Toyota is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its ED2 (Toyota European Design Development) facility in southern France this year. As part of the celebration, the company has debuted a new A-segment vehicle, which will become the fourth generation Aygo when it launches next year. Called the Toyota Aygo X Prologue, the prototype vehicle showcases a new aesthetic that is very much in the Toyota vein. We spoke to ED2 President Ian Cartabiano to find out more.
“The [Aygo X Prologue] is a preview of what the next Aygo could be,” says Cartabiano. “We came out and called it Aygo X [Cross] Prologue because it’s pretty obvious that this could be the next Aygo. You will see something very close to this in the near future.”
ED2 has designed two of the three previous Aygo generations and refreshed the model currently on sale. The Yaris – Europe’s best-selling car in February and the 2021 European Car of the Year – was also designed at the studio, proving that Toyota’s expressive and bold design language is resonating with buyers in the market.
Given its location, ED2 straddles the cultural border between Japan and Europe, which gives the design team a unique perspective. “We can’t just follow the German and French OEMs. They’re already doing what they do well. We have to approach it in a different way,” says Cartabiano. “We can have that European sense of sophistication, surface development, stance and wheel focus coming from our studio. And on the Japanese side, we can have a bolder facial expression, a bit more risk-taking in the form language and profile. If you combine those together you get a really interesting statement that’s unique to our brand.”
With the Aygo X Prologue, the design team wanted to create a vehicle that stood out in what has traditionally always been a rather bland segment. And with many carmakers abandoning the A-segment altogether in favor of more popular SUV and crossover vehicle typologies, there was an opportunity to develop a compact, adventurous vehicle that would appeal to customers looking for something a bit different.
The concept features a robust stance, with high-mounted headlamps creating a unique DRG and a colorway split at the rear that cradles the body forwards of the C-pillar in a way that makes it very dynamic in profile. For a compact car it’s very confident. The strong face identity is reminiscent of that of a frog or a crocodile with his eyes popping out of the hood, while the colorway split makes the car look like a tough little bullet.
“Sometimes, when carmakers try to make a small car – or an SUV out of a small car – they kind of overdo it. They tend to make it over-rugged, which is not necessary,” says Cartabiano. “On the other hand, a lot of cars in this segment are kind of cute, and they kind of look like airport rental cars. We thought, let’s take this segment that’s bland and cute and give it more of a badass attitude.”
While previous versions of the Aygo used a platform that was shared with PSA Group cars, the next generation A-segment car will be a unique Toyota vehicle. As such, the Aygo X Prologue rides on Toyota’s GAB platform (the same platform used on the new Yaris and Yaris Cross), which gave designers a stronger, lightweight and modular base. It also allowed the fitment of a larger wheel and tire combination, which enabled a higher ride height, H-point and rear hatch access. The latter is now at hip height, which makes loading and unloading easier.
Cartabiano notes that while the concept rides on 19-inch wheels – and the production version’s wheels are likely to be smaller – there won’t be a significant change in aesthetic appeal or ride height. “Visibility is much better and the ground clearance allows users to go more places, park more places, drive on different road surfaces… so the whole car is much more active, much more versatile,” says Cartabiano. “We wanted to make sure that it looked fun to drive visually – that’s Akio Toyoda’s mantra of ‘No More Boring Cars’ and ‘Fun to Drive’, so the vehicle really had to look like that.”
Cartabiano says the two-tone, bi-color combination was designed in from the start. “With CH-R, Yaris and Yaris Cross, and the Corolla as well, the bi-tone is such an important part of our brand identity in Europe. The take rate is very high and it’s also very profitable for us. Instead of it being just a paint line we decided to make it an integral part of the structural form of this vehicle, and rather than just being on the roof we moved it to the rear of the car, where it forms the rear door line of the vehicle, which is really great for manufacturing.”
Visually, this treatment pushes the front part of the car forward, giving it a ‘rear peak’ profile. The GAB platform also enabled shorter overhangs and allowed the designers to push the wheels out to the corners, while bi-tone colorway accentuates the stance and the notion that the car is leaping forward. Cartabiano also confesses he’s a big fan of the hot hatches of yore and sought to imbue the Aygo X Prologue with a bit of that character and personality.
“A lot of design I see online now is all hypercars,” lamented Cartabiano. “Gandini and Giugiaro did super exotic cars but they also did the first [generation] Golf and the Renault 5. I think good design is making a desirable product that most people can afford. We really wanted to make a cool car for everybody. Something that the majority of people could own and be proud of.”
The Aygo X Prologue was designed entirely at ED2 in a short amount of time, as most concepts are. The project was initiated in October 2020 and the fully built car was delivered to ED2 in March 2021. Considering it’s largely a pre-production vehicle that’s a pretty quick turnaround. The majority of the design will make it to production. The only obvious changes will likely be made to the flush door handles, the full-width headlamp and taillamp bands, and Bell & Ross-inspired action cameras in the mirrors. The wheel arch spats (aka overfenders) will either be lossy or satin and, in most applications, they will be material black plastic, color-coded to match.
Cartabiano admits that one of his favorite elements is the taillamp band that he and Lance Scott, ED2’s design director, devised. “We had this idea that the taillamp band would go across and become the rear hatch handle so you could see where to grab it at night. We thought it was something that looked cool and functioned well. If that doesn’t go through to production my fingers are crossed that it makes it to the minor change.”
Most new car buyers worldwide are attracted to SUVs and crossovers. People desire vehicles that can not only do more than a conventional car but also communicate activeness visually. These vehicles provide a design identity that matches their lifestyle statement. When Cartabiano and his team began researching the project and speaking to their potential target demographic – young, creative, urban individuals – it led them in this direction.
To reflect the vibrancy of these lifestyles, the Sparking Chili Red color was inspired by four spices: chili, ginger, black pepper, and wasabi. It consists of subtle blue pigments to make it pop under certain lighting conditions. It’s a fresh color, and one that has undertones of sportiness. The hexagonal theme represented in the grille and foglamps give the car a futuristic slant as well, adding a technical feeling to the graphics and details.
The exterior design is the only aspect of the Aygo X Prologue we’ve been able to see so far. The interior will be shown at a future date – Cartabiano (and likely marketing) wanted to keep that a surprise for the time being. But he did say it will have the same sense of fun and strong design impact as the exterior. “It’s going to convey fun to drive but it’s also very customer focussed. It’s a pretty bold interior. I think people will be surprised…”
The Aygo X Prologue doesn’t move too far away from its A-segment origins. It’s a small car; its length and wheelbase are shorter than that of the Yaris – and its ground clearance makes it a little bit taller – but it’s technically still an A-segment car. And while the next-generation Aygo will intentionally launch with an ICE petrol engine to keep costs down, that’s not to say that it couldn’t have other powertrains in the future.
Overall the Aygo X Prologue is a strong showing for Toyota’s ED2 studio. It embodies the sportiness, confidence and allure of a more rugged adventure vehicle in a very nimble and compact package that’s perfect for European urban environments. It’s a unique proposition and an expressive design that will surely find success in a market looking for such qualities in their vehicles.