Hello AYGO Hello Fun

Meet the AYGO, the small city car designed to inject a whole lot of fun into your life. Bold, stylish and playful, it’s a designer’s dream. Why? Because you decide what your AYGO looks like, inside and out, thanks to an array of colour and design combinations. It’s our first car to be inspired by modern Japanese culture, so we took it to meet three Japanese creatives, with inspiring results

The original AYGO, launched in 2005, was smart, simple, great value to buy and super-cheap to run. It won international awards and a big following, especially among young drivers. Its successor has all this, plus a generous helping of something often lacking in small cars – charisma. Unveiled in 2014 with the cheeky instruction to Go Fun Yourself, the AYGO shouts individuality at the top of its voice.

Improving on the original car’s best qualities, the car comes wrapped in adventurous styling, dominated by a giant ‘x’ across the front. The effect is bold, playful and very, very Japanese. According to Toyota chief engineer David Terai, his goal was to “create a car that people fall in love with [and] design a car that only the Japanese can do”. His design team embraced modern Japanese culture or ‘J-Culture’, and by drawing inspiration from Manga comics, Anime cartoons and the ‘cuteness’ of Kawaii illustrations (popularised by brands such as Hello Kitty), they produced a small car quite unlike any other on the road.


With a cartoon-like body shape that appears to be breaking through its own bonnet, roof and flanks thanks to its radical x-graphic, double-bubble roof and sharp lines, the AYGO has a hint of Transformer robot about it. “I wanted to make a car that stands out in the Japanese sense, that will catch the spirit of Europeans,” says David. And it’s worked – this car would look equally at home in downtown Tokyo or London’s hippest postcodes.

Your AYGO, your choice

Updated several times after its 2005 launch, the original AYGO proved itself a popular and practical urban runabout. The latest version, despite its extrovert exterior, is more grown up. It’s more efficient, more refined and better equipped. It’s also the most customisable Toyota ever built. The AYGO is a car you can truly make your own. From the very start, Toyota’s designers created a structure where parts could be easily exchanged.

To personalise your AYGO, you can swap the front ‘x’, rear bumper inserts and alloys for custom items and add decals either when ordering the car or later on at a Toyota dealer. Inside, there are plenty of opportunities to individualise the cabin with a range of coloured instrument panels, centre consoles, air vents and gear-lever surrounds to chose from. No two AYGOs need look exactly the same. “People want to be different, expressive,” says David. “To be individual, they need more choices.”


Speaking of choices, the car comes in three versions: the AYGO x, AYGO x-play and AYGO x-pression. The x comes with 14-inch wheels and front electric windows, while the x-play gives you larger 15-inch wheels, air conditioning, leather steering wheel and gear shift, body-coloured mirrors and door handles, and Bluetooth. The x-pression offers standard 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, part-leather sportier seats, Toyota’s latest 7-inch multimedia system, an exterior body-coloured dashboard with gloss-black centre console, gear-shift surround and air vents, and a rear-view reversing camera: a big-car feature unique in a car of this size, plus thousands of customisation combinations. The additional x-cite, x-clusiv and x-pure special editions are perfect if you can’t decide which colour combo you like best.

Fine tuning

Whatever grade you choose, the AYGO is powered by a three-cylinder 1.0-litre VVT-i engine. Based on the previous model’s award-winning motor, the latest version is even lighter and more fine-tuned for improved fuel economy. Now, with the five-speed gearbox, careful drivers can expect to see up to 70mpg. And on all grades bar the Aygo x, Toyota also offers x-shift – an automated manual transmission that can be used in fully auto mode or manually using paddle shifts behind the steering wheel.

The engine and body aren’t the only elements to enjoy a makeover. Better sound insulation makes the cabin quieter, and improved gearing relaxes motorway cruising.

