Price: From £31,95
Now that we have got the initial ‘shock & awe’ out of the way, it is time to explain the rationale for Cygnet. Aston Martin, would like you to think of this car as the motoring equivalent of a tender yacht (a smaller boat used to take you into port when your exclusive yacht will not fit). This is a car that you use to drive into the hustle and bustle of a city-centre, leaving your ‘proper’ Aston Martin safely cocooned in its garage. Officially described as “A small, luxurious Aston Martin tailored for the city”.
That’s Aston Martin’s spin but the truth is a little more straightforward and comes down to two important letters “E” and “U”. The European Union (EU) has set in place new emission standards that came into force this year which dictate that fines can be imposed against car manufacturers whose average emissions across the range exceed 130 grams of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) per kilometre. These regulations were going to prove a problem for Aston Martin whose range of sports cars use binge drinking eight and twelve cylinder engines, meaning a very high average emission figure. Aston Martin therefore had to come up with a way to massively bring down this average emission figure and Cygnet was the answer with its low emissions of 120g/km.
Now, those motoring enthusiasts among you may well ask why have Ferrari and Lamborghini not had to do something similar? The answer relates to brand-ownership. Where Fiat own Ferrari, Audi own Lamborghini and the huge benefit that brings is that many more Fiat 500s and Audi A1s (the smaller, low emission cars) are sold than Ferraris or Lamborghinis. This means the large emissions of such sports cars can be hugely offset. Aston Martin did not have this luxury because they are not owned by a major car manufacturer and so had to create their own small car. Interestingly. it is worth making the point that if Ford had kept its ownership of Aston Martin the Cygnet would probably never have been born.
The keen eyed among you will also note that the Cygnet bears a remarkable resemblance to the Toyota IQ city car. Well, ten points, because the IQ is effectively a donor car for the Cygnet, supplying its body, chassis, suspension, engine and transmission to Aston Martin. That said, according to Aston Martin, aside from the roof, every other body panel is all new and unique to the Cygnet.
But, and this is a big but, the price is steep for all of this perfectly formed luxury from £31,995. An incredible amount for such a small car or, an accessible price for an Aston Martin dependent upon which way you look at it. Read on to find out whether it’s a price worth paying.
Although you can see the Toyota IQ heritage in its design, Aston martin have gone to great lengths in giving Cygnet its own visual identity. This has been achieved by the use of classic Aston Martin design touches such as the front aluminium grille. This in itself brings pub bragging rights as the grille comes from the same supplier whose parts adorn the nose of Aston Martin’s £1 million One-77 Supercar.
Other neat design touches include the side-strakes that are common to all Aston Martin sports cars although it is a shame that the LED side repeater lights were not integrated into these as they are with the other models. Bonnet lourves also feature with no other function other than to look good, new projector style headlights look expensive and all this is tailed off nicely with Aston Martin’s signature LED strip lights.
Given the effort that has been spent in crafting the Aston Martin visual identity onto this small car, it’s a little disappponting to learn that Xenon-headlamps (high intensity headlights) are not available unlike the rest of the model range which have them fitted as standard.
All in all it adds up to an effect that is worth more than the sum of its donor parts. It is a very stylish looking, albeit expensive, little car. The quality is obvious from the deep luscious shine of its body panels, Aston’s finest paint job naturally.
This is where Cygnet comes into its own. There is no other small car on the market which has the decadent interior that this car offers. Aston Martin make much of the fact that the same amount of leather hides used to trim the interior are the same number that are used to fit out its DB9 model. The leather is of a beautiful quality and should you open the door blind-folded, you’d fool yourself into thinking you were sat in one of Aston’s traditional sports cars such is the rich smell of cow hide. This decadent luxury is unheard of in a small car.
The changes inside are not just limited to the use of fancy leather as Aston Martin have ensured that everything you see and feel in the car bears all the hallmarks of classic Aston Martin, from the leather clad grab handles, the alcantara headlining, the polished alloy gear-lever gate, the beautiful steering wheel that feels fantastic in your hands, the metal door pulls, the instrument graphics to the leather lined luxurious carpets. This is so far removed from the interior of the donor Toyota IQ. It is stunning!
In line with other Aston Martin products, the options for customisation are plentiful. Want the paint work to match the colour of your wife’s handbag? Yes it can be done. You can also choose from 25 different tones for your leather interior. If the customisation offered by MINI and Fiat is compared to high street tailoring, this is definitely Saville Row territory.
The only slight disappointment is that the stereo betrays its humble Toyota origins and therefore if you want a more appropriate stereo for your Aston Martin Cygnet you will have to buy an after-market system. A rare oversight in what is a £31,000 car.
