mm) 1420
Front overhang (mm) 675
Rear overhang (mm) 440
Wheelbase (mm)2340
Turning radius (m) (x grade/ all other grades) 4.8/5.1
Interior length (mm) 1630
Interior width (mm) (5dr/3dr)1300/1250
Interior height (mm) 1205
Gross vehicle weight (kg) 1240
Kerb weight (kg) 840-910
VDA luggage capacity, up to tonneau cover, rear seat up (litres) 168 Luggage capacity, up to roof, rear seat up (litres)198

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

31 thoughts on “2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i review”

  1. Your assessment of the car’s practicality is interesting. I would argue that cars this size are not and were never intended as the practical option for families. They are successors to the original Mini or Fiat 500 whereas, as you rightly pointed out, you have to go up one notch in the range (i.e. to the Polo/Clio/Fiesta) class for a decent ratio of load space to footprint. And no, a saloon shape cannot beat a hatchback for all-round practicality.

    Other than that, you could really do with someone proof-reading your articles. I counted 4 typos in the first paragraph alone, and I’m pretty sure ‘VVT’ stands for ‘variable valve timing’, not ‘technology’ (unless that’s Toyota’s own naming convention?).

  2. Sorry about the typos. I have corrected some and changed technology to timing.

    About the boot: all that stood between this car as it was and it being very useful to people with small kids was 400 litres of storage. There are quite conceivable people who would be quite happy with this as their only car if it had a larger boot. I was thinking of people with two kids under ten. A booted version or some kind of estate would mean people could use this as their only car. I don´t propose dropping the format as tested. I was just suggesting it might be possible to do another variant for those who didn´t want or need to add wheelbase to the car, only boot-space. That way people could choose if they wanted a very short car or a slightly longer one.

    1. 400 litres make it a bigger car, which is exactly what people who need that kind of boot-space end up buying, and estate versions of small cars don’t really sell – booted one even less so (except in southern Europe and even there it’s no longer as flagrant as it used to be). For that reason and considering the price difference* between this and the model 1 rung up the ladder, it wouldn’t make much sense for Toyota to offer variations around their entry model. Or to put it differently: the ‘estate’ version already exists, it’s called Yaris.

      * Aygo 1.0 VVT-i: from £8.5k to £12.4k
      Yaris 1.0 VVT-i: from £11k to 11.5k
      (rounded on the road prices as per September 2014 price list)

  3. All I want to suggest is that for a small additional investment Toyota could snag people who want an Aygo with a boot and not a Yaris which is not the same car. If you have to choose a Yaris you get a car that´s bigger in other dimensions and has less content to keep its price close to the Aygo range. Evidently you and Toyota agree that if you want more boot space than an Aygo, buy something else. And if there was demand, Toyota would provide it. So, I guess I´ll just say I´d like an Aygo with a boot and not a Yaris.

    1. Estates in the class above don’t really sell well from what I can see around me, and the only ones I can think of right now are the Renault Clio and Seat Ibiza (which I both quite like, especially the Clio). Small booted cars sell even less, in Western Europe at least. Choice is good but sometimes you have to draw a line as too much choice can lead to wasted resources. There are also too many alternatives in this part of the world to bemoan the absence of one potential variant with only limited appeal or added practicality.

      Also what’s wrong with the ‘Reply’ button?

  4. Odd that. The Clio estate is selling like hot cakes here. People are even getting Fabia fastbacks too. In Ireland the small saloon is still popular. Perhaps the small estate died out to the extent they stopped being small and estate-y. There was a time when manufacturers put a box at the end of the existing car. The Polo estate 1993-2000 was one such a car. It was really unpretentious. They also had a booted version which I drove and like a lot. Actually, didn´t VW more or less own that niche? The can´t have lost money on them. These days the small estates have slanted tailgates and not so much extra room as makes much a difference. Witness the last Clio “estate”. It seems the point is moot as regards W. Europe but given the plethora of other variants and the profligate use of resources generally, I didn´t think my booted Aygo idea was so outré. Cadillac are planning a 5.5 metre coupe with an 8-cylinder, I hear. I would say the world needs an Aygo with a boot just a little more!

    I don´t like reply buttons for some reason, I never use them. Are they good?

    1. Actually they don’t even sell the new Clio estate in the UK, which says a lot about the market here. Practicality just isn’t a primary concern anymore.

      And the ‘Reply’ button is here for a reason: so that the comments section remains coherent.

    2. As for the shape of modern estates and and their ‘slanted tailgates’, clearly manufacturers want to create a greater distinction between their utilitarian and ‘lifestyle’ (terrible word) offerings. Practicality is only a secondary consideration so you’re probably right in saying that volumes have decreased as a result. I have noticed in France that a lot of people are driving Dacias and the Logan is particular, which always reminds me of your lusting after a 1st gen Megan estate…

  5. Now that is quite a thing. One of the reasons I started doing this was because I felt like I was missing out on developments in automotive news. I feel I ought to have known that, another thing not reported. The UK market is a thing unto itself, isn´t it? I feel it´s possible here to get from a small detail of the UK market to a lengthy and controversial rant about the UK in general. I won´t. But it´s so tempting.
    The Irish market is just a small part of the UK market. All they get in the ROI is the 5-door Clio and not even the sporty one. But in Germany the estate is sold as it is in France, Italy and Spain.

