Review and road test of the Toyota Aygo (2014 - 2018)
GOING FOR AN AYGO
By Jonathan Crouch
The second generation version of Toyota's Aygo citycar launched in 2014 proved to be a little more efficient, a little more hi-tech and a little more fun to drive than its predecessor. Plus it offered a whole host of personalisation options. This was - and is - in the brand's own words, 'a car you could be proud of'. It certainly has a lot more of its own identity in MK2 guise. Let's check it out as a used buy.
3/5dr Hatch (1.0 petrol])
So, what makes a car feel 'fun'? Sprightly handling? Cheeky looks? Clever marketing? And can an urban runabout really qualify for purchase on those grounds? With this model, the second generation Toyota Aygo, we were told that it could.
You might think you know this car but if you haven't tried this MK2 version, launched here in the Summer of 2014, then you probably don't. Yes, it shares many of its mechanicals with the original design. No, it's not the same. Let's start with the fundamental thing that wasn't changed here. As before, this design was produced as part of a joint Toyota/PSA Group venture that also brought us French alternatives sharing most of this car's important bits - namely Peugeot's 108 and Citroen's C1.
That was also the case with the first generation Aygo, but that car didn't make much attempt to differentiate itself. This one proved to be very different. It wasn't only the look that was unique but also the very specific way that original buyers could personalise it to suit almost any kind of taste or preference. On top of that, no other competitor from this era (2014-2017) is more efficient, safer or more laden with technology. That ought to be enough for starters. Let's see what else this MK2 Aygo has to offer the used car buyer. We'll focus here on the original; version of this car which sold until mid-2018, when a facelifted model was announced.
What You Get
'Go fun yourself'. We're not going to tell you what we think of that particular marketing slogan but it does accurately sum up the 'out-on-a-limb' 'love-it-or-hate-it' approach that Toyota took in marketing this car. It simply had to be different, not only because the citycar segment was - and still is - over-stuffed with talented opposition but also because this model (like its predecessor) had to share so much under the skin with its design stablemates, Peugeot's 108 and Citroen's C1. The three cars roll out of the same Czech factory, riding on the same common platform, using the same 1.0-litre petrol engine and sharing many interior fittings. That didn't leave Aygo Chief Engineer David Terai much scope for his product to have an individual appeal - except when it came to exterior style, so when it came to styling this second generation model, he and his team grasped that opportunity to do what they could to be different with both hands. Compare this car against its French counterparts and you'll find that aside from the rear passenger door and the angle of the windscreen, not a single body panel is the same.
Terai and his team set out to create something very different from the inoffensive first generation version of this model, noting that in a crowded marketplace, it was better to have a design that half the potential customers would love rather than one that nobody would object to at all. So this one was created as standard with a hefty dose of attitude. Just look at the front end, apparently inspired by the car in the Japanese cartoon 'Astroboy'. It's supposed to be a manifestation of the Japanese youth culture 'J-playful' design philosophy that the brand wants all its small cars to have and is key to the appeal of this model because it leads directly to the theme that Toyota hoped would give this MK2 Aygo a real lift: namely customisation.
This car was designed so that as many parts as possible could be snapped off and replaced with different colour bits. The X-graphic that dominates the grille section is normally black, but with paler colours could be specified in lighter shades for a contrasting look that extends right back to the door mirrors. The customisation options didn't end there either. The rear bumper insert, the front bumper and of course the alloy wheels could all be colour-matched by original buyers to suit their preferences, with the different panels exchangeable by dealers within minutes. As a result, Aygo folk could refresh the look of their cars cheaply and easily, possibly even exchanging colours with another owner at little or no cost.
Talking of a contrasting look, the designers even went to the trouble of giving this car its own unique so-called 'double-bubble' roof, a feature that extrovert original owners could highlight with coloured decals. That roof was designed to accommodate the retractable fabric folding top that you'll find fitted to some high-spec models and was lowered slightly in comparison to the previous generation design, with the front A-pillar moved slightly forwards to create a balanced yet energetically forward-leaning posture. You see that in profile too, with a boldly sloping beltline that flows back into a neat pair of forward-angled rear light clusters, though the exact look and feel differs between the three-door variant and the five-door model that extends its window graphic into the tail lamps, giving an impression of extra length.
At the rear with its integrated roof spoiler, the idea was to mirror the frontal design statement, but what's far more obvious is that this second generation Aygo carried over its predecessor's signature design element, a glass rear hatch that replaces a conventional tailgate. From a production point of view, this doubtless reduces the cost of manufacturing but from an ownership perspective, it's a feature we've never liked. Unlike a proper lifting rear hatch, this opening glass panel doesn't cut into the bumper, so there's quite a high lip over which you've to lift in your shopping. The VW up! (along with its Skoda and SEAT stablemates) suffers from the same thing for the same reason.
