The Aston Martin Cygnet is basically a Scion iQ with a new face and a fancy interior, and it existed in large part to help the British sports car brand meet emissions requirements. So surely it doesn’t have any collectable value, you may think. But then you’d be wrong.
It’s a crazy thought, but the Aston Martin Cygnet is a future classic, and we should probably all buy one right now.
Imagine an Aston Martin made for only a few years and sold in quantities of less than a couple hundred. Imagine if that car had a fancy interior and an engine that made just under 100 horsepower. The 90 horsepower Aston Martin 2-Liter Sports (retrospectively called the DB1) sold between 1948 and 1950 or the 70 horsepower Series-2 “Le Mans” from 1932 to 1933 may jump to the front of your mind.
But, no. I’m talking about something even more powerful and even more luxurious— “bespoke,” even, as the British would say (just look at that photo above; it’s nice!). The 2011 to 2013 Aston Martin Cygnet was a city car that Aston Martin put out to pasture after selling fewer than 150, Reuters reported back in 2013. That was a far cry from the 4,000 the company initially planned on selling in an effort to, according to Aston Martin’s 2010 press release announcing that the car was headed to production, “satisfy the demands of emissions and space.”
Sure, it’s only got a 1.3-liter inline four that makes 97 horsepower, but again, that’s more powerful than lots of other collectable classics, and thanks to Aston’s sales failure, it’s extremely rare. More importantly, since its death, the Cygnet has quickly turned from one of the most uncool cars to one that falls squarely into the “cool” category. And part of that has to do with just how bonkers the whole concept was.
Here was Aston Martin—a company known for growly V8 and V12 engines, and more importantly for stylistic elegance—releasing a car with a puny engine that looked like a jellybean, and it was all for three reasons according to Aston Martin’s boss Ulrich Bez.
The then-CEO told Autocar in 2010 that the Cygnet existed to bolster the lineup against a bad economy (to “offer cars that people can buy even in tough times”), to meet the demand of owners who live in big cities and who don’t always want to drive their expensive V12 Astons, and finally to “bring the company’s fleet carbon emissions down.”
Aston Martin took a Toyota iQ, bolted on a new hood with aggressive vents, popped on a huge aluminum grille up front, new LED lights out back, and metal strakes on the sides, and pumped the interior with a crap-ton of luxury.
And I do mean a crap-ton. There’s full-grain leather on the hand stitched seats, machined aluminum trim, an alcantara headliner and a bespoke leather glovebox bag.
Plus, just look at all of these interior colors, which just represent a few of the literally infinite options. Yes, infinite—owners didn’t have to choose from them, they could bring Aston Martin a sample, and the company would match the color.
And there were a bunch of different finishes available for the leather and alcantara, too:
Not to mention, Aston offered a number of exterior trims and colors to make the Cygnet as “bespoke” as possible:
And how many other times has anyone tried this radically simple concept? The concept of “ultimate luxury,” with ultimate style, made small? Sure, people tried that sort of thing way back in the day, but in the past 25 years? A couple of special-edition Smarts come to mind, but that’s really about it. And none with an Aston Martin badge on the front.
If unique style is the very essence of cool, than the Cygnet has a great starting point.
To prove how far the Cygnet has come on the “cool” scale, I talked with my coworker Raph, who once used the Cygnet as the top photo for an article titled “The Ten Lamest Cars On Sale Today.” I asked him if the little city car was still deserving of that number nine spot on the list, and he told me he’s seen the light.
“Now that the car is dead,” he told me over instant messenger, “it has passed into the land of good strangeness.” He went on: “I love how brazen it is...yeah if I see one on the street, a smile’s going ear to ear.”
So there you have it from an expert on uncool cars: The Cygnet is now “in.”
It doesn’t appear that the little luxury Toyotas have gone up in price much since new, either, with used examples for sale on my go-to German Craigslist-equivalent, Mobile.de for a bit over $40,000. Some have apparently bought them for much cheaper.
That may seem expensive now, but you just wait. Give it a few decades, and the Cygnet—one of very few ultra-luxury subcompact cars of our time—will be the champion of the Barrett-Jackson auction.