In its rich 103-year history, Aston Martin has never built a car quite as divisive as the Cygnet. With a tiny 97bhp 1.33-litre engine, the small city car certainly lacked the headline figures normally associated with the manufacturer when it made its debut as an opinion-splitting concept at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show.
This stubby city runabout looked comically out of place on the Aston stand next to cars like the DBS and the V12 Vantage. But while it was controversial, it also offered something different, and it wasn’t much of a surprise when bosses confirmed the Cygnet for production in 2011. So why did Aston want to build a car with sales targets of just 4,000 a year?
Firstly, there were EU laws. Fleet emissions targets were introduced in 2012, and without a parent company to offer more eco-friendly cars to balance out the averages, it was up to Aston to reduce its CO2 figures across the model range. Basing a car on Toyota’s frugal iQ made sense.
Secondly, Aston wanted to attract a new group of customers to the brand, as well as offering existing owners something that was more suited to life in the city rather than speeding along the open road.
Unfortunately, the reality wasn’t quite that straightforward, and after two years in production, the Cygnet was quietly dropped from the model line-up. It never came close to the target of 4,000 orders.
To some, the Cygnet is a piece of Aston history that doesn’t quite fit, but there are plenty who disagree. Many see the Cygnet as a future classic in the making, thanks to its uniqueness and rarity. Auto Express set out to find a Cygnet, uncover what makes it special and determine whether or not it really is a vital part of Aston Martin ownership.
The search isn’t easy, as according to the DVLA vehicle database, just 141 Cygnets are registered in the UK; that makes it a rarer sight on the road than both the DB5 and DB6. When it came on sale in 2011, prices started at £30,995 – over twice as much as a similarly specced Toyota iQ.
Workers at the brand’s Gaydon HQ in Warks spent 150 hours building each Cygnet – the DB9 only took 200 hours – and it’s the smallest, lightest Aston ever made. The interior is filled with hand-stitched leather, the roof lining is made from Alcantara and the entire car has Aston paintwork.