The cars we loved.
Not long ago, the Ford Ka was featured on this site. Its been a one ton fun machine for crowded urban areas in Europe for years. The Ka represents a whole category of car that Americans have pretty much ignored. This may be why the segment has grown so slowly, even after high fuel cost concerns. Once again Europe and Asia dominate the city car category with little carts like the Ka and Toyota’s Aygo. The Aygo’s name comes from “i-go” and due to its low-cost, represents freedom for cash strapped Europeans or Japanese urban dwellers who need small cars for tight parking spaces. The Aygo slots between the larger Yaris and the smaller Scion iQ.
The Aygo represents a joint venture with Peugeot and Citroen, two brands not always associated with quality in the States. Ironically, the product of this trio has consistently ranked near the top of reliability studies, thanks in no small part to Toyota. The 3 or 5 door hatchback came with tiny 1.0 petro or 1.4L diesel engines (67 or 54 hp respectively) that kept top speeds under the three digit figures. The Aygo’s claim to fame was the low price, efficency and high maneuverability in tight environments. Speaking of tight, the cost cutting in the Aygo made the Yaris look almost plush, which may be why it was never sold in America (besides our love of bigger cars-even our small cars are bigger than they are elsewhere).
Once inside you’re reminded that this was the cheapest car Toyota sells in many markets. The single windshield wipers, one piece headrests and cheap looking plastics in the interior are all strong impressions left by the interior of the basic model. This was the norm in the lowest priced cars in most Western markets, but the ante had been raised with aggressive competitors from Korea. The growing acceptance of small cars globally as something other than penalty boxes has let to improved interiors and options. Toyota addressed some of the interior shortcomings with facelifts in 2009 and 2012. In the UK, there were more lush models, some with leather seats, air and sat-nav systems.
Although the Aygo was never seen as a performance car, it is often portrayed in ads as an accessory to youth culture. BMX bikes, skateboards and pop music figure greatly in Aygo advertising. In keeping with accessibility for many first time buyers, sportier models were limited to 14’ alloy wheels, paddle shifters and a tachometer. From the beginning Toyota sought to create a sporting image for one of its least sporting car. In 2008 TRD developed the Ayago Crazy concept for the British motor show circuit. The rear wheel drive, mid-engine version one-off had a 197 hp 1.8L from the departed MR2 and Celica. The tarted up bodywork featured ground effects, ducts and vents to match its performance.
In reality the road going Aygo retained the same two engine choices, even as its exterior would be refreshed twice. For the money the Aygo offers a low-cost gateway into Toyota quality with low operating costs and like so many other super-minis, offers the opportunity for customization for those so inclined.
Those would be customizers are mostly in Europe or Asia right now. Ten years ago such a car would never have been considered for export to the American market for plenty of reasons (we don’t like small hatchbacks, we’re too big, etc). Now that many young drivers (who have jobs) are likely to be saddled with debt from college loans, the likelyhood of Toyota bringing a even cheaper alternative to the Yaris almost makes sense.