October 27, 2012

Review: Scion iQ, Toyota iQ, Aston Martin Cygnet

"Have you seen the Aston Martin Cygnet?" CelloDad inquired.

CelloDad is not a fan of cars, and considers my car blog antics with indulgent bemusement. But he is an anglophile and a fan of James Bond, so how can he not be a fan of the Aston Martin luxury cars? You know: the kind that gets re-engineered by Q to bristle with high-tech lethal gadgets and invariably gets smashed satisfyingly during the car chase.

In Aston Martin's lineup of high-luxury, high-performance cars, none have much regard for the back seat: I mean, you don't ever see Bond with more than one passenger, do you? The Cygnet, at exactly 3m length unabashedly a citycar, with its tiny back bench where a full-sized cello might have to be placed on the diagonal, fits right in with that idea.

Otherwise, it sticks out like a sore - ummm, little pinky. No space for high-tech weaponry here: the most you can see doing with this car is opening a compartment in the back to scatter tire-shredding push pins on the road behind to deter the pursuers hot on your tail. The Cygnet's very name is a reflection of how uneasily it fits in with the rest of the Aston Martin family of roadsters and coupés: despite sporting a grille that looks like all the other Aston Martin grilles, the Cygnet is basically an upscale version of an ugly duckling. If it weren't half the size of its elegant brethren it might have been called the Aston Martin Cuckoo.

This is because the Cygnet is essentially a rebadged version of the Toyota iQ, a Japanese "2box" car that is sold in the US as the Scion iQ. Aston Martin, most at home at the racecourse in Le Mans, seems incapable of producing cars with small engines, and has brought the iQ, with its modest engine, into its fold to help it comply with the tightening European emissions requirements. None of its V8 or V12 engines will be any help with that.

Even so, now that it sports an Aston Martin front, the Cygnet is better looking than its close relations in the Toyota fold. It's being marketed as a "bespoke luxury commuter car". You can custom-order this car in literally any colour you want, and have interior leather upholstery installed to match your favourite Alexander McQueen dress.

One would love to sniff out this car, because at first sight the interior promises to score high marks for chemical cleanliness: what with leather on the seats and dashboard wrapping, machined aluminum features, and Alcantara fabric lining on the ceiling, there is very little plastic here. If you are chemically sensitive and don't deal well with the emanations from the plastic interior of most cars, this might be a solution. However, perhaps most of us don't deal well with the nearly $50,000 price tag.

With its small size and small turning radius, this is one cool car in which to do a spot of shopping even in England's narrow-streeted city centers. Perfect for the ladies who lunch on London's Beecham Place (spelled Beauchamp).

Its Japanese counterpart, the Toyota iQ, is also great for manoevering and parking in tight spaces in Japan's high density neighbourhoods. The iQ is offered with the same 1.3L engine that comes in the Cygnet, as well as a 1.0L, 67HP engine. However, because the latter comes with automatic transmission only, its fuel efficiency is actually lower than that of the 1.3L manual-transmission version. The 1.0L does come in a two-seater version, which means that you have a bit more cargo space; in the four-seater the space behind the second row is diminuitive and probably fits barely more than two standard paper grocery bags. Or a skateboard. Either way, the interior is done in standard-Toyota plastic.

Stateside, this same car is marketed as the Scion iQ. Same body, same 1.3L engine, except it's available only with automatic transmission. However, it is Toyota's smart CVT (continuously variable transmission) which gets a very respectable fuel efficiency when compared to the manual-transmission counterpart.

In the US as in Japan, the iQ is marketed to the younger crowd. It's perfect for moving yourself and a friend around town, but I can't see installing a toddler on the back seat even though the back seat is carseat-ready. And maybe you'd better not play anything larger than a viola.



Comparison iQ and Cygnet

Scion Toyota Aston Martin
Type iQ iQ Cygnet
Year 2012 2012 2012
Emissions rating  
$ 16,060
¥ 1,400,000
($ 17,600)
£ 30,995
($ 49,900)
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 36 / 37 mpg   5.8 / 4.5 L/100km
(41 / 52 mpg)
Avg. quoted  
37 mpg
21.2 km/L JC08
5.0 L/100km
(47 mpg)
Avg. actual 39 mpg   45 mpg (VVT-I)
Engine 1.33L 4-cyl
16-vlv DOCH

1.33L 4-cyl
16-vlv DOCH

1.33L 4-cyl
16-vlv DOCH
Power 94HP 93HP 97HP @6000rpm
Transmission CVT-I auto 6-spd manual

6-spd manual
w/ Stop/Start

Fuel Unleaded Unleaded Unleaded
Length, mm(in) 120.1 in 3000mm 3078mm
Width, mm(in) 66.1 in 1680mm 1680mm
Height, mm(in) 59.1 in 1500mm 1500mm
Weight, kg(lbs) 2127 lbs 950/1170 kg 988 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 3.5 cuft    
Turning radius, m(ft) 26.4 ft c-c   4m (13ft) radius
Top speed, kph(mph)     106 mph


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