Used Aston Martin Cygnet
A history lesson…
Those who don't know the story behind the Aston Martin Cygnet are probably still shaking their heads from the first time they saw one of the supercar maker's little urban runabouts. What on earth is Aston Martin doing making a tiny little city car and doesn't it look a lot like a Toyota IQ? A little bit of digging provides the answers. European Union regulations state that every car maker has to reduce the average emissions of its range of cars by 35% from 2015. That would be extremely hard for a marque like Aston Martin to achieve with their standard supercars, so what they have done is bring out an extremely frugal little car to bring down their average. And yes it does look like a Toyota IQ because underneath the skin that is exactly what it is. The question is then: is it any good?
Bang for your buck
Aston take delivery of a Toyota IQ and then set about working their magic, with around 120 man hours going into handcrafting each car into a Cygnet. Never having built a small city car, Aston are smart enough to leave the Toyota mechanicals well alone, so underneath the bonnet is the same 1.3 petrol engine you get in an IQ. It is not tuned up in any way, as this would somewhat defeat the purpose of the car. Instead they concentrate on adding hides of fine British leather and replacing the instrumentation and controls with something more befitting the Aston Martin badge. Outside, every body panel except the roof is replaced by hand built Aston panels and given numerous layers of paint to achieve that famous Aston Martin gloss. What you get then is the world's most luxurious little runabout, ideal for popping down to the shops and parking in tight spots while the bigger Aston slumbers at home in the garage. It is fair to say that many observers decry the Cygnet and question why owners don't save themselves a bundle of cash and simply buy the Toyota on which it is based. But that is to miss the point of a car which is intended for those people who simply want the very best that motoring can offer, even in a city car.
What you'll pay
A 2011 1.3 standard model with 14,000 miles on the clock starts at around £17,500 while a 2012 CVT example with a little over 1,000 miles under its belt will cost £25,000.
What to check
With most of these cars being available from 2011 onwards, the warranty ought to sort out any little glitches. Based on the very capable little Toyota there are unlikely to be any serious mechanical failings, so just have a look for the usual urban dents and scrapes on that beautiful paintwork.
Underneath that lovely bodywork the Cygnet is all Toyota so parts should be reasonable, with replacement front brake pads on the donor car costing £44 and £26 at the back. Brake discs should be £55. An air filter is around £12 with a water pump coming in at £115.
How it drives
The 1.3 petrol engine developing 99 bhp is not going to remind anyone of the usual sort of Aston Martin driving experience. The Cygnet will get you, eventually, from 0-60mph in 11.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 108mph. The Cygnet is clearly all about city driving though and it manages this with aplomb. It feels tighter and more stable than a car with this short a wheelbase has any right to do and is extremely agile around town. At low speeds the car's powered steering and tiny turning circle come into their own, making the Cygnet extremely easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces. Stop and start technology cuts the engine when the car is stationary and in neutral and then restarts the engine in less than 0.5 of a second when the clutch is depressed. Out of town, the car will cruise adequately and feel almost as refined as the sumptuous interior unless you try to thrash it a little too much. Then the limitations of the little Toyota engine and suspension become obvious and you will yearn to return to the urban environment for which the car was designed.