How the Aston Martin Cygnet Works

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Sure, it's an Aston Martin -- but would James Bond drive it?

That's the question on auto enthusiasts' minds as they ponder the Cygnet by Aston Martin. The luxury sports car maker, famed for serving as the chariot of choice for Agent 007, has served up a decided departure from its usual fare in the Cygnet.

It's tiny, it's fuel efficient and it trades in Aston's elegantly athletic contours for a more squat visual presence. And there's one characteristic that might really make bluebloods see red -- it's based on a Toyota. And not just any Toyota, but the Toyota iQ, a modestly powered car aimed at the "economy" segment of the car-buying market.

Whereas the iQ sells in Europe for the equivalent of about $16,000, the Cygnet is expected to go for nearly $50,000. For all that additional cash, customers will get some Aston Martin bling: the signature gaping maw grille, Aston Martin badging and aggressive-looking hood vents to air out the likely 1.0- to 1.3-liter engine (at the time of this writing, the exact engine size is still undecided). It'll also feature extensive hand-fabricated interior work, in particular the leather that adorns the Cygnet's seats and other surfaces.

For the status conscious, or luxury conscious, prestige often takes precedence over practicality. For a proud Aston Martin owner, there may be fewer things more horrifying than taking your DB9 to the local market only to have some uncivilized oaf nick the paint with his or her car door. "Many of our customers have a need for a small car for urban and city use," Aston Martin chief executive Ulrich Bez said in a company announcement. He likened the Cygnet to a small "tender" boat as it's used in connection with a yacht -- that would be one's Aston Martin sports car.

Part of Aston Martin's thinking, at least initially, is to restrict Cygnet sales to current Aston Martin customers. So even though it would be the least expensive Aston Martin, owning one would not come cheaply, since you'd have to first buy another Aston Martin!