Toyota Aygo may be small but it punches well-above its weight.

An oversight on the car-choice front recently found me driving a tiny Toyota Aygo X-Press – with Mrs B and Mrs B’s mum aboard – up to Penrith for a 5-day stay at Center Parcs. And yes, luggage was included too although, thankfully, no bikes.

I was a little apprehensive about fitting us all into the 4-seater, 5-door city car with our luggage and I also worried that once loaded up the poor little Aygo would struggle to reach any kind of decent speed on the motorway as its tiny 998cc, 3-cyclinder 69bhp engine would surely “work to rule” given such a task.

I needn’t have worried on either count. With one of the 50/50 rear seats folded down we found we had enough room for all our luggage (including Mrs. B’s mum’s double quilt and pillows!) without obscuring the rear view. Pretty impressive to say the Aygo’s boot is a mere 168 litres with both seats upright. Mrs. B’s mum was also sat comfortably in the rear with no need for luggage on her lap and she survived the journey with no complaints whatsoever. She is tiny though . . .

The little Aygo’s performance quite frankly astounded me and while I wouldn’t be nipping in and out of traffic in town or accelerating quickly past other cars on the motorway the Toyota Aygo genuinely felt like it was more than up to the job. Once up to speed, cruising at 70mph on the M6 was effortless and without drama. Engine noise was no worse than many mid-range hatchbacks I’ve driven and although wind noise was evident it didn’t stop the 3 of us being able to have a comfortable conversation.

The Aygo didn’t appear to lose power on the hills either and an average mpg figure of 55 also added to an overall impressive performance that changed my perception of just what modern-day city cars are capable of with the only complaint being lack of cruise control – although the Aygo does come with a speed-limiter fitted as standard.

The new Toyota Aygo still shares its platform and engine with the Peugeot 108 and the Citroen C1 (both of which also have the excellent 82bhp PSA-sourced 1.2 PureTech engine available) but being the most premium choice is a little more expensive with prices starting at £8,995 for the Aygo x which is a little sparse on equipment with 14in steel wheels and no air-con.

Better then to opt for the x-play which has 15in steel wheels, manual air-con, electric door mirrors and a 4-speaker audio system with DAB radio for £10,505. Add £400 for an extra two doors.

The Toyota Aygo x-press is only available as a 5-door and is, perhaps, the most youthful looking of the bunch. Costing £12,055 on the road you can also spec an auto version for £12,755. It comes with 15in black alloy wheels, the excellent x-touch 7in touch-screen multimedia system with reversing camera, red roof and red accents on the bumpers and side sills and privacy glass along with automatic air conditioning.

The Aygo x-style is the same price as the x-press but has a more “grown-up” look to the styling while the £12,610 Aygo x-cite adds Yellow Fizz metallic paint. Finally there is the Aygo x-clusiv for £13,155 which adds fancier 15in alloys and Smart Entry and Push-Button start as well as auto headlights.

If you want Sat Nav then you’ll need to opt for the x-navi system for £400. This was fitted to my x-press model and I found it very easy to use with a clear, uncluttered screen and simple address/postcode entry.

The Aygo is the best looker of of the 3 sisters with the boldest styling which, I suspect, is most appealing to the younger driver. Toyota have also jumped on the “make it your own” bandwagon with the Aygo having interchangeable  front bumper insert, rear bumper insert, mirror covers, lower door inserts as well as alloy wheel choices – and like the Vauxhall Adam this largely works very well giving the car an air of exclusivity.

Up front feels quite roomy and the driving position is good despite there being no reach adjustment on the steering wheel – just up and down. The main instrument cluster is well thought out with all the crucial info being clearly visible on the one, large circular dial. The upper-tier models also incorporate a rev counter on the outside of the dial.

While the plastics used are obviously at the cheaper end of the spectrum, nothing feels flimsy or nasty – in fact it all looks rather good and that 7in infotainment screen adds a large chunk of respectability. It is bright and bold with the icons being of good size making it an absolute doddle to use. With DAB radio, a USB port, Aux Port and Bluetooth music streaming from your smartphone you shouldn’t have a problem with entertainment – and the 4-speaker system on my model sounded pretty good for a city car with no distortion and acceptable bass levels.

We tested the Bluetooth phone connectivity a couple of times and found it worked very well indeed with great sound at both end of the connection. Also, with phone controls on the steering wheel there is no distraction when accepting or hanging-up a call.

I couldn’t really fault the little Toyota Aygo in the time I had it because it performed above and beyond what I had expected. In the solo miles I drove it I found it to be peppy, likeable and yes, even fun to drive. The gear change is a big improvement on the older model which sometimes felt like you were stirring paint. It’s now snappier and much less vague.

The ride quality is decent for a city car that you won’t be throwing around corners anyway. Okay, the VW up! felt more refined both inside and on the road but the Aygo pipped it to the post for overall driving satisfaction for me. It simply felt more willing on the hills and so long as you keep that 3-pot unit buzzing along you’ll find it great fun too.

VERDICT: *****

Toyota Aygo x-press

OTR Price: £12,055

Engine: 1.0 3-cylinder petrol

Power: 69 bhp

Transmission: 5-speed manual

0-62mph: 14.2 secs

Top Speed: 99 mph

Combined Economy: 68.9 mpg

CO2: 95 g/km

By Steve Berry

Freelance motoring writer and member of the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers with a love of cars, motorbikes and running. I lied about the love of motorbikes. They scare me to death - although I would like to own a Ducati 996 in red which I would just look at but never ride. No, not ever.

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