Recommended. Small but perfectly formed, Aston Martin's pricey Cygnet takes the concept of the luxury city car to an all new level.
How much are you willing to pay for exclusivity? That's ultimately the question that potential buyers for this new Aston Martin Cygnet city car will be asking themselves.
Based on the Toyota iQ, the Cygnet could have turned out to be the answer to the question that nobody had asked. After all just how many buyers are willing to part with more than £30,000 for a car that they can essentially buy at any Toyota dealership for 18 grand less?
Plenty it turns out. Before its launch four hundred Cygnets had already been ordered (interestingly a quarter of buyers don't already own an Aston) with several hundred more strong leads and a six month waiting list. Aston claims that many of its customers already have a small car for the city such as a Mini, Fiat 500 or Smart and the Gaydon firm feels that there's a gap in the market for a luxury city car. Given those forward orders and the fact that in 2012 Rolls-Royce will produce a limited edition £50,000 Mini Goodwood, it's hard not to agree.
But don't dismiss this as just a rebadged Toyota. The front and rear ends with obvious Aston styling cues are completely new and the interior is totally refurbished. Each Cygnet takes an incredible 150 man hours to produce - not far off the 200 hours required to build a DB9 from scratch.
Inside, those man hours are obvious. The first 200 launch edition cars get the same paint finish and materials as the One-77 supercar (and also an even larger near £40,000 price tag), but even the standard Cygnets get the same hand-stitched leather, Alcantara roof lining and other trimmings as any other Aston. While there are some Toyota giveaways with small bits of switchgear though, the overall effect definitely works - it feels like a proper Aston.
As you'd expect, the Cygnet's on-road manners aren't much different from that of an iQ. The ride is a little firmer than you might expect as a result of the Aston sitting lower than the Toyota and wearing larger 16-inch wheels, but otherwise that's pretty much it.
The 97bhp 1.33-litre engine revs freely and feels nippy on the road, particularly from standstill up to 30mph, exactly the kind of peppiness that you want from a city car like this. Although Aston will offer the Cygnet with a six-speed manual gearbox, the vast majority of sales are expected to be the iQ's CVT automatic.
More than how it drives though is the reaction that the Cygnet gets on the road. It gets almost as much attention (and arguably more) as a standard Aston and, unlike a Mini, Fiat 500 or Smart, its exclusivity means you probably won't see another on the road.
As we said earlier, that exclusivity is crucial, because for those lucky enough to be able to afford it, that £18k difference to an iQ is irrelevant. Viewed with cold hard logic, the Cygnet shouldn't and doesn't make sense, but the reality is that the on-road experience, the healthy order books and the reactions of pedestrians suggest otherwise.
1. Exterior and interior styling
3. Zippy on-road feel
We don't like:
1. Hefty price tag
2. Six month waiting list
3. Firm low speed ride
Most sensible: Automatic
Most fun: Manual
Next: ratings and breakdown