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Review | 14.10.2013 - 23:13

The Aston Martin Cygnet

A look at Aston Martin's Small Car Entry Model
Sell My Aston Martin Cygnet
Aston Martin Cygnet

Few cars divide opinion quite like the Aston Martin Cygnet. To some, it's a smart solution to emissions legislation that threatens the Aston Martin brand. To others it represents a dangerous dilution of the values that the company has worked so many years to build. Remove the politics and you're left with a smart, cultured and, yes, scarily expensive citycar.

 

Like it or not, we're all subject to the chicanery, horse trading and backhanders that occur in dingy rooms in Brussels; car makers especially so. European Union regulations require car makers to cut their fleets' average CO2 emissions by 35 per cent from 1995 levels. If they fail to replace enough gas guzzlers with more fuel efficient vehicles by 2015, car makers face fines. Now that works OK if you're, say, Ferrari and can claim that you're merely a part of the Fiat group, the emissions of a few Ferrai 458 Italias being spirited away to nothing by those of a million Fiat 500 TwinAirs in the time it takes a Brussels accountant to type =AVERAGE into Excel.

 

It used to be easy for Aston Martin too. Part of Ford's empire, the EU directives were but an abstract concept massaged into irrelevance by the thousands of diesel Fiestas rolling off the production lines. Since Ford divested themselves of Aston Martin, the need to lower CO2 levels across the range suddenly got very pressing, hence the launch of the Cygnet. Effectively a retrimmed Toyota iQ, the Cygnet is the car that Aston Martin hopes can allow it to continue building powerhouses like the DBS, the Rapide and the Vantage.

 

If you've driven a Toyota iQ, you'll have a very good idea what driving a Cygnet is like. Yes, your bottom will be sitting on expensive leather and your hands will be caressing a custom-trimmed steering wheel, but the all-important oily bits are all the same. That means your 007 fantasies may be a little hamstrung by a 1.33-litre engine that produces a peak power output of 99bhp. Aston Martin did have the option of an even cleaner 1.0-litre powerplant but clearly decided that 0-60mph in 11.5 seconds and a top speed of 108mph were leisurely enough already for a car bearing the famous badge.

 

The engine uses advanced Dual VVT-i technology which continuously adjusts the timing of the inlet and outlet valves to produce an extremely efficient combustion process. The Stop & Start technology cuts the engine when the gear lever is in neutral and the clutch pedal is released, then restarts in under half a second when the clutch is depressed. This has the potential to cut fuel consumption by up to three percent in urban areas where sitting stationary in traffic has become the rule rather than the exception.

 

The iQ platform handles extremely neatly, lulling its driver into the assumption that it's a much larger car. It lacks the vivacious feel to its handling that the most enjoyable city cars possess but ride quality and body control are first rate for a model with such a short wheelbase. At lower speeds, the steering's electric assistance and tight 3.9m turning circle make manoeuvring the car into even the tiniest parking places a piece of cake.

 

Initial build for each Cygnet is completed in Japan, then at Aston's HQ in Gaydon both the interior and exterior are thoroughly revised. One of the benefits of Cygnet ownership is access to the vast palette of paint and materials finishes enjoyed by buyers of more traditional Aston Martin models. This means that it's highly unlikely that two identical Cygnets will ever leave the factory, let alone meet up on the road. Hand-finished leather trims, Alcantara trim inserts and aluminium fascia fillets give the Cygnet a respectably upmarket feel.

 

No matter what you think of the politics that have spawned the Cygnet, it's impossible not to be impressed by the integration job Aston Martin has done with the iQ base car. Even the front grille looks cleanly styled. The innovative asymmetric dashboard was designed to open up the whole cabin area. It ensures ample leg room for the front passenger, even when the seat is in as far forward as it will go. The sliding seat configuration allows an adult 190cm tall to sit comfortably in the rear seat behind a front passenger of the same height. Shoulder-to-shoulder distance between driver and front passenger bears comparison with a Mondeo-sized vehicle. A flat under-floor fuel tank, a 20% smaller heater unit and repositioned steering gear all make this possible. The all-round space and seating layout means there is ample room for three adults plus either a child passenger or luggage behind the driver. The rear seats fold flat and there's a storage tray that slides from below the rear seat.

 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll move onto the price. It's £30,995 and that is a lot of money for a retrimmed Toyota iQ which, it may not have escaped your attention, costs just over £12,500. Aston Martin can talk of the 100 hours of hand crafting each car or highlight the diamond-turned alloy wheels but that still seems an eye-watering amount of money. That said, if you want the best and most luxurious city car and money is little object, here it is.

 

The company expects most buyers to already own a full-sized Aston Martin and CEO Dr Ulrich Bez described the Cygnet as an 'exclusive tender to a luxury yacht'. Given that Aston Martin sold 1080 cars in the UK in 2010, even if all of them emitted the 388g/km of the flagship DBS model, selling 2685 Cygnets would halve the company's CO2 outlet, for this market at least. With production slated for 2000 cars per year, the company has to play a very precarious balancing act between getting the sums right for average carbon dioxide output and retaining the requisite exclusivity that will sell these cars to existing Aston owners.

 

If you can afford to drop £30,000 on a Cygnet, and with Aston Martin expecting many to leave the factory specified to well over £40,000, it's doubtful that fuel economy and emissions will be a major factor in the buying decision. For what it's worth, Aston Martin predicts 116g/km and a combined economy figure of 56.5mpg. If piloting your Rapide through the higgledy-piggledy streets of Monaco or Mayfair is too nerve-wracking to contemplate, here's the perfect solution.

 

Depreciation is a tough one to gauge and heavily depends on how well Aston Martin has assessed demand. Should it saturate what turns out to be a smaller market than it expected for boutique city cars, the Cygnet could prove to be a very costly car to own.

 

For all those doom-mongers predicting the Cygnet to be the death of the Aston Martin brand, it's worth winding the clock back a few years. Back to a time when Porsche was in terrible financial straits. It borrowed a Volkswagen product, the Touareg 4x4, gave it a Porsche makeover and offered it for sale in the US. Traditionalists were up in arms. Porsche had no history building SUVs yet the Cayenne proved to be a massive cash generator and one that allowed the company to keep building 911s and continue its racing tradition.

 

A similar case can be made for the Cygnet. If this is the car that allows Aston Martin to continue building the cars that have defined its contemporary reputation, it deserves all the luck and success it can get. The idea might not be original and nor, Aston Martin clearly believes, will be the net result.

 

More information about the Aston Martin Cynet can be found - here.

 

 

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