As city runabouts go, Toyota is playing in a rather precarious segment in which technology is equally as important as the kerb appeal of the vehicle.
The current Aygo, which was launched locally in 2015, looked set to add zest to the model because, to be frank, the previous generation was not much to look at.
Thankfully, all that changed at one fell swoop when the current model arrived on the scene, thanks to its X-motif front end that gave it a more distinct character than the preceding model. Now the marque has given the model a slight specification upgrade to bring it bang up to date with other cool kids playing in this segment.
The Volkswagen Up continues to be one of our favourites in the segment; however, as that old adage says, variety remains the spice of life and the Aygo seems to bring that to the segment, or at least attempt to.
So, what’s new then with the model? Well, not much, but the standout feature is probably the LED daytime running lights.
The interior of all models now features a leather-bound steering wheel and gear lever, while the infotainment screen has touchscreen functionality and comes replete with Bluetooth technology, USB and auxiliary connection points. Also, and crucial, is that all models now come standard with VSC (vehicle stability control), making them even safer.
Aside from the high levels of specification, the model has been given extra muscle with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine now pushing out 53kW (2kW jump) and 93Nm. It might not seem like much, but any power boost is welcome.
As before, the engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and we spent time at the wheel at the model’s launch in Gauteng where driving in cut-and-thrust city traffic is the model’s main forte. While the engine requires you to wring its neck to get things moving and shaking, it quickly settles into its own rhythm once up to speed. However, inclines and urban speed bumps require the lowest gear possible to get things going.
Its compact dimensions make it fairly easy to park in tight spaces, but passenger space, particularly in the rear quarters, remains an issue, so adults might find it rather tight back there.
Ride quality is good and the model manages uneven roads with great aplomb, thanks to the 165/55/14 high-profile tyres on the X-Play models, while the X-Cite (opening canvas roof) variant gets 165/50/15 profile tyres.
Costing from R166 800 to R193 900, the model is well priced, but its overall size, something that also bugs the VW Up, means it will lose out to other offerings such as the Renault Sandero and Hyundai Grand i10, which offer considerably more space for not much more in price premium.
We also sampled the C-HR crossover in new Luxury specification, arguably one of Toyota’s most exciting cars since the 86 sport coupe, thanks to its edgy styling, 1.2l turbo engine and good handling characteristics.
For 2018, the model has received cosmetic enhancements for the top specification model, which features LED headlights with dynamic indicators (swish illuminating indicators) and more stylish 18-inch alloy wheels.
The cabin has received a new infotainment screen that includes Apple CarPlay, however, the unit lags behind rivals in that its display resolution is not quite up there and has as an air of aftermarket about it.
Also, I still feel that the cabin could do with lighter colour contrasts to offset the sea of black, which makes it feel rather sombre and claustrophobic. That aside, the C-HR still represents a well-sorted package in terms of performance and price, with styling that makes it stand out from the crop of crossovers.
The engine, which puts out 85kW, is a zesty mill that pulls the vehicle with great conviction and is paired to the CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearbox, which I am not a fan of, but works reasonably well when not rushed.
I prefer the six-speed manual gearbox you find in the standard and Plus variants, alas not in the top-tier Luxury specification, which comes exclusively with the aforementioned CVT.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic prowess of the vehicle, which remains a boon. Hurl it into corners and it responds with such alacrity that you wonder why the company is not shouting from the rafters about that aspect of the car.
The C-HR remains a breath of fresh air in Toyota’s line-up and is one of the more exciting cars it produces. – Lerato Matebese