Volkswagen Up

The Essentials

  • Price from £8,095
  • What Car? says: 5 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 68.9mpg
  • What is it? It's not big but it is clever

Great

  • It's really good to drive
  • There's plenty of room for passengers and the boot is big for the class, too
  • It economical on fuel

Gripes

  • It's bit pricey compared with some rivals
  • The lower-powered engine can struggle on the motorway
  • It doesn't have quite as much personality as a Fiat 500
  • Drive

    The VW Up is comfortable, agile and easy to drive, making it perfectly suited to city driving; the stronger engine copes better with motorways

  • Inside

    The Up's dash puts simplicity and ease of use triumph over design flair, but we're not grumbling. Dash-mounted infotainment system is a marvel

  • Safety

    A five-star crash test rating is good news though there are no rear airbags and the most basic model goes without stability control.

  • Reliability

    Interior is as classy and solid as any Volkswagen's, and mechanical reliability should be good too

  • Space

    Impressive for such a tiny car, with a superb boot for the class

  • Standard and extras

    All three trim levels are decently equipped or can be easily made so with sensibly priced options

  • What's it like to drive?

    The VW Up is both effortless and enjoyable to drive: just as you'd want from a city car, it changes direction quickly, the steering is accurate and its suspension soaks up most lumps and bumps to make a comfortable ride even on poorly patched Tarmac. The snappy manual gearchange is ideal, too, and the Up's tiny size and light steering make it easy to park in the smallest of spaces. It's quiet, too, and the cabin becomes a bit noisy only at higher speeds. The higher-powered of the two engines is the best all-rounder as it can cope with motorway driving as well as city streets. Avoid the automatic gearbox, which is jerky and slow to respond.

  • What's it like inside?

    The VW Up may be small but it feels surprisingly spacious inside, particularly in the front. Two adults can clamber into the back of the three-door car relatively easily, headroom is decent and if you've small children to load into child seats then you can always make life easier by choosing the five-door Up, which is no longer than the three-door car so you'll still be able to park it on a sixpence. There's impressive boot space for a city car, too; almost as much as you'd find in its big brother the VW Polo. Although the steering wheel adjusts only up and down and not telescopically, most people should be able to find a good driving position. A typically simple VW dash layout makes all the controls easy to find and use. There are three trim levels and they're all decently equipped or can be easily augmented with reasonably priced options. The removable sat-nav/entertainment system is a sensible option (it's standard on the top-spec model).

  • How reliable is it?

    The Up doesn't feel quite as plush as more expensive VWs but it's one of the classiest city cars on offer. We have no reason to doubt its mechanical reliability either. All models have four airbags (though none in the rear) and most have stability control to help keep you on course if trouble brews, all of which helped the Up score the maximum five stars in official crash tests by Euro NCAP, including 80% for child safety. Safety features include an optional City Braking feature which automatically stops the car from speeds of up to 19mph if it suspects a prang is imminent.

  • Should I buy one?

    The Up is a superb city car - it's What Car?'s City Car of the Year 2013, in fact. It may not be as cheap as some rivals or as well equipped, but it has massively strong resale values and economy is good, too, particularly in the lower-powered engine which gives an average of 62.8mpg; its BlueMotion Tech version gets close to 70mpg. However, the higher-powered engine will make your Up more versatile, even if it costs even more, as will the five-door model. As we recommend with any car, if you plan to regularly carry children, make sure you test drive the car with both them and all their usual kit before you buy.