Still, on the positive side, once you have got your packages in place, there's significantly more space than the first generation version of this car could offer, total cargo capacity having risen from 139 to 168-litres - enough for a couple of suitcases or a set of golf clubs. Granted, that's no great shakes given that rival Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT models, like Hyundai's i10, can offer over 250-litres. Still, it's also true that in cars like this one, the rear bench is rarely used and so can be pushed down, in this case to reveal over 750-litres of space, so we're guessing that lack of luggage room will rarely be an issue for most owners. After all, if you need a greater capacity than that for your weekly shop, it might well be time to change your lifestyle rather than your car.
If you are using the back seat, then you won't be expecting it to be very spacious, given that this car is just 3.4-metres in length and has a wheelbase unchanged over that of the diminutive original version. In fact, due to a bit of design cleverness, Toyota actually managed to free up an extra 9mm of legroom in the back. It's still not enough to make longer journeys comfortable for taller adults, but more ordinary folk will survive without too much grousing on short to medium-length trips. You might even think of cramming three kids on this bench, were it not for the fact that, rather annoyingly, there are still only two belts provided. If you do have kids, then we'd definitely go for the five-door model.
Up front, it's reasonably easy to get comfortable, provided you've avoided an entry-level variant without seat height adjustment, something that's important to have because the steering wheel adjusts only up and down, not in and out. Ahead of you, there's a trapezoidal centre console that sets the theme for the cabin, its shape mirrored by the air vents, door trims and gear shift surround. The bar-graph rev counter stuck to the side of the speedo pod looks a bit odd but the wide dashboard's nice, trimmed in a cool matt finish and framed by refreshingly slim A-pillars that aid visibility. No, the quality of the trim isn't quite up to the kind of thing you'd find in, say, a Volkswagen up!, but the design is more interesting, which takes you mind off the fact. As with the exterior, personalisation rules, which is why the instrument panel, the centre console, the air vents, the gearshift knob and the gear lever surround could all easily be changed by original buyers to a colour of their choosing, even after years of ownership.
On a more practical note, there are two cupholders, a good-sized glovebox and doorbins big enough to hold a 500ml bottle of water. There's a bit of hi-tech here too, for provided you've avoided one of the entry-level models, a 7-inch x-touch infotainment colour touchscreen is provided to dominate the centre of the dash. This system really adds another dimension to the Aygo and to be honest, we'd hesitate to buy one without it. It's operated using a fully integrated seven-inch touchscreen and was the first system in its segment to come with a rear view camera as standard.
Functionality is via a straightforward main menu that gives easy control of the DAB audio system, vehicle and journey information and phone connectivity that includes the sending and receiving of texts. There's also a clever so-called 'MirrorLink' function that duplicates the home screen of your 'phone onto the display for easier acclimatisation. Some original buyers also paid extra to add an 'x-nav' plug-in into the system. This feature was unique to the Aygo and sits in a dedicated storage pocket in the glovebox.
What to Look For
You'd expect a small modern-era Toyota to be pretty free of faults and, by and large, most of the buyers in our ownership survey seemed pretty satisfied. However, a few issues have surfaced. The clutch problems that afflicted the previously generation Aygo aren't as prevalent here but they still exist; check the clutch biting point and gear engagement on your test drive. We heard a few reports of exhaust issues too, evidenced by a growly sound from the tailpipes. In one instance, the airbag warning light came on erroneously on the dash. In another, there was a water leak on the front footwell. And in another, a faulty seal caused the car to ice up on the inside on cold mornings. Otherwise, it's just a case of insisting on a fully stamped-up service record, checking any alloy wheel from chips and scrapes and inspecting the rear of the interior for any child damage.
(approx based on a 2015 Aygo 1.0 - Ex Vat) An air filter costs in the £9 to £14 bracket and an oil filter costs in the £4 to £8 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £20 to £38 bracket for a set. Front brake discs sit in the £35 to £50; for pricier brands, you're looking in the £80 bracket. A front brake calliper costs in the £117 to £125 bracket. A Rear shock absorber costs around £31-£50 (fronts around £58-£65). Wiper blades cost from around £6.
On the Road
So, this car is supposed to be 'fun to drive'. But just how much 'fun' is it really possible to have in a car with just 69 braked horses beneath its bonnet? Actually, a surprising amount. For a start, the 998cc unit sounds playful, its normally aspirated note filling the cabin with a characterful three cylinder thrum. True, the long first and second gear ratios mean you'll have to rev it quite hard for meaningful progress but there's plenty of performance for town trips.