    1. You’re right and discussing the relative merits of saloons v hatchbacks v estates is a much more interesting/less depressing subject.
      Personally I think only large cars make sense as saloons, because the percentage of the footprint caused by the box at the rear is less of an issue. For small cars hatchbacks make sense in pretty much all cases (and for my part I can’t think of an exception).

    2. The only small saloon that I’ve had any liking for was the mid 90s Mazda 121, a strange vehicle that had something of the ‘My First Saloon Car” look about it.

    3. Funny you should mention it – I thought about this very car this morning when trying to come up with an example of recent small saloon that kind-of made sense.

  6. I always liked the Aygo based vehicles which made Smart Cars and, indeed, Toyota’s own IQ, seem unnecessary though, in fact, I preferred the way the rear door met the bumper and lamp cluster on the PSA versions, appearing to dispense with a rear panel. But now all three versions are a bit bigger and more straightforward in profile, with the Toyota having the most striking and better balanced front view.

    Can I suggest a compromise boot extension for the Aygo like those boxes they used to fit to 2CVs? Probably not.

    In view of this month’s theme, I might be more tolerant of the new Aygo if it wasn’t for the dire UK TV advert where an ‘internet prankster’ appears to ‘fool’ a bunch of people in reasonably menial jobs by disguising himself as a front seat and making the car appear driverless. Cue slack jawed dupes at drive in takeaways and the tagline ‘Go Fun Yourself’. Do they think we’re completely funning stupid?

  7. “Go Fun Yourself”? Now that is a really crass tagline. I Googled it and found Chris Evans reviewing the car in the Daily Mail. It´s odd when Chris Evans finds something crass. How crass must something be if Chris Evans detects its crassness?
    Do you think that Toyota were offered a really good ad concept and three other bad ideas which were just there to give them the illusion of choice – and then picked one of those instead of the ad company´s preferred idea?

  8. Indeed, I have now googled the tagline and find that Saatchi & Saatchi take the credit. To quote :

    “Toyota’s ‘Go Fun Yourself’ campaign for the new generation Aygo, teams up with online pranksters, comedians, improv actors and YouTube stars to co-create a platform of fun.

    Comprising a series of prankster style videos and social media from each market aimed to reach out to a younger audience, the campaign intends to emphasise Aygo’s image as the playful, dynamic car of choice suited to those that don’t take themselves seriously.”

    So there is a whole season of this dire, patronising shit to look forward to. Sorry to be angry and po-faced at the same time but, real or not, what is funny about fooling a bunch of people in repetitive, menial jobs? Of course, the team from Saatchi could point out that I am not young, so the campaign isn’t aimed at me. Quite right, but I know a fair amount of young people and they don’t seem to be the the sort of mindless fools who get their laughs at other’s expense.

    The concept of the ‘prank’ has an anarchic overtone when it is used against the pompous and powerful. When it’s used against people who don’t fill that description it just seems something designed to make the perpetrator and the passive viewer feel smug as the victim looks foolish. Toyota, take your funning advertising agency and stuff it up your Aygo.

    1. I don’t find the slogan crass per se – it’s a pun and they’re rarely as clever as most people think. On the other hand the campaign as you describe it is definitely and utterly crass.

  9. Incidentally, Laurent makes a reasonable point about the ‘Reply’ button (which I often forget to use) in that it keeps threads of comments together. Against that, if I produce a comment using my rapier-like wit and laser-like scorn, I don’t like to think that the rest of the World misses out on their chance to share it because it ends up 3 comments up from the comment that came before.

    1. You’ve just nailed it. Basically if you don’t use the ‘Reply’ button there is a risk that others will have posted their own thoughts by the time your response comes online, resulting in a mess. Not quite an issue right but think about what it will be like once there are thousands of users here vying for attention?

    2. I meant not quite an issue ‘right now’, obviously…

      And before you ask: no, I don’t want an ‘Edit’ button.

    3. I don’t care – I don’t want one.

      A ‘Quote’ function on the other hand would be very handy when dissecting one of Richard’s reviews…

    1. You increasingly look like the guy who carries on talking while his mates have long left the pub…
      😉

  10. Incidentally, I want to address the point about the Mk 1 Aygo and Peugeot version. The car was very cleverly assembled: the rear door of the five door met the rear lamp and the bumper (plastic) rose up to meat the lower edge of the lamp. A whole lump of bodywork was eliminated: the effect was to make the BIW seem clad in doors, bumpers and lamps. It was smart. This new Aygo is much less clever than that though not without smart details. I didn´t address this point as I felt the article was long enough as it was.

    1. Richard. That’s what I thought, but looking at pictures of the Mk 1 Aygo and C1, it seems that Toyota wanted to suggest more conventional construction than PSA did, so the Toyota has a rear panel. That is very strange.

  11. I saw one of these for the first time in IKEA yesterday – i.e. the new model. It has to be the most ridiculous, contrived and grotesque new car on sale. I first thought it was a very poor kit car. I realise I am not the target audience, but, the C1 and 108 are surely more professional designs.

  12. In isolation the Aygo is quite satisfactory. These days I don’t get cross about bad design unless it’s dishonest. The Aygo addresses its target market clearly while also losing a bit of the whole point of such a car, to be really small.

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