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Friday 19 September 2014

X factor sets Aygo apart in a city-car family affair

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

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Striking: Toyota’s Aygo has an unusal design at the frontl Standard equipment includes: 14ins steel wheels, black carbon textured front, LED daytime running lights, six airbags, Hill-start Assist, electric front windows, two-speaker radio with USB connection.
Striking: Toyota’s Aygo has an unusal design at the frontl Standard equipment includes: 14ins steel wheels, black carbon textured front, LED daytime running lights, six airbags, Hill-start Assist, electric front windows, two-speaker radio with USB connection.

It was a great custom with the older generation to trace our features and mannerisms back to uncles, aunts, second cousins and grandparents.

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I remember it especially when other relatives would visit and we’d all be linked with someone living or dead.

“Sure he’s the spitting image of...” And off they’d go, reliving happy and sorrowful memories. I still find it fascinating when I hear people talking about their children like that.

I was reminded of it this summer when I attended no fewer than three international launches of what are effectively the ‘same’ car. Only they are different. Same (city-car) family; different attributes. The three amigos are the Toyota Agyo, Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1.

They all spring from the loins of the same platform etc. But they look much different and have markedly varied driving characteristics.

I do think Toyota stole a bit of a march on the others by being launched first and deciding to be so bold with the styling.

The Aygo’s front is striking for a car of this size. And it is bordering on the radical for Toyota who have come to the view that some of their cars have been too conservative. The great thing about this little motor is that you can ‘personalise’ it.

You can choose panels for inside; you can mix and match bits all over the place (coloured plastic surrounds around the gear shift, air vents, in the doors etc) and even change that look at the front (known as X-design). In other words you can make your car as individual as you want — and distance it visually from other members of the ‘family’. There are several packages all designed to attract younger drivers (25-year-olds-plus).

However, all the dressing up would be worthless if they did not come up to scratch on the core elements.

The Aygo surprised me — to varying degrees — on those areas during my Irish test drive. Only in practical, everyday driving did I come to realise how roomy it was. It is not an inter-city tourer but four people would not feel too squashed on a long journey in this (smaller ones at the back, please).  Incidentally, the seats are an unusual shape but seriously supportive. I used it mostly around town and on a couple of shorter, down-the-country drives.

For a small car it was quiet, the 3cyl petrol engine not just willing but decently powerful as well. And it went easy on the juice. It’s a strange mixture, that engine. It takes off real lively, goes flat in the middle of the range and then picks up great at motorway speed.

The cabin is quite big and bright with lots of headroom. One of my daughters is my height and both of us had loads of room out front.

I was really happy with the touchscreen interface in my X-play + version (which also had an invaluable rear-view camera). Touch-screens can be like snakes and ladders; just when you think you are getting somewhere you’re back where you started. This was simple. Phone, radio etc: just push the icon onscreen and the rest falls into place. And you can have all sorts of apps. All positive so far. I didn’t expect much of a boot so I wasn’t disappointed. It is tiny. But because of the way the car is constructed, the boot-lip is far too high. You’d need to take care or you’d scratch it a lot lifting stuff in and out.

And, initially, I was surprised at the level of the price increase for this new Aygo over the old one — up from €10,450 (3dr) to €12,625. But Toyota insist the old price was just that —  ancient. And they point out that the average in this city-car segment is €13,000. Hyundai’s excellent i10 (the biggest seller in the segment) starts at €11,995 while the Volkswagen’s up! kicks off at €11,945. Interesting to note that the Citroen C1, from the Aygo’s family, starts at €10,995. So there is plenty of choice and a good spread of prices out there. I do think the Toyota name and the Aygo’s ‘X’ factor will be important for some potential buyers. I’m just making the point that, like in all families, there’s a lot of importance attached to a name.

Aygo: the facts and figures

Toyota Aygo 5dr city-car hatchback 1.0 VVT-i manual, 3cyl petrol (988cc, 69bhp, 95g/km, €180 road tax).

Next spec level is x-play (probably biggest seller): 15ins alloys, front fogs, electric/heated door mirrors, four-speaker audio, steel grey dashboard/air vent surrounds, gear shift/centre console, Bluetooth, remote steering wheel controls, adjustable speed limiter. My test car had x-play+ trim: air con, x-touch multimedia system with 7ins touch screen, rear-view camera, piano black rear diffuser.

Price from: €12,625 (3dr). Test car: €14,770. Remember: Delivery, related charges are extra.

My side of the road

I knew it. There had to be an explanation, however irrational, for the rudeness of people hogging middle and outside lanes on motorways and dual carriageways.

Somebody has gone to the trouble to ask 2,000 drivers if they do it and why. And 43pc of them said — I kid you not — they did it because it was an “easier way to drive” and “saves me changing lanes”.

Others said they only ‘hogged’ when the road was quiet, while one-third didn’t realise what they were doing. And a quarter felt it was a safer place to drive.

If there is one thing that infuriates me and — I’m convinced — leads to dangerous “undertaking” (overtaking on the inside) it is lane-hoggers.

I get so angry at the total lack of ‘connect’ those drivers have with what is going on around them. I don’t think knowing why they do it will make it any easier to deal with. It is an appalling practice. What do you think?

 

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