Toyota’s new small car is eager to jump into the entry-level segment and shoo away the competition. We took the newcomer for a quick spin around Cape Town to see if the Japanese brand is onto a winner.
What is it?
Toyota hasn’t offered anything capable of dominating the entry-level car market since the Tazz made its departure for the big parking lot in the sky. The Aygo city car seemed too small for our market and the Etios looked a bit strange and a felt of marginal quality, at least for a Toyota product. Admittedly, the Etios did get better with multiple updates through the 2010s, but it couldn’t touch Volkswagen’s Polo Vivo on the sales charts.
The Agya steps into that role vacated by the venerable Tazz with the entire range landing with asking prices under R200k. It has 4 doors, a steering wheel, air-conditioning, electric windows all-round and, importantly, 2 airbags and ABS with EBD. A glance through the spec sheet shows that its a match for its rivals, such as the Renault Kwid to the Hyundai Grand i10, Suzuki S-Presso and probably the pick of the bunch, the Suzuki Swift GL.
Is the engine any good?
The little 3-pot under the bonnet offers unexpectedly good results.
Toyota SA had 2 choices of engines to choose from (at the plant in Indonesia where the Agya is produced): a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder or a 1.2-litre 4-cylinder. It seems that trying to sneak under that all-important R200k mark forced Toyota’s hand... The 1.0 3-cylinder produces a smidge under 50 kW and 89 Nm of torque – not numbers wannabe boy racers are going to lust after, but at 835 kg, the Agya doesn’t have much mass to propel.
On our route up and over the likes of Chapman’s Peak Drive and Ou Kaapse Weg and the mighty Kloof Nek climb, the 3-pot felt more than capable. I was alone in the car so I can’t speak for what it’s like with 2 or 3 passengers on board, but it had more than enough power to accelerate up some of the steeper sections and even maintained momentum without me having to row through the gears to keep the li'l motor "on the boil".
I would go as far as to say the engine is perky; the Agya feels more alive than some of the rather lifeless and gutless competitors it’s up against.
What’s it like to drive?
The 14-inch wheels are standard across the range.
To be frank, many of the Agya’s rivals feel tinny, tend to sway in crosswinds and don’t feel particularly stable under cornering. The little Toyota certainly doesn’t suffer from any of those afflictions; it’s actually quite fun to drive. For its size, the Agya feels quite planted at freeway speeds and when the mood takes you to corner with, shall we say, enthusiasm, the Japanese hatchback is quite playful. It’s sufficiently agile and doesn’t seem to mind being flung around, which is something you do at your own peril in most of the offerings at the cheaper end of the entry-level market.
The steering feels well connected to the wheels (that may sound odd, but there are entry-level cars that appear to have their steering connected to an app... on someone else's phone). The Agya has a reliable amount of heft to the turn, which augments the car's confidence-instilling stability.
What does it have inside?
A basic setup inside, but most of the essentials are there. Opt for the upgraded infotainment if you want Carplay or Android Auto.
Personally, I would like some adjustability to the seating position, preferably to the seat height or steering column; the Agya has neither. You sit in the position Toyota declares suitable with only the option to move forwards or backwards on the rails. That means a very high seating position, but thankfully the roof is also higher up than in a standard hatchback, so there’s sufficient headroom for drivers over 6ft tall (1.83 metres).
The backrests of the front seats are a single unit, so there’s no headrest adjustability either, and they could do with a bit more lateral support as descending through the tight turns of Chapmans Peak resulted in an unexpected abdominal workout in my efforts to remain securely seated.
Rear occupant space is good; there is relatively ample legroom, even when seated behind the driver's seat set up for a person that's 6ft in height.
Overall, the interior build quality seems above segment-average with no particular pieces of trim that stand out as excellent and none that seem to emanate from a margarine-tub factory. The rear-view mirror is a bit flimsy and prone to vibrating so everything looks a little blurry behind you.
The infotainment system on the standard derivative looks like a standard radio, but Toyota will offer the option of a touchscreen infotainment system (replete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility) very soon. The standard system will give you access to Toyota Connect, which works as an app on your phone that allows you to stream video and music, there’s even free data (10 GB) thrown in for use within the App.
Is it safe?
The roof spoiler unlikely to be particularly effective at Agya speeds, but gives it an athletic look.
The Agya is equipped with 2 airbags up front and ABS with EBD, making it par for the segment. No electronic stability control is specced. We don’t have any relatable crash test data to go on aside from the ASEAN NCAP results, which tests cars for South-East Asia, where the Agya scored 4 Stars. In the same test, the Renault Kwid scored zero and the Datsun Go scored 2 stars. The Suzuki Swift scored 5 stars.
There are also 2 ISOfix points in the rear for fastening child seats.
Toyota offers a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and 2 services/20 000 km service plan as standard.
|1.0 5MT||R178 600|
|1.0 5MT with audio||R182 400|
|1.0 4AT||R192 500|
|1.0 4AT with audio||R196 300|
The Toyota Agya, at first appearance, seems to be a decent offering from Toyota. Its engine performance and overall driving experience eclipse those than those of its competitors, possibly with the exception of the Suzuki Swift. It’s fun to drive and feels quite stable at freeway speeds.
Inside, there’s plenty of passenger space for both passengers (in the front and the rear) and, with a 260-litre load bay, there’s adequate room for medium-sized suitcases too. The current infotainment system might not seem up to scratch at first glance, but coupled with Toyota’s Connect system it offers steaming services and data. You can always upgrade to the touchscreen system if you can spend a few more Rands anyway.
With the new Agya, Toyota may not have the volume seller of the Vivo’s calibre (at least that remains to be seen), but the newcomer probably has enough going for it to fight for the lead in the A-segment, where it's more than likely to steal sales from the Kwid, Go and Hyundai Atos.