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Cute and compact, the second-generation Toyota Aygo is here.

First launched in 2005, Aygo was a bold move by Toyota to get, primarily, a stronger foothold in Europe. The Japanese giant teamed up with the French PSA group to bring motoring triplets to the market. Aygo's near-identical siblings are Citroen's C1 and Peugeot's 107 (the second- generation is called 108). Toyota took the lead in development and manufacture of the little four-seat town car and has succeeded in growing its European market share as a result with over 760,000 sales to date (2,500 in Ireland). 

Apart from minor exterior styling and trim offers, in Ireland the only real difference between the machines was the warranty each distributor offered. The Japanese firm won this initial battle with its superior three-year warranty. The original car was well packaged, aimed at a youthful buyer and fun to drive in the urban environment. The only notable downside was that it was a little noisy in the cabin - especially at speed. 

We went to The Netherlands to test the latest Aygo at its European launch. Town or city cars have come a long way in the last few years and make a strong argument for downsizing - or not upsizing! Just look at the brilliant Volkswagen 'up!' and its sister cars Citigo (Skoda) and Mii (Seat). Of course, the baby Hyundai i10 is also a great machine. All these runabouts buzz about on the mere promise of petrol and are effortless to manoeuvre and operate. 

So what is new? Styling has taken a step forward and there is a new Manga-inspired 'X' design theme that you can see in the front of the car. Customisation is the buzzword, as Aygo has become more extrovert! 

There are three specification grades, two special editions and four customisation packs available. Toyota has stepped out of its comfort zone with these Opel Adam/Citroen DS styling kits. Our bright 'Pop Orange' test car with black stripes made us smile and the theme continued inside, where there were hints of old Fiat 500 and even MINI. 

The Czech-built four-seater (three or five-door) can take three fully-formed adults in comfort or four with the smallest sitting behind the driver! The 168-litre boot is tiny but deep and took two cabin bags, standing upright, without fuss. 

On the tech front, Aygo has a few new toys like the smart phone mirroring (MirrorLink) system via the X-Touch display and phone app. Other compatible apps can be downloaded from Google or Apple stores. There's a rear-view monitoring system, and for sun worshippers there is even a powered canvas sunroof available. 

Power comes from a revised one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine that pushes out a new meaty note when accelerating. Power is modest but effective. For drivers 69hp and 95nm of torque are delivered through the front wheels via the standard five-speed manual gearbox. An X-Shift automatic is available and while we didn't drive it, Toyota says it is much-improved over the previous box - it was not loved! 

On the open motorway Aygo feels planted and sure-footed - no mean feat in a car that weighs only 900kg. The car has been stiffened and the suspension heavily revised. Aygo is also much quieter than the original thanks to new sound deadening materials and aerodynamic improvements. There is little or no harshness to be felt through the steering or accelerator pedal either, making Aygo feel more 'premium'. 

Toyota Aygo has a personality and is fun - something not often said about Toyota's product range.

Michael Sheridan