TOYOTA did not fill the gap left in its local lineup when production of the Tazz hatchback was stopped in 2006. Despite introducing the Yaris in 2005, the company had no offering for first-time buyers and no competitor in the growing A-segment.
The solution was clear but, according to Toyota, far from simple at the time. The Aygo, which was developed and built in conjunction with then Peugeot- Citroën, was simply too expensive to import and sell at a competitive price level.
Time seems to fix many things, because Toyota’s bean counters have found a solution. Five years after its European launch and two years after its mid-life facelift, the Aygo is finally available locally. Two derivatives are offered: the Fresh with a sparse specification level (it does, however, include ABS and two airbags) and the up-specced Wild that we test here.
Despite its age, the Aygo remains an attractive car. Like the 107 and C1, it has great proportions with a timeless design. However, some testers found the tint on the side and rear windows too dark and complained that it obscured the view through the rear window.
The cabin isn’t without its own compromises. Space up front is reasonable and the two front seats are amply-sized, but lack support around the thighs and upper body. The levers for adjusting the backrests are awkwardly placed and difficult to operate, while the driver’s seating position is very high, which aids visibility to the front but requires some getting used to. The steering wheel can be adjusted for height, but taller drivers will find the driving position very cramped. The back bench has enough legroom for shorter adults.
With the rear seatbacks in place, the tiny luggage bay swallows 128 dm3. The bay is accessed via the small rear window and the high lip will hinder the loading of larger and heavier objects. With the 50/50-split rear seatbacks folded flat, the area extends to an equally diminutive 784 dm3.
The Aygo’s perceived build quality is of a high standard but the use of hard plastics in a light grey colour on the facia and doors detracts from the cabin’s ambience. The facia’s design and layout remain fresh and the main instrumentation includes a speedometer and trip computer in a pod-like design on the steering column. There is no rev counter. The rest of the controls are easy to operate and are grouped on a hangdown See the Aygo Crazy in action on CARmag.co.za section of the facia that features cheap-looking opaque plastic which lights up in orange when the headlights are switched on.
All models have air-conditioning, but only the Wild gets a radio/CD player and electric operation for the front windows.
The Aygo is mechanically identical to the C1 and 107. The 998 cm3 three-cylinder VVT-i engine produces 50 kW and 93 N.m of torque, which may not sound that promising, but the car weighs only 863 kg and, once you get past a flat-spot low in the rev range, the engine is very willing. Jake Venter, our technical editor, commented the engine idles like a misfiring four-cylinder. It certainly has character. At highway speeds, the engine takes some strain and road and wind noise become bothersome.
As expected from an inner-city commuter, there is a fair amount of body roll and understeer. The suspension is firm, but never bottoms out over large bumps. The electrically assisted steering lacks feel and feedback, but is light enough to offer ease of operation during tight manoeuvres.
We were disappointed with the car’s average emergency braking time of 3,16 seconds, but at least it came to a steady stop thanks to the standard ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist.
Compared with its competitors, the C1 and 107, the Aygo offers the same appeal at roughly the same price, but Toyota has an ace up its sleeve: a standard four-year/ 60 000 km service plan and Toyota’s much-respected and large service network make the Aygo a no-brainer in this match-up.
The Aygo remains a strong contender in its segment, but is compromised slightly by its age in a market dominated by new and exciting offerings eager to appeal to first-time buyers. Contemporary competition, such as the Chevrolet Spark and Hyundai i10, are better at space utilisation and the use of modern materials in their cabins – albeit at premium prices.
That said, the Aygo will undoubtedly – and deservedly – meet its monthly sales targets and appeal to buyers who require a well-specced, stylish and characterful entry-level car at a reasonable price and which also happens to be a Toyota.