Although a small city car might seem like a strange object to subject to a streetwear-branded partnership, there are plenty of precedents of fashion houses teaming up with auto brands to make more of a mark on an urban audience. Our favourites include Cadillac’s partnership with Gucci back in the late 1970s, Karl Lagerfeld’s stealthily sybaritic BMW 7-Series from 2000, and the humble Peugeot 205 Lacoste edition, launched in 1985.
Toyota approached the Japanese designer Jun Takahashi, founder of the Undercover label, to add some stylish zip to its entry-level Aygo X. This is a likeable car, an upgrade of the earlier Aygo, that was given a light fettling in 2022 with the addition of a boosted ride height and a chunkier stance.
By virtue of it being small, relatively inexpensive and easy to insure, Toyota has always staked the Aygo’s claim to the youth market – it was even given a starring role in its own manga comic back when it originally launched in 2014. In truth, the Aygo demographic probably skews into more mature territory, which begs the question as to whether Takahashi’s take will find favour.
The designer founded Undercover in 1990, emerging from Tokyo’s Harajuku district, a cauldron of sub-cultural creation from the late 1970s onwards. This was Takahashi’s first car project, and the designer noted how different it was to conventional clothing collaborations. ‘Fusing together two contradicting elements, or worlds, is exciting for me.’
As with all designer editions, little flashes of bold identity are scattered around the car, inside and out. We like the splashes of coral red on the wheels and inside the cabin, especially on the monogram-patterned floor mats. The seats also get Undercover branding, but the addition of two roof decals bearing Takahashi’s Chaos/Balance catchwords err on the side of kitsch.
Launched at Paris Fashion Week S/S 2024, the Undercover edition is being limited to 5,000 examples across Europe. Strictly petrol only, the Aygo X is hardly the most high-tech venture, nor is it the kind of car you’d want to regularly subject to long, long drives. The little 1.0-litre engine struggles on steep gradients and acceleration can be conspicuously absent, even on the level.
This is a car whose character doesn’t rely on raucous sounds or ill-defined luxury; the function is in no way compromised by Takahashi’s added extras (one essential cost option is the JBL premium audio system, although helpful things like the wireless smartphone charging tray come as standard). The car’s small scale gives it a playful spirit, a welcome counterpoint to the relentlessly escalating size of almost everything else. Who knows, in decades to come, the Aygo X Undercover might even find itself with a cult following of its own.
Toyota Aygo X Undercover, from £20,095, Toyota.co.uk
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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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