The cars we loved.
Exotic car manufacturers seem to be busy creating new products that go beyond their traditional product lines. Recently these explorations into portfolio expansion have gone upmarket in the form of super sedans, but for one manufacturer the exploration has gone into a brave new down market world populated by super minis and city cars.
New Twist of Old Concept
Porsche’s done it with the 912, 914 and Boxter. Dipping down into the near affordable price brackets of the masses has been repeated by many others also. Now Aston Martin had gone a step further and much further down-market with its hot hatch/city car called the Cygnet. Not too long ago Aston Martin stung the exotic car world with its Rapide sedan. It’s astonished once again with a product that is not breath-taking in its design, but in concept.
The Cygnet is basically a Toyota iQ, a cute little city car that offers dependability in a small appliance-like form factor. Aston Martin’s take on the basic iQ adds revised body panels, Aston’s trademark grille and plenty of luxury treatments inside. Under the hood, it’s still pretty much an iQ, with Toyota’s 1.3L inline four with variable valve timing. With 98 hp the 1900 pound Cygnet moves at a sprightly pace in crowded cities, but needing 11 seconds to reach 60 mph on the expressway in not the stuff hot hatches are made of. It won’t be confused for a Vantage (or any sporty car for that matter).
A six-speed manual transmission is available, but most buyers will opt for the CVT being that even the poor don’t like changing their own gears. The official sales category for the Cygnet is Hot Hatch, a popular segment in Europe. There’s little in the way of hotness where performance is concerned. Aston Martin had no qualms about selling this car for what is: a luxurious city car. As such, the greatest transformation happens inside with leather surfaces, revised console and instruments befitting a $30,000 pint-sized set of wheels. Of course there’s the Aston Martin badges and grille that looks like it would actually have come from any other car in its lineup.
Banking on Brand Loyalty and Vanity
The logic of an expensive city car from an exotic maker at first sounds absurd, but Aston Martin might be on to something. Aston Martin sees the Cygnet as a “tender”. For those who have no idea what that means, it basically suggests that the Cygnet would be a car kept at a vacation home for excursions into town, while your main car would get you back to your main residence. For the super-rich, the Cygnet is intended to be a car away from home, like the bike you might leave at Grandmas’ house when you go to visit. To reinforce this concept Aston Martin intends to sell make the Cygnet available to Aston Martin owners first in the UK, then a few years later the general public in the EU. It’s not known if it will be available in America, but based on Aston’s need to meet average mpg standards in Europe, it seems likely to come here as well due to similar mandates. The Cygnet is produced in Worwickshire, England and went on sale in 2011. Despite Aston’s limited roll out strategy, where you can buy a Cygnet will be governed by demand with an emphasis on existing Aston Martin owners first.
Sensible Alternatives Abound
Americans are in luck if they really want one and can’t afford the initial price of entry (some other new Aston Martin). Toyota’s youth oriented brand Scion will sell the iQ in the US as a 2012 model. For Aston Martin’s US customers (any other market where the Toyota iQ is available) the question is will Aston Martin’s clients want an exclusive run-about town car when they could otherwise settle for an iQ or some other micro machine?
Weather you see the Cygnet as an overpriced grocery cart or a cheap way to get behind the wheel of a new Aston Martin, it does represent a bold new high-end addition to the growing city car field. Previous segment toppers from Smart, Mercedes and even Mini lacked the kind of high-end appeal that the Cygnet might offer. By the time the Cygnet is available to the public at large, it will have some stiff competition from Fiat’s cute 500, a new Mini and other possible players that will cost less. By that time a topless option will be a must if the Cygnet will attract customers from Smart or Mercedes. A convertible concept of the iQ suggests if it were to ever see production a version for the Cygnet should be a natural if not exclusive. That brings us back to the Cygnet’s core market where cost is not an issue, but too much driving effort might be. We’ll have to wait and see. Who knows, in the next Bond film James might be sporting a Cygnet, at least while Q is working on the Virage.