CVT Cygnet: the au­to­matic choice?

VANTAGE - - Drive | Cygnet -

OUR SEC­OND CYGNET is a CVT au­to­matic ver­sion, as most Cygnets are. The usual no­tion of a car with a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion is of an en­gine revving fran­ti­cally with min­i­mal ap­par­ent ac­cel­er­a­tion to match the noise, al­most as though the clutch (if it had one) is slip­ping. But a CVT doesn’t have to be like that.

The Cygnet CVT cer­tainly isn’t like that. Yes, put your foot down and the en­gine revs, but it feels prop­erly hooked to the trans­mis­sion and the en­gine’s in­nate high-revs en­ergy pro­pels the tiny car with a verve frankly un­ex­pected. Just as pleas­ing is the way the en­gine still feels con­nected at lower crank­shaft speeds, so you can tickle the Cygnet along ef­fi­ciently with­out trou­bling the up­per end of the rev-counter scale.

I in­stinc­tively favour a man­ual trans­mis­sion, but the fact is that the Cygnet works bet­ter as a CVT. It feels perkier, keener; the en­gine’s revvy char­ac­ter­is­tics work with the car in­stead of be­ing blunted by too-tall gear­ing. Hail the one-and-only CVT As­ton Martin. I’d go for this ex­am­ple’s stan­dard sus­pen­sion, too; it’s calmer than the lower, stiffer sports op­tion fit­ted to Rob Smith’s man­ual car, and it still scut­tles snap­pily through ev­ery S-bend with­out feel­ing pre­car­i­ous. As­ton also of­fered a sports ex­haust: nei­ther of our test cars was thus equipped, and both would ben­e­fit from a touch of au­ral theatre.

Th­ese op­tions were but the tip of the Cygnet per­son­al­i­sa­tion iceberg. Rob, fact repos­i­tory of all things Cygnet, talks of the many dif­fer­ent in­te­rior trim ma­te­ri­als avail­able, of the 70 colours recorded through the 2011-2013 pro­duc­tion run, how Dr Bez has a bronze Cygnet and Sir Stir­ling Moss a Cal­i­for­nia Sage (the usual light me­tal­lic As­ton Martin green) one. There’s even one, maybe more, ‘De­signed by Q’.

Con­sider the Cygnet an ab­surd idea if you like, but it’s a great lit­tle car. Ah, but is it a great As­ton Martin? That’s a harder ques­tion to an­swer. And harder yet to ask.

‘I in­stinc­tively favour a man­ual trans­mis­sion, but the Cygnet works bet­ter as a CVT’

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