Model: Vauxhall Agila Club (a/c)
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Performance: Top speed 109mph, 0-60mph in 12.3 seconds, 51.4mpg
Worth considering: Daihatsu Sirion, Mazda 2
This week, our readers sample the second-generation version of the Vauxhall Agila. If there's a single message that emerges from our test of the company's smallest car in its latest incarnation, it is that this new Agila is a much more orthodox, mainstream product than its predecessor – a fact that seems likely to expand its appeal.
The first Agila was based on the Suzuki Wagon R+, the narrow, boxy, upright styling of which emphasised its origins in the Japanese market, where economising on road-space is much more of a priority than it is in Europe. The main service performed by the original Agila was to mark out some market territory for Vauxhall below the Corsa, which the new model should occupy in a much more convincing fashion.
Although General Motors has continued to cooperate with Suzuki on the new model – no bad idea given the Japanese company's expertise in designing appealing small cars – unlike its forerunner, this Agila feels much more like a proper Vauxhall than it does somebody else's rebadged design. That's partly a matter of the trim materials, switchgear and so on used in the cabin, but also the new car's styling, which fits in with that of the rest of Vauxhall's range a lot better.
Nevertheless, some lessons from the old car have been incorporated into the new one, in particular the benefits of upright packaging and tall bodywork for passenger space; in the new car, this tall styling is combined with increased width to provide a very roomy cabin for such a small road footprint. Only luggage space is in short supply; it stretches to a couple of suitcases or a typical supermarket haul, but probably wouldn't suffice for longer holiday trips without folding down the rear seat.
So is the Agila, as its name suggests, particularly agile? It's not an obvious enthusiasts' choice, but given its tall body it corners with very little roll and the 1.2 l petrol engine fitted to our test car proved to be zippy under most conditions.
At about £9,400 the version of the Agila featured here is slightly expensive for a sub-Corsa car, but the range starts at a much keener £7,595.
Ian Lisseman, 39
Charge nurse, Sutton Coldfield
Usual car/bike: Subaru Impreza Prodrive WRX, Honda ST1100 Pan European
The styling of this new model is a great improvement, but the lurid colour of the test car isn't a winner – I guess few will choose it. Around town it is very capable, with a high-driving position, good interior space and excellent all-round visibility. It is also the only car my wife has sat in the back of and not felt sick. However, it soon runs out of steam out of city centres and could struggle on long or laden drives. The cooling fan can be heard cutting in every two minutes, which is annoying, and ditching the indicator buzzer for an on-or-off switch would be a good sales move. The rev counter also seems unnecessary. If I was after a small car, I would feel that the Mazda isn't as flexible as other options available.
Mike Collins, 54
Driving examiner, Walsall, West Midlands
Usual cars: Ford Ka and Renault Megane Cabriolet
My first impression was of a high-sided, chunky boiled sweet. Well, it was lime-green! Slipping into the driving seat with the higher seating position felt perfectly natural, as was exiting the car. Would be easy for my elderly mum too! All the controls fell neatly to hand, with a pleasantly positive gear change and light but well-defined power steering (yes, as a driving examiner, I did try out a three-point turn). I was disappointed with the thick rear pillars, but visibility could be improved with a door mirror check as these are huge. There's plenty of lateral space – you won't be rubbing shoulders with your front passenger – and rear-seat passenger space is almost Tardis-like! There is a lot of competition at this price. I wonder what the Suzuki is like?
Bill Ulyett, 42, & Angus Ulyett, 10
Consultant, Alvechurch, Worcestershire
Usual car: Toyota Celica VVTi
The Vauxhall Agila came as a rather boxy surprise: bigger on the inside than you might expect, and certainly with better seats than Vauxhall's usual offerings. It's quiet inside when on the move, with the little engine pulling well up to motorway speeds. Cornering is better than expected for a tall cabin, with reduced roll, the payoff being a rather bouncy ride around town. Overall, it suits an easy-going driving style. Attempts to improve quality on its predecessor show superficially, but look into the engine bay and the signs of rust indicate cost savings elsewhere. Would I buy one new? No. It's a decidedly adequate small car for a high cost of £9,400. For excitement look elsewhere, for the money it's just pants.
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