In 2010, Aston Martin was faced with a tricky problem of meeting the 2012 emission regulations in the European Union which required all carmakers to reduce the average level of carbon dioxide emissions from their vehicles. The company’s models, all with big and powerful engines, emitted very large quantities of the greenhouse gas so one way was to have a model which emitted very low levels that would then give a lower average for the fleet.
Developing a new model would be expensive and also take time so the quick solution was to take Toyota’s compact city car known as the iQ and make it an Aston Martin. It was a solution but the model was certainly totally out of character for the marque. Nevertheless, Aston Martin went ahead and upgraded it to the luxury standards befitting of a car with its badge and sold it for three times the price of the Toyota. It had the same 1.3-litre powertrain from the Japanese carmaker but its CO2 emissions were about one-third of models like the Vantage and DB9.
The car was called the Cygnet and went on sale in 2011 with the expectation that it would sell in many thousands, perhaps as a second car for Aston Martin owners. But there were few takers and after two years, the company decided to stop selling the model.
7 years later, one Cygnet is making the news this week at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Dubbed the ‘The Ultimate City Car’, it has had a ‘heart transplant’ with a 4.7-litre, 430 bhp/490 Nm V8 engine from the Vantage S being dropped into the small engine bay.
The one-off car was built by the ‘Q by Aston Martin – Commission’ service which will personalise a model to virtually anything a customer specifies. However, this unit is just an in-house project and not ordered by a customer.
“The V8 Cygnet shows the fun side of both Aston Martin and its customers. It is also a fine example of the engineering talent within the company as it’s no small achievement to fit the Vantage’s V8 engine so harmoniously into the Cygnet’s compact body. I am sure that it will amaze and thrill people when they see and hear it on the hill at the Festival of Speed,” said Aston Martin’s Vice-President & Special Operations Officer, David King.
Taking a standard Cygnet, the engineers welded a safety roll cage in the cabin, making it an integral part of the chassis in the process. A new front bulkhead and transmission tunnel were fabricated from sheet metal to accommodate the bigger powertrain which had 4 cylinders more than the original Toyota unit. Subframes and suspension were derived from the previous generation Vantage and a big steel fuel tank housing was added.
Despite all this work, the car remains very recognisably a Cygnet from the outside. The face of the little Aston Martin is largely untouched, with no extra bulges in the bonnet and just a subtle black mesh for the famous grille.
However, there is no disguising the extra width of the wheel arches. In order to accommodate the significantly wider front and rear tracks, beautiful carbon composite flared extensions were made. These also house the new forged, 5-spoke, diamond-turned wheels, which have grown from 16 inches to 19 inches in diameter.
At the rear of the car, the distinguishing feature of the V8 Cygnet is the central twin exhaust pipes. The exhaust is a bespoke system with twin underfloor mufflers and catalytic converters. With relatively short distances involved from manifold to tailpipe, the V8 Cygnet has a voice that belies its compact size.
Weighing just 1,375 kgs when full of fluids, the V8 Cygnet has a power-to-weight ratio of 313 bhp/tonne. As a result, it can accelerate faster than the V8 Vantage S and its maximum speed is 95 km/h faster than the original production Cygnet.
The interior is largely indicative of the fact that this V8 Cygnet could easily be used for competition. In addition to the roll cage, there is a fully FIA compliant fire extinguisher system and seating is taken care of by composite, fixed back Recaro bucket seats with 4-point harnesses. The alcantara covered steering wheel is removable and behind this sits a bespoke carbon dash with the familiar Vantage instrument cluster. There are, of course, little touches of luxury inside as well, with leather pull straps on the unique carbon door cards and two USB ports alongside the bespoke controls for the air conditioning.