FIRST DRIVE | New Toyota Agya is thrifty but not pretty

The new Toyota Agya starts at R178,600.
The new Toyota Agya starts at R178,600.
Image: SUPPLIED

Consumers would be forgiven for associating the A-segment category below R200,000 with two common threads: questionable aesthetics and dubious safety credentials.

This compels automotive critics like ourselves to advise, when asked, that buyers are better served investigating the pre-owned market, where more substantial offerings could be had at a similar price point and of an age that still carries the assurances of a warranty and service or maintenance plan.

Is a new, small, affordable vehicle with appealing design and a fair safety standard completely beyond the realm of possibility for the South African car market? Has any manufacturer truly managed to crack the budget car code?

The Toyota Agya, launched locally last week, seems to have one half of the act sorted. In 2015 it was tested in the New Car Assessment Program for Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN NCAP) and was awarded a rating of four stars for adult occupant protection and three stars for child occupant protection.

The writer is certainly no fan of the car's exterior styling.
The writer is certainly no fan of the car's exterior styling.
Image: SUPPLIED

Specification for our market matches that of the ASEAN NCAP test unit, with dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes and ISOFIX child seat anchorage points at the rear.

Compare this rating to the performance of rivals in the segment (Renault Kwid, Datsun Go, Suzuki S-Presso and Hyundai Atos) and the Agya stands as a clear winner.

The other four-star car in this company (according to Euro NCAP) is the Peugeot 108, a direct relation of the Toyota Aygo, which is no longer sold – though there are still new units floating in the dealership network – and at the time of publication was listed on the brand’s website.

So, the Agya (try not to confuse it with Aygo) appears to win in the crucial aspect of safety. Where it may not win, however, is in the area of beauty. And before we dismiss such a thing as a moot point in this portion of the market, remember that style is a priority for younger, first-time owners. You know the Agya is ugly when observers comment that the Etios (whose sub-R200,000 gap it fills) was a more attractive machine.

Interior plastics seem sturdy enough but the seats disappoint.
Interior plastics seem sturdy enough but the seats disappoint.
Image: SUPPLIED

Its face is overly-aggressive with a duct-festooned front bumper whose size looks disproportionate to the rest of the vehicle. The rear tries to ape this sense of sportiness with clear lamps, in a style pioneered by the first-generation Lexus IS from two decades ago. With a ground clearance of 180mm, the Agya stands on its tiptoes. The eight-spoke alloys shod with 175/65/R14 tyres are finished in black.

No coincidence that it has a certain Far East flavour. The Agya is an Indonesian-sourced model, known in that market as the Daihatsu Ayla. Daihatsu is one of the brands with which Toyota has product synergies in place. If etymology is your thing, you might be intrigued to know that Agya translates into “fast” – derived from Sanskrit.

It would be prudent to manage your expectations on the speed front, since 0-100km/h takes more than 14 seconds and top speed is pegged at 165km/h. But in Johannesburg town driving, its 998cc, in-line, three-cylinder petrol engine proved acceptably peppy. Though it does create quite a din as you sniff out the bulk of the 49kW and 89Nm towards the higher parts of the tachometer.

The three-cylinder engine makes a din but offers reasonable performance for what it is.
The three-cylinder engine makes a din but offers reasonable performance for what it is.
Image: SUPPLIED

Our route spanned more than 100km and saw us driving through Rosebank to Irene in Tshwane and back. Shifts through the five-speed manual are direct, if on the notchy side, while the little Toyota soldiered on reasonably well at a cruising speed of about 110km/h. Anything more and the susceptibility to crosswinds and other vagaries becomes clearer. After all, it tips the scales at a modest 835kg and has a rudimentary torsion beam rear suspension. A four-speed automatic can be had. Claimed consumption is between 4.8l and 4.9l per 100km, with a tank capacity of 33l.

Sturdy plastics abound inside the Agya. But the biggest clue to its status as a bean-counter champion are the front seats: formless slivers of cushion and foam with limited lateral support and integrated headrests that stop below neck height. The entry-level car omits an audio system, while a touchscreen infotainment set-up (with Android Auto and Apple Car Play) can be fitted as an option.

Looks aside, the Agya certainly ranks as one of the more recommendable products in its category – largely because of the superiority of its safety on paper.

Pricing is as follows:

Agya manual: R178,600

Agya automatic: R192,500

Agya manual with audio: R182,400

Agya automatic with audio: R196,300

Pricing includes a two-services/20,000km service plan and three-year/100,000km warranty.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X