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The History and Evolution of the Aston Martin Cygnet

 Aston Martin Cygnet

Automaker Aston Martin designed their once-popular model, the Cygnet, to fulfill its need for a sustainable product lineup that would satisfy the demand for the brand with a vehicle that would reduce the cumulative emissions rating for the Aston Martin company.

It was released during the era when cleaner running vehicles became compulsory with intense regulations in Europe that dictated the necessity of keeping fuel emissions to acceptable standards.

The Cygnet, like many other models, has gone the way of the dodo, but it will remain an important model in the history of the brand. Here is the history and evolution of the Aston Martin Cygnet to help fans understand its merits along with the rationale for its discontinuation.

The first-generation Aston Martin Cygnet

According to Cararac, The Cygnet made its debut on the market in 2011. The vehicle featured a round shape with a gentle slope to the front end that moved the elements aerodynamically across the front to the back end It offered smooth contours lines in an attractive compact vehicle with a practical hatchback.

Attractive wore spoke wheels gave the initial run nice curb appeal. The size was short to make it easy to park in tight spaces, which was a plus for the European market with Europe's crowded cities. The light vehicle came in at less than 200 lbs over a ton. The first generation that included three model years was the only generation that the car would ever see in terms of production models.

A Change of pace for Aston Martin

 Aston Martin Cygnet 1

Aston Martin surprised its fan base with the release of the Cygnet, according to Auto Evolution. The brand is known for producing attractive sports cars, but the Cygnet is a model design that is far out of step for the automaker.

With the advent of new laws taking effect in the EU, all automakers were asked to reduce CO2 emissions by some thirty-five percent, which for Aston Martin, represented more of a challenge than for some other brands that were already either in compliance or close to it.

Aston Martin was charged with making a difficult decision to come into compliance with the new regulations. It seemed that everything about the brand was set against the new rules. Speed and power in a sophisticated sports car don't coexist peacefully with green technology for lowered CO2 emissions. They had to find a way to bring down their overall emissions and it was in the form of the new Cygnet.

Big changes for a new city car

The Cygnet maintained the DNA of Aston Martin with its interior design and exterior paint, but the remaining parts were inspired by the Toyota IQ city car.

Other characteristics of Aston Martin imparted to the Cygnet included manually handcrafted leather seats, a manually painted exterior, and signature paint formulations. The Cygnet was not a car intended for making long road trips, but rather, for short commutes and city driving.

Although Aston Martin did their best to throw in a few luxury features, there wasn't much play for doing so with the limited amount of cabin space. The hatchback design also required at last decent amount of room for the cargo area. This left passengers with little space for creature comforts, or for head and legroom for that matter.

The powertrain

 Aston Martin Cygnet 3

Aston Martin had other ideas when it came to luxury versus performance. From 2011 through 2013, the Cygnet was equipped with a 4-cylinder 1.3-liter engine that sipped petrol. It was mated with a 6-speed manual transmission. it was successful n lowering CO2 emissions to well below acceptable standards.

Performance wasn't much to talk about with acceleration from a standstill to 62 mph at 11.8 seconds. The top speed wasn't bad at 105.6 mph. The engine provided 98 horsepower with 92 ft-lb of torque. It was also available with an automatic gearbox.

Other features

The Cygnet was equipped with electrically assisted steering, but the cabin was a bit on the cramped side with sparse leg and headroom for its passengers. This was to make ample room for its utility feature, the easy-to-access hatchback. The storage in the rear area wasn't large, but it was enough for making a trip to the grocery store or for carrying other cargo.

What about Aston Martin's luxury legacy?

 Aston Martin Cygnet 2

According to Aston Martin's official website, elegance and luxury are still to the fore, with the model that was imbued with many of the authentic features that make it a true Aton Martin.

The distinctive meshes used for the bonnets with zinc side strakes, the Aston Martin legendary badge, and distinctive grille, are a few of the design cues that point to peculiarities of the Aston Martin branding. Marketing by the company redirects the attention of the public back to the few elements that line the vehicle with the Aston Martin DNA, also explaining that the Cygnet is a symbol of Aston Martin's innovation in design.

While all of this is true, it doesn't fully explain the rationale for the production of the city car that is out of step with other Aston Martin lines. It's difficult for a prestigious luxury sports automaker to come right out and says that they released a car model because they were required to come into compliance with new regulations.

An absence of the Cygnet lineup

The first production run of the Aston Martin Cygnet ended after just two short years. The last year of production was 2013, according to Auto Web UK. It's as though the Cygnet went away as quickly as it came. For those of you who wondered whatever became of the Cygnet, it was discontinued for a few reasons.

