The Toyota Aygo X is a bit of an oddity in the current motoring landscape.
It’s a very small, fairly cheap hatchback with a simple petrol engine and is targeted squarely at younger, cost-conscious buyers who want a new car that’s cheap to run and insure.
In a test car schedule rammed with chunky SUVs and two-tonne electric cars, its small and simple approach is a welcome breath of fresh air.
That’s not to say it is completely immune to the obsession with SUVs that has the automotive industry in a chokehold. In deference to the desire for everything to be “rugged” and capable of supporting an adventurous lifestyle, even the tiny Aygo city car has had a crossover inspired makeover - hence the X in the name.
The previous generation Aygo was a teeny hatchback that shared all but its badge and some front-end styling with the Peugeot 108. The Aygo X, however, is a purely Toyota affair and is based on the same platform as the Yaris supermini but with its own very distinct styling. Toyota calls it an urban crossover. That’s shorthand for a city car on slightly tall suspension with some plastic cladding for a “tougher” look.
It’s easy to be cynical about such design choices - car makers certainly are - but the Aygo X pulls it off remarkably well. Its unusual proportions work, with short overhangs, flared arches and almost cartoonishly large headlights while the way the lower plastic cladding and gloss black roof flow together via the coloured rear panels creates a unique look. The car particularly suits the Cardamom Green paint with orange highlights but other spice-inspired finishes work almost as well at catching the eye.
Despite its crossover-tinged looks, the Aygo is still truly a city car - just 3.7m long and 1.74m wide - and for all Toyota talks of a “ready to go anywhere” attitude, its natural habitat is the urban jungle. The Aygo’s compact size and tight turning circle make it the perfect fit for the hustle and bustle of towns and cities, squeezing through gaps and into spaces no hulking SUV could get near. Light steering and pedals feel set up for birling around packed streets yet the Aygo X rides surprisingly well for a city car, especially one rolling on massive 18-inch alloys.
An urban environment is also undoubtedly the best place to experience the Aygo X’s tiny three-cylinder motor. The 1.0-litre produces a reasonable 71bhp but it’s clearly designed for low-speed city driving. Nought to 62mph takes a glacial 15 seconds and you have to be heavy on the throttle to make any sort of progress, even around town. The gruff engine noise and lack of grunt would get tiresome on longer runs but are bearable at lower speeds, where you’re also likely to achieve almost 60mpg.
While other crossover-inflected rivals such as the Suzuki Ignis and Fiat Panda Cross offer four-wheel-drive options and hybrid motors, and the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 have a range of engine options, the Aygo X is a purely front-wheel-drive machine with one engine. The only drivetrain choice is between a five-speed manual or CVT auto transmission.
There’s more choice when it comes to specifications, with four trim lines to choose from - Pure, Edge, Exclusive and Limited Edition. Even Pure, which starts at £15,405 is well specced, partly justifying the Aygo X’s high price compared with something like a Picanto. Edge is crammed with the sort of kit you’d associate with cars a segment or two higher and which some rivals don’t offer. Lane assist, auto high beam, adaptive cruise, AEB, traffic sign recognition, auto air conditioning and a reversing camera are all standard and Edge models get an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
That screen sits at the centre of a cabin that’s designed to reflect the car’s funky exterior. The body colour is carried inside on big bold flashes on the doors, dashboard, seats and air vents, adding some life and fun. It helps elevate the otherwise plain grey plastics that make up much of the interior materials.
Add the optional (£895) canvas sunroof and you can improve the interior feel even more by flooding the car with light. What the sunroof won’t do is find you any more space. The Aygo X may have four doors and four seats but no-one will want to spend much time in the cramped rear seats. On the plus side, the 231-litre boot is pretty impressive.
Depending on your point of view that lack of space could be an issue - you can get a larger Dacia Sandero, Suzuki Swift or Kia Rio for similar money. However, if you think small is beautiful, the Aygo X leads the way on style and safety equipment while offering a refreshingly simple approach to city motoring.
Toyota Aygo X
Price: £17,105 (£1,295 as tested) Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol; Power: 71bhp; Torque: 69lb ft; Transmission: Five-speed manual; Top speed: 98mph; 0-62mph: 14.9 seconds; Economy: 56.5-58.8mpg; CO2 emissions: 109-110g/km