Built for city streets

But today we’re navigating London streets to meet a few young Japanese designers. The AYGO feels right at home on the busy roads of East London’s buzzing cultural centres. Looks matter here in the natural habitat of the metropolitan hipster and our x-cite special edition AYGO’s blue paintwork, black alloy wheels and exotic hyper-Japanese looks turn plenty of fashionably-coiffed heads. The other chic special edition, the x-clusiv, is only available in electro grey paint and has additional specs including full leather seats, x-wave electrically retractable canvas black roof, rear privacy glass, and climate control air conditioning with digital display and push button controls.

Today, the former warehouses and factories of Hoxton, Shoreditch, Hackney and Dalston are alive with a different kind of industry. Now an established part of the capital’s artistic and cultural heart, they’re bursting with artists’ studios, tech startups, boutiques and galleries. The streets swarm with taxis, delivery vans and creative types on vintage bicycles.

And in this hectic environment where maneuverability is everything, you can count on the AYGO’s responsive steering and tight turning circle to help keep you moving. When you need to stop in a hurry, the brakes have plenty of bite, and the car’s compact size and built-in reversing camera make elusive city parking spaces easy to slot neatly into.

All-round comfort

Toyota’s x-touch multimedia system – standard equipment in the x-pression, x-cite and x-clusiv grades – lets you connect your smartphone and use its functions via a 7-inch dash touchscreen. Bluetooth allows you to connect wirelessly for crystal-clear phone calls or music streaming. You can also upgrade to x-nav satellite navigation.

Just because the AYGO is compact on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s not spacious and comfortable on the inside. The front seats, with their integrated headrests, are both comfortable and supportive, while the height-adjustable driver’s seat (available on the x-play, x-pression and special editions) helps you find your perfect driving position. And the race-car inspired ‘double-bubble’ roof not only raises the headroom for taller drivers and passengers but also looks rather cool.

Trying to create a car that inspires adoration is an ambitious aim for any designer. But offering a fun driving experience, clever technology and easy customisation with a dash of Japan’s cult cartoon style and futuristic fashions is a brilliant way to achieve it.

AYGO meets… Masahito Takeuchi

“‘Kawaii’ means cute but specifically a Japanese style of cuteness that is whimsical and simple,” explains illustrator Masahito. “It’s one of the most frequently-used adjectives in Japan. It’s part of everyday culture.”

Masahito’s designs are inspired by Japanese ‘Kawaii’ culture. His award-winning, playful drawings have been exhibited around the world. The London-born 27-year-old lived in Japan for two years while training to become a priest in the Tenrikyo faith.

“You see this bright-red colour in Japanese temples. It’s called ‘shuiro’,” he says, commenting on our special edition AYGO x-cite’s striking ‘Orange Twist’ paintwork.
“The shape reminds me of a Japanese robot,” he says. “It would fit in well in Harajuku (an influential fashion hotspot in Tokyo).”

AYGO meets… Momoko Mizutani

Owner of Momosan Shop in Hoxton, 33-year-old Momoko Mizutani searches the world for elegant hand-crafted objects that reflect traditional Japanese design values.

Inspired by the Japanese ‘Mingei’ folk-art movement, she fills her shelves with beautiful yet functional items from wooden bowls to toy spinning tops.

Fascinated by European design influenced by Japan and vice versa, she looks for “Function, material, traditional skills and very simple form”.

“I find it interesting how different cultures link and that’s the key to how I curate my shop,” says Momoko, who came to England aged just 15 and studied design at London’s Central St Martins. “Japan has two completely different sides, either having traditional skills and a strong Mingei feeling or ‘superhyper’ Japanese culture and technology.”

AYGO meets… Yuri Suzuki

Tokyo-born sound artist, designer, DJ and musician, Yuri Suzuki explores the relationship between people and sound. His creations include the Colour Chaser, a little robot car that helps people create music through drawing, and the Sound Taxi, a black cab that transforms street noises into music. The 33-year-old Royal College of Art graduate arrived in London as a student.

“People here have a much better feel for design, compared with Japan,” he says. “Here people are more interested in aesthetics, I think, so as a market it is much more difficult.

“In Japan, design is much more direct, whereas here it is more deeply conceptual. But I think Japan is very influential on what’s happening now in culture.”

Words: Richard Fleury Photography: Christopher Hunt


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