The Cygnet first of all was overpriced. Aston Martin is a brand that was known for luxury and the prices that accompany such. They serve wealthy clientele and assumed that those among their regular customers would be willing to pay an inflated price for a city car. Aston Martin was mistaken.

The pricing was so high that there were better alternatives for smaller it car. Another failure was that the small car had a higher-powered engine that did not provide an exemption from congestion charges levied in London.

The cost of the Cygnet at the time was the equivalent of a new Range Rover Evoque, but it didn't provide as much value for the cost. Although there was nothing wrong with its performance for size, it was expensive to purchase, then expensive to drive in London and the public was unwilling to pay more than they figured was reasonable for the Aston Martin badge.

The Cygnet was not made for its customer base, but rather, for the sake of lowering its emissions. It was well marketed with all the right words, but the Cygnet was destined for failure. Some viewed it as an engineering failure, while others with a smile and a nod gave them a pass for attempting.

Reprisal of the Aston Martin Cygnet

 Aston Martin Cygnet 4

In 2018, Aston Martin brought back the Cygnet, however, there were some big changes made. After taking a few years off and going back to the drawing board, the automaker came up with a new design for a one-off Aston Martin Cygnet that was loaded with a 4.7-liter engine that cranked 430 bhp from its V8 engine.

Aston Martin created the vehicle for a very special customer who requested the bespoke city car. It was nicknamed "the ultimate city car" by the automaker. According to Aston Martin, the creation of this commissioned V8 Cygnet showed the world what the Cygnet is capable of being in a V8 format.

In-house engineers at Aston Martin made the car with a steel body shell and panels in a right-hand-drive version. A roll cage welded to the chassis provides strength for the structure and protection for the driver and passengers. They allocated every inch of space for useful purposes in the 2018 bespoke Cygnet.

It is every bit a Cygnet on the exterior, except for the wider front and rear tracks and extensions flared, made of carbon composite materials, new diamond-turned five-spoke forged wheels of 19 inches, and they no longer disguised the wheel arches.

The bespoke edition for 2018 is loaded with commissioned materials including a carbon dash, Vantage instrument cluster, leather pull straps, carbon door cards, a few USB ports, air conditioning, and bespoke controls. It also has an Alcantara-covered steering wheel that is removable.

It's a beautiful little car that gives a nod to the era when Aston Martin made an attempt to enter the small compact car market but failed at its attempt. Granted, it's not a production model and does not qualify for inclusion in that class of Cygnet, but it is worthy of an honorable mention as a part of the history and evolution of the Aston Martin Cygnet.

Too short for an evolution?

The Aston Martin Cygnet was only around for a three-year production run. The vehicle model bombed for the most part because it was priced too high to make sense for the reasonable consumer.

Yes, it was an Aston Martin and was made by a prestigious and well-loved brand, but it was not what the company was known for producing. It was a vehicle that was made for the sake of compliance with new emissions regulations. The car simply wasn't around for long enough to experience much of an evolution.

Although Aston Martin made a good attempt at marketing the new vehicle with plausible explanations about how it was identifiable as an Aston Martin, pointing out the various design cues, it was fairly obvious to most that it was a thin explanation that didn't justify the high price of a vehicle that was more like flavored water, and comparable to a far lower priced Toyota IQ than for the value represented by a higher-priced luxury vehicle.

It was a small city commuting car that offered an extra boost of power when compared to most compact hatchbacks in its class. It was fun to drive and it was ideally sized for London's city driving, that is until you were also charged a fee for the emissions it produced due to the size and power of the engine. Aston Martin tried to scale it back to comply, but it's just not in their nature to break ranks and go against such a longstanding tradition of luxury sportscar excellence.

Final thoughts

The Aston Martin Cygnet was only in production for three years. During that time the vehicle did gain the attention of a thin segment of the population of die-hard Aston Martin enthusiasts. However, the model was destined for failure as a production vehicle from the beginning. Aston Martin made the Cygnet for the express purpose of lowering its overall CO2 emissions.

It wasn't built with a driver-centric focus. Since the brand couldn't rely on its usual pitch for fast and powerful luxury sports car innovation, they deferred to the explanation of offering a practical car for driving in the city.

The flaw behind their rationale for the smaller vehicle is that it failed to establish the interest of the public because it was a poor value for the cost at the dealership. It cost them money to drive in excess congestion charges, and although it bore a few features of a true Aston Martin, it wasn't enough.

In the end, Aston Martin priced themselves out of competition and had no choice but to discontinue production of the Cygnet. They left behind a small band of supporters of the vehicle with one requesting a bespoke edition of the car in 2018.

We take our hats off to Aston Martin for their brave attempt to do the right thing for the environment. In the end, the common wisdom is that people love their Aston Martins and they want them to feature sporty innovations in the established tradition of the brand.

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Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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