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!
Aston Martin Cygnet Design
"Cygnet" is the word for a juvenile swan, and as the name for a car it evokes ideas of a small but sophisticated motor coach. One might expect it to boast a direct pedigree of one of the world's most exclusive car makers.
Instead, the Cygnet is something of an automotive adoptee. In terms of overall body shape, the Cygnet's Toyota iQ roots are clearly evident. It uses classic commuter-car proportions of short wheelbase, small-diameter wheels, small engine bay and tiny cabin to be ideal for the type of driving most city dwellers face.
As much fun as it looks in the car commercials (and Bond movies) to go zooming freely through scenic countryside in a high-performance machine, that's not what the majority of people deal with -- at least, those who live in and around cities. In Europe, where the Cygnet is first going on sale, that's even more the case. Narrow city streets, limited parking and highly-taxed petrol (gasoline) make small cars like the MINI Cooper or now, the Cygnet, much more practical than the larger vehicles Americans have tended to favor.
While it may be a Toyota underneath, Aston Martin has grafted on enough design cues to make the vehicle unmistakably its own. The most obvious piece of Aston Martin style is the Cygnet's wide, almost menacing front grill. If that wasn't enough to keep heaps of fresh air rushing in to cool the Cygnet's engine, a pair of small hood louvers are there to move even more air (though they're likely more for ornamentation than anything else). The Cygnet also gets its share of minor bodywork meant to reference other cars in the Aston Martin lineup.
Aston Martin Cygnet Specs
Of course the Cygnet sports badging that shows off the Aston Martin wings -- to differentiate it from other vehicles on the road, like say, a Toyota iQ for instance. This practice, by the way, of car companies selling the same car under a different make or model name is called "badge engineering." In fact, if the pundits are correct, expect Toyota to badge engineer the iQ/Cygnet model as a Scion -- to appeal to hip, young, urban drivers -- when it finally comes to the United States.
As this article went to publication, Aston Martin announced pricing for the Cygnet at 30,995 pounds, or just under $50,000 USD. If it does share most of the underpinnings of the Toyota iQ, that would give it the following specs (or close to them):
- A 1-liter 3-cylinder engine or possibly a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine
- Manufacturer-estimated 56.5 miles per gallon (24 kilometers per liter)
- Three meters (9 feet, 10 inches) in length with a 4-meter (13 feet, 1-inch) turning radius
- Seating for four (three adults and one child)
One area where Aston Martin did invest considerable effort to help justify the exclusive price tag is the Cygnet's sumptuous, "bespoke" interior. Hand-crafted leather envelops the seats and other surfaces. This is, according to the company, "not out of deference to tradition, but because a skilled craftsman can finish leather to a far higher standard than any automated processes."
For more information about the Aston Martin Cygnet and other related auto topics, follow the links on the next page.
- Aston Martin. "Cygnet." (Jan. 27, 2011) http://www.astonmartin.com/eng/thecars/cygnet
- Hutton, Ray. "Toyota iQ - First Drive." Car and Driver. December 2008. (Jan. 29, 2011) http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/car/08q4/2010_toyota_iq-first_drive_review
- Loveday, Eric. "Aston Martin Announces Base Price of £30,995 ($49,595 U.S.)." Autoblog Green. Jan. 26, 2011. (Jan. 26, 2011)http://green.autoblog.com/2011/01/26/aston-martin-announces-cygnet-base-price-of-30-995-49-595-u-s/
- Meiner, Jens. "2010 / 2011 Aston Martin Cygnet - Car News." Car & Driver. June 2009. (Jan. 26, 2011) http://www.caranddriver.com/news/car/09q2/2010_2011_aston_martin_cygnet-car_news
- Phillip, Sam. "Aston's iQ Test." Top Gear. June 29, 2009. (Jan. 26, 2011) http://www.topgear.com/uk/car-news/aston-martin-cygnet-2009-06-29