Aston Martin Cygnet driven

* Aston Martin's first city car * Based on Toyota iQ * Price from £30,995...

Aston Martin Cygnet driven

What is it?

The £30,995 Cygnet breaks an enormous amount of new ground for Aston Martin. It is by far the smallest Aston in history, at just three metres long. It is the make's first city car, based on the unaltered body, chassis and mechanical parts of the 1.33-litre Toyota iQ automatic, which costs £13,500 and has been on sale for a couple of years.

It is probably also the slowest Aston in 50 years, achieving a modest 106mph flat out and sprinting from 0-60mph in 11.5 seconds, more than twice the time it takes any other contemporary Aston.

So what's it for? Two things. First, draconian tax penalties are just over the horizon for manufacturers of thirsty cars, so the Cygnet's average fuel economy of 54.3mpg and 120g/km CO2 output help offset the effects of more conventional Aston fare. Second, Aston has realised that Aston owners also need nippy, frugal inner-city transport, and that a luxurious baby Aston will fit the bill just nicely, thanks.

What's it like?

Convincing, actually.

Of course, it's easy to criticise a car that costs two-and-a-half times as much as the less aristocratic model on which it's based. That, however, would be to miss the details. The Cygnet has the same paint finish as Aston's top-end models, while the interior has been finished by hand. Every surface is covered in leather, Alcantara or first-quality carpet.

Yes, the major components are by Toyota, but the bits you look at and touch are by Aston. The polished alloy gear-gate, metal inner door handles and instrument graphics all have their origins in Gaydon. If an exclusive small car is what you seek, this is it.

What's it like to drive?

On the road, unsurprisingly, the car is all iQ. Even the tyre sizes are unaltered, although the wheels (standard eight-spoke alloys or an optional 16-spoke set) are Aston Martin's own design. The 97bhp engine gives the car plenty of zest below 50-60 mph, and sounds sporty when used with energy.

There's a fiddly five-speed manual gearbox as standard, but the optional CVT automatic transmission picks up quickly when you pull away. The Cygnet is also relatively refined on motorways.

Cities are where the Cygnet really struts its stuff, though. The steering is light and accurate, and the shopping-trolley turning circle really has to be experienced to be believed. It's especially good when you consider that it'll carry three people with ease, and four at a push. There's no boot when you do, though.

Should I buy one?

If you're the moneyed kind who wouldn't buy a Toyota in a fit but likes the idea of a luxurious little city car that can be bought from the options list of a new Aston supercar, then you'll probably be delighted to own a Cygnet.

Around 400 people, nearly all big Aston owners, have put their name down for one, and Aston boss Ulrich Bez reckons he can find 1500 of these people a year. If you're not one of them, forget it.

What Car? says