Embarking on a Spanish road-trip requires a car fitting of the stunning location. Ideally, you’d want a convertible, perfect to let you get a tan in the Andalusian sun. It would also be nice to have something brightly-colored that turns the heads of locals, particularly of the opposite sex.
Well, the Toyota Aygo doesn’t seem like the obvious choice for either of those things. However, it was my choice.
Starting in Algeciras, my trip saw me head along parts of Spain’s stunning coastline while also heading inland to explore some of the quaint towns and cities through Andalusia. By the time the trip finished, the Aygo had somehow (surprisingly) won its way into my heart.
What is it about small cars?
For some strange reason, I have a soft spot for small cars. In an industry where more and more consumers are looking for large crossovers, SUVs, and pickup trucks, I find myself drawn towards affordable hatchbacks. Honda launching a Type R version of the Fit? Sign me up. Perhaps an N-powered Hyundai i10? Sounds like an absolute riot.
Having primarily owned small cars, I’m probably a little bit bias. I don’t yearn for a big vehicle that lets me see over traffic and muscle my way through the streets. Instead, I prefer a car that allows me to sit as low as possible, provides good visibility, and most importantly, feels like a big go-kart. Certain exotics and sports cars can’t be beaten in these regards. The Aygo is neither but even still, it does possess these qualities.
‘Now that’s a car I want to drive’
Turning the corner to pick up my Aygo, the first thing that struck me was the color. Obviously. The bright blue and black paint scheme isn’t for the faint of heart yet somehow, I was already getting positive vibes. Why drive a bland city car when you can have one that shouts ‘look at me!’?
Sadly, the joy didn’t last long. Sliding into the driver’s seat, I immediately pumped it down to its lowest position and realized that as a taller-than-average driver, it simply wouldn’t go low enough. Worse still was the fact that the highest the steering wheel would go was just one inch above my knees. Didn’t I mention my steering wheel preference? Oh yeah, I like my seat low, steering wheel high, and the two close together, just like a racing driver.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the Aygo to start redeeming itself. The first thing I noticed was the surprising amount of weight through the steering. Unlike the Kia Picanto I punished through South Africa in January, the Aygo’s wheel weights up nicely during turns. It’s not what you’d call exciting but it is adequate. I was also a big fan of the blue accents throughout the cabin, serving as the perfect reminder of the statement I was making behind the wheel.
Also adequate in the Aygo is its shifting action. The engagement point for the clutch is in an acceptable position (a little high if I’m being picky) and the gear stick clicks into position rather nicely. Sadly, the car I was driving often had some difficulty shifting from second to third.
Another let down of the transmission lies in the difficulty of finding neutral. On more than occasion, I shifted into what I thought was neutral, jiggled the gear stick around to make sure, and let off the clutch. Then I discovered I was in fact in third gear. For whatever reason, Toyota has placed third gear right in the center of the shift assembly and neutral slightly down, where you’d think fourth would be.
What’s more, it was actually easier to jiggle the gear lever around while the car was in gear than when in neutral. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it. For the next two weeks with the car, I would let off the clutch and remain fixated on the rev counter to ensure it wasn’t about to stall and in fact in neutral.
So what about the roadtrip?
Staring in Algeciras, I drove up to Marbella before heading inland to the picturesque tourist hotspot of Ronda. The road between Marbella and Ronda is simply stunning. A combination of tight switchbacks, flowing bends, and smooth tarmac made it a joy to drive.
While staying in Ronda, I had the chance to drive to check out a host of nearby towns and villages, including the likes of Setenil de Las Bodegas, Olvera and perhaps the jewel of them all, Zahara de la Sierra (pictured below in the distance).
Connecting these small towns was kilometer after kilometer of tight mountain roads barely wide enough for two cars. Having a car as compact as the Aygo was perfect. Due to the weighty steering, it is easy to place on the road and the 165 section tires provide reasonable grip. The car rolls quite a lot when cornering but the leather seats did a good job at holding me in position.
After Ronda, I headed back towards the Alboran Sea for a stay in the wonderful city of Malaga on the Costa del Sol. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, Malaga offers a vibrant waterfront, a mesmerizing Alcazaba (Moorish fortification), and glorious beaches.
Revitalized with some sun and a fresh tan, I headed back in-land, this time making stops in Antequera, Cordoba, and Granada. In general, finding parking in these cities is difficult and quite costly, so keep that in mind if you ever plan a trip in Spain.
It would also be a good idea to learn some of the local street signs before heading there, unlike me.
Thinking I had discovered a free parking area in Cordoba, I left the Aygo for a couple of days without a second thought. Upon returning to the car, it had disappeared. Fearing that it had been stolen, I approached two police officers who informed me it had been towed and was being held at the local police station. Apparently, I had parked in a residents-only zone. I was only reunited with the Aygo after an expensive trip to the holding yard.
The following day, my roadtrip came to an end in Valencia. Parting ways with the Aygo wasn’t easy.
‘No boring cars’
Whereas almost all city cars look the same, the Aygo stands out in a huge way. In my eyes, it is by far the best looking car in its segment, especially when painted in blue and black. As a matter of fact, whenever I parked the thing, I’d find myself looking back at it two or three times as I walked away.
It wasn’t just me either. Various people complimented me on the car and when driving down city streets, it wasn’t uncommon for beautiful women to look at the car with a big smile on their face. Clearly they liked it. Maybe. Perhaps they were just laughing at the 6-foot Australian behind the wheel trying to understand Spanish road rules. Either way, it stands out, and credit has to be given to Toyota for being so bold with its design.
Almost all city cars are bland, boring, and lacking character. The Toyota Aygo is the opposite. It is cute, quirky, and fun. If Toyota ever makes a GRMN version, I’ll be the first in line.