New cars for 2012 - Part 1 - Superminis: Skoda - VW

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Skoda Citigo
What is it? VW city car qualities for £500 less
Price from £7500
On sale June

Skoda’s version of the VW Up has many of the same qualities – good manoeuvrability, smooth three-cylinder engine and a surprisingly spacious cabin – but gets its own look (every body panel is different). It focuses on value instead of ‘baby premium’. That means hard plastics on the dashboard and door inserts, and a lower list price.

If you’re in the market for a sub-£10k car, a £500 saving is a major achievement – and Citigos will undercut comparable Ups by about that much.

There will be three trim levels – S, SE and Elegance – although the £7500 S model does without air-con or even electric windows. The cheapest SE will be around £8150, though – just £150 more than an entry-level Up, making it the logical choice.

Three-door Citigos will arrive in June, but Skoda expects 60% of those sold to be five-doors; that variant turns up in August.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid
What is it? Toyota’s smallest, greenest hybrid model yet
Price from £16,000 (est)
On sale June

Toyota’s Yaris Hybrid could be the greenest non-electric supermini when it’s launched in June.
Official CO2 and fuel consumption figures haven’t been released, but Toyota insiders have hinted that the petrol-electric Yaris will be more efficient than the Kia Rio 1.1 CRDi, the current benchmark with 88.3mpg and 85g/km of CO2.

The Yaris Hybrid will be powered by a version of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system already used in the company’s Prius and the Auris HSD, but it has a 1.5 rather than a 1.8-litre petrol engine.

The electric motor can power the car without the help of the engine for just over a mile and it provides some welcome extra thrust away from rest. However, the Yaris Hybrid is generally a sluggish performer, offering inferior acceleration to both the Yaris 1.4 D-4D diesel and 1.33 petrol model.

Impressively, Toyota has managed to package the hybrid powertrain within the car without sacrificing any interior space.

There’ll be a hybrid premium of around £2500, so we’d expect a starting price of at least £16,000.

VW Up
What is it? A slice of VW quality for well under £10k
Price from £7995
On sale January

The VW Group is mounting a three-pronged assault on the sub-£10k city car market in 2012 with this, the Volkswagen Up, plus versions by Seat (Mii) and Skoda (Citigo).

The Up is designed to be the ‘premium’ offering of the trio. We’ve tried both the 59bhp and 74bhp variants, and there’s no doubt that the higher-powered model is best for out-of-town motoring.

That aside, the Up has a supple ride that’ll prove useful in towns, and steering that’s light and direct – if not as sharp as the Hyundai i10’s. The cabin is generally well finished, although the slick appearance isn’t wholly carried off; you don’t have to look too hard to find evidence of cost-trimming (the hard plastics). It isn’t as polished as the Polo’s cabin – but it’s a notch above the class norm.

The interior is surprisingly spacious given the Up’s small dimensions, with room for four adults (just) and a boot that can grow to not far off 1000 litres when the rear seats are lowered.

Given that the cheapest high-powered Up with standard kit such as air-con or electric windows could top £9k, we can see plenty foregoing the open-road pace and going for a well-specced 59bhp model. If they do, they’ll get a smart, capable, surprisingly roomy city car with a decent helping of VW interior finish thrown in.

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