What vehicle would you regard the quintessential "new-out-of-the-box" student car? Something with a price tag of comfortably below R150k? Until relatively recently, such vehicles were usually stripped out, previous-generation B-segment vehicles, which, thanks to their popularity, have impeded the proliferation of well-specced, if less practical, city cars such as the previous-generation Citroën C1, Peugeot 107 and Aygo.
Just as was the case with the VW Up!, the latest Toyota Aygo does not arrive on the local market at the very beginning of its lifecycle, but, thanks to an attractive price tag of R138 900, a well-judged specification and sufficient safety equipment, the newcomer represents a pint-sized student car proposition from a respected volume-selling manufacturer. And the last part of the previous statement is significant, because as opposed to the latest C1, Datsun GO, Chery QQ3, Geely LC and FAW V2, to name a few, the Aygo has a distinct advantage by virtue of Toyota's extensive dealer network and reputation for solid after-sales service. It may not be fair on the others, especially the C1 (because it is produced at the same factory in the Czech Republic as the Aygo), but that's the reality.
Nonetheless, the Aygo does not trade solely on the name of its manufacturer. Gone are the oddball looks of its predecessor, and in its place is the distinctive X-motif that dominates the front view and looks particularly striking on the X-play black (black and white/red) or X-play silver (silver and gray) specifications, both of which cost R1 000 extra and includes leather steering wheel and gearknob, which are nice-to-have items. The rear features extended upright taillamp clusters (again, an improvement on the old car's fussy posterior) and although I'd stop short of saying the little car's attractive (given its blobby proportions), it certainly appears distinctive and very youthful.
Compared with the exterior execution, the interior is a markedly more utilitarian affair and dominated by a grey centre stack with chunky HVAC controls, yet the instrument binnacle features a trip computer and, given society's obsession with smartphones, the touchscreen audio system, equipped with four speakers, with a USB socket and Bluetooth music streaming capability, is likely to be a major drawcard for buyers... or, at the very least, those who nag buyers to purchase an Aygo for them. The cloth upholstery does not seem smart, but feels as if it should be durable, and although the rear legroom is tight, the added practicality of the five-door configuration is not insignificant.
From a driver's point of view, the modest torque output of the otherwise rorty sounding three-cylinder engine requires well-considered shifts of the five-speed transmission, especially at freeway speeds, but round town (with two occupants on board), the Aygo feels sprightly enough and should prove impressively frugal to operate. Lugging the engine in second gear (when pulling away from a yield-situation in traffic, for example) is not a good idea and the clutch pedal doesn't feel particularly progressive when released. However, once a driver becomes accustomed to treating the left-most pedal like an on/off switch, progress becomes much smoother.
Where the Aygo has a notable advantage over its Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto 1,0 rivals, to name two examples, is with the provision of ABS and brake assist in conjunction with dual front and side airbags, as well as Isofix child seat anchor points. Remote central locking, electric windows (front), electrically adjustable side mirrors, a pair of drinks holders and bottle recesses in the front door pockets complete the spec.
Included in the purchase price is a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and although a 3-year/45 000 km service plan is optional, the first 1 000 customers of the new Aygo will receive a complimentary service plan at no additional cost, Toyota announced at the launch.
Many consumers will undoubtedly want to know how well the new Aygo compares with the Up! (produced by Toyota's archrival Volkswagen); suffice to say the CAR team intends to make a direct comparison between the competitors in due course. However, my initial impression leads me to suggest that although the Up! holds the edge in terms of build quality and finish, the Toyota's value-for-money proposition is superior. If you can only spend R140k and want a "new-out-of-the-box" student car, the Aygo is best.