A little Bohemian

2018-10-31 06:00

MOST families have some — distant cousins, stepchildren or, in the motoring world, offspring born of joint ventures. Toyota’s Aygo city car is built by one of these, a company called Toyota Peugeot Citroën Automobile Czech (TPCA). Located at Kolin (population 31 000), a town in the Czech Republic, it employs 3 200 local people.

They build essentially just one product and it’s labelled Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 108 or Citroën C1. Minor details vary.

South Africans buy roughly 97 of them each month, with Darryl Jacobson’s True Price organisation judging it as the entry-level car that best holds its resale value: “Achieving 75% of original list price at auction, it’s the clear leader in resale values,” he says.

The local range consists of four choices: Aygo, the base car that can be had in three monochrome colours; Aygo X-Play Black — same specification but solely in two-tone with black roof and Cherry Red body; Aygo X-Play Silver that’s similar but silver over black and upscale Aygo X-Cite that comes standard in Ice White although six other colours are available optionally. X-Cite adds a powered black Funroof — a rollback canvas section — and a small specification upgrade. This consists of side curtain airbags that bring the total up to six and 15-inch alloy wheels to replace 14-inch steel rims with plastic caps.

A trade-off is that the standard spacesaver spare makes way for a pump kit.

SA specs offers just one engine. Toyota’s 1KR-FE, 998 cc, three-cylinder develops 53 kW and 93 Nm since a 2015 upgrade to Euro6 emissions standards. It’s paired with a five-speed manual transmission. Overseas buyers can choose a 1 200cc Peugeot motor should they prefer a bit more power.

Our test car was an X-Play Silver unit and, if we were buying one for ourselves, we would fit a set of aftermarket, 14-inch alloy wheels. This would overcome the hassles of lost, stolen or scratched caps, look smarter and maintain the reassurance offered by a spare wheel.

Apart from the airbags, it also includes ABS brakes with Brake Assist, vehicle stability control, hill start assistance, ISOFix anchors with top tethers, childproof locks, rear fog lamps and central locking.

While researching this car we noticed that although it’s priced very close to Toyota’s own Etios, that India-built car outsells this one by a factor of about 11.

Superior rear legroom and a bigger boot explain a lot, but this one has charm of its own. We noted Aygo’s added safety features (at least two more airbags, hill start and VSC) and its internal simplicity and decided that it would make a brilliant student car. New drivers like its manoeuvrability (9,6-metre turning circle and light steering), easy to reach gearshift lever, seven-inch touchscreen music system that pairs and shares easily, and simple instrument layout. All that you need is contained in a single, circular dial that moves up and down with the steering column.

The rev counter, that beginners usually ignore, occupies a minor arc next to the big and bold speedometer that in turn features outside temperature, mileage and fuel gauge within a secondary “button” in its centre. There’s no need to look elsewhere for further info although the fuel computer can be called up by pressing one of the trip meter buttons.

Fuel, you said? When it comes to sipping the expensive stuff, Aygo’s little one-litre three beats the Etios’ 1.5 four-pot hands down — about 5,1 litres per 100 km versus the big-seller’s 7,2. It’s also a buzz to drive, with the five-speed manual shifter working brilliantly.

Although rear seat legroom doesn’t cater for huge rugby players, your 5’4” student and three of her buddies will be delighted. But as an experiment, we loaded the car up with three large male journalists who found that, for journeys up to about sixty kilometres, co-pilot and rear passenger could co-exist peacefully.

Aygo may not be the budget, mass favourite that Etios is, but within its design brief it’s perfectly sized, fun to drive, economical to run and just a little Bohemian. That’s what makes it special. Gordon Hall

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