They reject brands, want to do their own thing, really hate following convention, etc, etc. Which makes it all the more unusual to consider Toyota’s ‘impactful’ initial marketing plans for the Aygo.
From the off, there will be a choice of just three colours, and the priced-to-sell base car is offered, for now, in just one hue – bright red. So there’s a fair chance that the 3,500 Aygo drivers hoped for in 2005 will come across a mirror image of themselves in time. Hardly individual.
But then, neither is the car really. This is the first of the Toyota and PSA Peugeot-Citroen joint venture cars to go on sale, in July. As reward, it seems, for the Japanese doing most of the design and production work.
Toyota engineered unique bumpers, headlights and rear design, but otherwise the cars are identical, even down to stereos and instruments. Peugeot-Citroen, incidentally, was responsible for the parts sourcing, hinted at by the PSA key, interior light and headlamp levelling switch.
So, three identical cars with three not-dissimilar prices. Maybe for the first time ever this is an instance where marketing and dealer service alone will make or break a car.
Hence Toyota taking advantage of its head-start over the French by ensuring this shape will, to the world, shout ‘Toyota’, even if it’s wearing a double chevron.
What of that marketing? It’s cool, ‘bro’. There will be seven million Aygo beer mats, spoof record launch flyers, music festival headlining, and even T-shirts with slogans such as ‘Aygo all the way’, ‘Aygo in my tent’ and ‘Aygo like a (picture of a rabbit)’.
All this wackiness might seem a bit risque for conservative Toyota drivers, which is why it will be known as Aygo by Toyota, not Toyota Aygo.
It will not be a major fleet player. Between 10% and 15% is the expected split, as is the norm in this price range.
Those that are company-purchased are likely to be used as loan or courtesy cars, and not daily rental, or certainly not at first.
When profitable retail customers are taking the bulk of 13,000 sales annually, and marketing is taking on ever-more innovative forms, such volume-pushing exposure is unnecessary, the firm claims. Which, ironically, will make it a canny fleet buy if residuals reflect this.
Prices won’t be confirmed until later in May, but the base 1.0-litre petrol car will come in ‘comfortably under’ £7,000, according to Toyota.
Most sales, though, will be of the Aygo+, costing between £7,000-£8,000 and adding side airbags, electric windows and remote locking.
Air conditioning is a £500 option. You can’t get air con on the base car, no matter how hard you try.
Most of Toyota’s larger Yaris models are sold in the £9,000-£10,000 price range, so Toyota expects crossover will be minimal. That’s why it is confident of selling 15,000 a year, and with all the Citroens and Peugeots this is likely to become a familiar little car.
There will be a diesel, but it’s suggested to cost £1,000 more than the petrol and seems pointless in the UK. The petrol averages 61.4mpg, which the PSA-Ford 1.4-litre diesel will be going some to better by a sufficient degree, once the extra cost of diesel is added. Emissions of the petrol car also beat nearly every other car, at 109g/km.
Behind the wheel
THE Aygo is shorter than the Fiat Panda, its most obvious rival, but wider and taller, with a particularly long wheelbase that sees the rear wheels eat into the bumper – it looks like a smart fortwo. This is why it doesn’t feel as diminutive, an impression reinforced by firm, high-set seats and a low shoulder line. Visibility is excellent.
Its three-cylinder engine is a little lacking in character, with some shudder, vibration and ‘thrum’ felt at start-up, tickover and at low revs. Rev it through and it smooths out well, but then it becomes really rather noisy.
With 64bhp it’s punchy enough, accelerating to 62mph in 14.2 seconds if you’re committed, while a 98mph top speed means it has motorway legs. It’s a very light car, from only 790kg, which helps. But the difference in acceleration with one person and two in the car is pronounced.
It also lacks the Panda’s character through the corners. The electric steering is too light and completely lacking in feel, which doesn’t help things, but while it’s firmer and better-composed than the Fiat, it’s not as much fun.
It’s a commendable effort though, with taught suspension settings limiting roll through corners and giving it a pointy, accurate feel. This does mean the ride can be knobbly, but it’s so well-built that, even when charging down cobbled streets, there’s barely a squeak from the interior trim. Only a slight instability through crosswinds at speed worries the driver.
Alongside the standard five-speed manual, Toyota offers its MMT semi-auto gearchange. It’s excellent. Shifts are quick and crisp in manual mode but auto mode is fine, too, and much better than a smart fortwo. It doesn’t ‘hunt’ up and down the ’box, while downchanges are initiated easily by a quickly-pressed throttle; learn this trick and it’s as intuitive as a conventional auto.
The interior is well-built but the materials are no more indulgent than they need to be. The plastics look OK but are hard to the touch and some have rough edges. The cool translucent heater panel glows amber at night, but spoils the quality impression with its stiff, clicky levers. There are many storage slots but they’re unlined and perfect for launching mobile phones – and there is no glovebox.
Do not expect the boot to compensate as it’s tiny at 139 litres. A Panda offers more than 200 litres. It is tricky to load as the sill is far too high, and the parcel shelf gets in the way. Dropping in a sports bag is like threading a needle. Rear legroom is also non-existent if the front occupants are unco-operative, though foot and headroom are ample.
THE Aygo is, to coin a phrase, a small car which thinks big. It doesn’t feel small or underdeveloped, so long as you’re not in the back or the boot, and performs in a grown-up way, too. It won’t be as cheap as expected but should give city car rivals something to think about, not least its French rivals. Can they boast dealer support as highly-rated as Toyota’s?
Engine (cc): 998
Max power (bhp/rpm): 67/6,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 68/3,600
0-62mph (sec): 14.2
Comb fuel consumption (mpg): 61.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 109
Prices (estimated): £6,695-£9,195