Three words: second to none. Cygnet offers the best of both worlds; a first-rate interior with high quality fundamental components.
A huge benefit in having Toyota mechanicals is that you automatically get built-in reliability and quality. All of the components have seen proven service first in the IQ so this will no doubt prove to be the most reliable model within Aston Martin’s range.
With the parts you can see and touch, the quality is apparent from the quality of the stitched leather to the deep shine of the paintwork. It takes Aston Martin 150 hours to ‘hand-craft’ a Cygnet which is not hugely different from the 200 or so hours it takes to produce its DB9 sports car.
Cygnet is a car that feels special and given the care and attention that has gone into producing it, it will long stay that way.
If you’re expecting an Aston Martin-like-drive, then you will be disappointed. There isn’t even a deep bellow of an engine noise to keep you entertained as with an original Aston Martin. This drives exactly like a Toyota IQ, bad for the good name of Aston Martin perhaps, but very good for city driving.
The 1.3 litre Toyota engine provides nippy performance, allowing you to not only keep up with town traffic but to squeeze in and out of those tight gaps and, of course, parking is a breeze with the light steering and short dimensions. Slight downsides are the somewhat bouncy ride quality not helped by the short distance between front and rear wheels, although it is certainly not uncomfortable. And when measured conventionally, i.e. from a standing start up to motorway speeds, Cygnet is slow. But that is perhaps unfair because this car belongs in a city. And so, if an Aston Martin sports car is a joy on your favourite rural road, this is a joy in your favourite city.
This is where you really start to get the thinking behind the execution. If you were sat in your Aston Martin DB9 in heavy traffic, the car would feel big and heavy, stressful even. In Cygnet, you’re more relaxed as this is just the environment the car was tailored for, all cocooned in your environment of deep cushioned leather naturally. After all, in a traffic jam, a car is just a car. Acceleration times are irrelevant but items like fuel consumption become important.
On that particular note, this car will prove a revelation to any usual Aston Martin driver as it will offer more than three times the fuel efficiencies; Cygnet will easily manage over 50 miles per gallon. I wonder how many Aston Martin owners have brought their Cygnet back to the garage because of a “broken fuel gauge” . . .
This is where the Toyota breeding comes into its own once again, as the IQ donor car is extremely safe despite its compact proportions. This translates to a very safe city car with Cygnet offering a multitude of front, knee and side airbags.
Cygnet also features an array of safety braking and handling systems all designed to keep you on the road and brought to an effective halt on it where necessary.
Although Cygnet looks a small car, it is actually remarkably spacious inside and that is thanks to the genius packaging of the Toyota IQ, of which the motoring journalist Tom Ford called: “Toyota’s iPod”. It i,s after all, the world’s smallest four seater although in my experience it’s better to be called 3+1 car, that is 3 full size adults and a child.
Ease of driving is also a focal point helped by the fact Cygnet comes with a removable portable satellite navigation unit, you use it to get to your destination and when you arrive simply pop it into your bag and off you go. Very convenient.
The boot, although small, can be increased in size by folding the rear seats down to provide an extra load space. Although better ask those sat in the back first! So it is a choice between boot or seats.
Cygnet also offers ‘keyless entry’ which allows you to lock and unlock the car without having to take the key out of your pocket/bag. Useful if your hands are full of shopping.
Rear parking sensors are fitted too to help you park in those even tighter city parking spaces by telling you how far you can reverse without damaging that lovely paint.
This is a car that although expensive to buy, is cost effective to run with its low running costs. Although, it seems it does require Aston Martin levels of servicing costs with a minor service costing a reasonable £149 but with a major one a rather steep £499.
The car will not be produced in substantial quantities and therefore supply should be limited, meaning that second hand values should remain firm. For those of the right purchasing power, this will be a desirable city car keeping prices high.
To look at this car subjectively would be to decide that it is an excessively priced Toyota. But that would be to miss the point. This is a car that will not be brought by people as their only car but as a compliment to their existing fleet of luxury sport cars. But in down-sizing to drive into the city-centre, they do not want to lose some of the handcrafted luxury they are accustomed to and this is what Cygnet provides: The luxury of their other cars but in a more city-friendly form. Aston Martin Cygnet, luxury for the city.
© Nick Johnson Car Journalist & Vehicle Consultant
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A thank you to Aston Martin Cheltenham for loan of this Cygnet. Please do contact us if you would like to discuss any of the above in greater detail or would like to enquire into purchasing options. As ever, let us be your personal guide to choosing your next car.