Citycar buyers are more loyal to petrol power than any other group of motorists and Toyota has been more loyal to the particular petrol engine used here than you'd expect a brand to be. Its fundamentals do, after all, date all the way back to the launch of the first generation Aygo model in 2005. Still, on the quiet, many engines today have fundamentals that go back quite a long way. Anyway, this one has been very thoroughly re-worked for the modern era, a higher, compression ratio, an improved combustion chamber design and use of a low-friction timing chain all combining not only to improve efficiency but also to boost power slightly over the previous model.
If you were familiar with that car, then you should find this one to be a touch more driveable. For a start, in the original Aygo, you needed to really wind some revs onto the clock in order to get anywhere - which had a marked effect on your fuel consumption. In this car, nearly all of its 95Nm of pulling power is available right down low in the rev range, from as little as 2,000rpm, so you won't need to rev the thing to death in order to get it going. Once on the move, the first thing you'll probably notice is just how light most of the controls are - especially the steering and the clutch. The exception to this is the gear change, which needs more of a firm shove than you'd expect from a car designed with urban driving in mind. If that's an issue, then you might well be tempted by an automatic 'x-shift' gearbox model, which features a transmission that's potentially controllable via a set of steering wheel gearshift paddles that we doubt too many potential owners will bother with.
The 'x-shift' variant will certainly suit urban-bound folk, people who'll also appreciate the tight 4.8m turning circle and that light steering. Parking is as easy as you'd expect in a car with an overall length of under 3.5m, with good all-round visibility marred only slightly by the chunky rear C-pillars. The wide rear wheel arches might be a bit vulnerable here but since most variants will probably be fitted with the 'x-touch' multimedia system's standard reverse parking camera, that shouldn't be a problem. These big, clear mirrors should help too.
Venture beyond the city limits and you won't be expecting too many performance fireworks. Nor will you get them. This car's Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 design stablemates offered a more powerful 82bhp 1.2-litre VTi petrol engine as an option to this 1.0-litre unit, an engine Toyota didn't want. The result is that Aygo buyers must be content with distinctly modest levels of performance. The sprint to 62mph is covered in 14.2 seconds if you choose the five-speed manual model but takes a yawning 15.5 seconds if you go for the x-shift automatic. Both variants run out of steam at 99mph.
Could you comfortably venture further afield in this car? Potentially yes. Both wind and road noise have been effectively suppressed at typical A-road speeds to make that more possible and you certainly notice the difference on the motorway. There doesn't though, seem to have been much effort put into isolating the engine note. If anything, that's been emphasised as Toyota believes it contributes to this car's whole 'fun' ethos. There's a really lively thrum under acceleration, something you'll either like or you won't. At least it makes the car feel peppier than it actually is. The brakes also feel up to spec, despite this Toyota doing with without rear discs and opting for a cheaper rear drum setup instead.
And handling? Well the Aygo development team say that they benchmarked the Ford Ka in this respect, one of the results of which was that the steering was made 14% more direct than the old car. True enough, it does provide more fingertip feedback than before. Other incremental dynamic improvements included re-tuned springs and dampers, plus a lighter rear torsion beam, one of the things contributing to a 60kg weight saving over the previous model. The result is a slightly more agile, chuckable city runabout that can be driven with a bit more vigour but it still isn't the driver's choice in this segment, though that's something few likely buyers will care much about. Pitch into a corner and you get the predictable helping of body roll and tyre squeal you'd expect from this kind of car. Stick with it though and this Toyota can, nevertheless be pretty good fun to pedal along,
It might perhaps have been sharper in this respect had not Toyota's engineers - rightly - been so mindful of the need to preserve a decent standard of ride quality. Because they were, this car handles road humps and potholes very well. It's that bit better in this respect than before. In fact, as you've probably gathered by now, almost everything about this second generation car is that bit better than before. No radical steps have been taken: the car just feels that bit more sophisticated and grown up than its predecessor.
At first glance, it would be entirely understandable if you felt that this second Aygo interpretation was a case of style over substance. The wheelbase is the same as the MK1 model, you still find a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine beneath the bonnet and the basic handling dynamics are little changed. Even the interior accommodation is much the same.
Despite all of that though, there's no doubt that the updates that created this second generation Aygo really brought it into contention in this segment. The cabin feels far more modern than that of the previous design, the clever x-touch infotainment system is a must-have and it's hard to think of a bolder, more progressive-looking citycar from the 2014-2017 era. Yes, it's a design that still might disappoint in terms of total space. And the improved handling still doesn't quite hit the class benchmark. But it's versatile and fun to drive enough for these things not to put you off imagining one in your mental driveway.
From being forgettable, the Aygo is in this form genuinely likeable - and there's a world of difference between those two attributes. You could imagine caring about this Toyota - feeling a genuine sense of pride in ownership. If that was Toyota's aim, then the mission was accomplished here.
Toyota Aygo (2014 - 2018) review by Jonathan Crouch