Volkswagen Up 1.0 75 High Up
Final mileage 10,602
You only need to look at the UK’s best-selling new cars list to see how important small cars are for manufacturers. Not only are they perfect as first or second cars, but in this current culture of downsizing, they’ve never been so relevant.
So, when the chance came to run the best of those small cars (as decided by our 2012 Car of the Year Awards), it got me excited.
Our Up’s engine and trim were also decided at our Awards; we preferred the more powerful 74bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Around town, there’s little to tell between it and the lesser 59bhp version, but drive the two down a motorway slip road, and the extra horsepower welcome when getting up to speed.
High Up trim seemed the best value to us. Although it sits at the top of the range, it’s not overly pricey, and gets air-con, heated seats, sat-nav and Bluetooth phone connection and music streaming as standard. With so much standard kit, there wasn’t any need to go crazy ticking the options sheet.
As a result, we added just one – City Emergency Braking, which can bring the car to a stop below speeds of 18mph. Although the system isn’t standard, and therefore doesn’t lower your insurance premium, it’s well worth having. Fortunately, I saw it in action just once, but considering the amount of time Ups are likely to spend ducking and diving through urban traffic, it’ll bring greater peace of mind for a relatively small outlay.
The early verdict from everyone who’d driven the Up in its first few months with us was extremely positive. Not only was it easy to drive in town, thanks to its light but precise steering, pedals and gearchange, but it coped admirably on the motorway, too. At high speed it remained stable, despite those tiny dimensions, and the three-cylinder engine’s thrum faded into the background.
What did divide opinion were the looks. Personally, I’m a fan, and I think our decision to go with Candy White paint (which was a no-cost option when our car was new), and spoked 15-inch alloys was a good one.
I was less comfortable with our Up’s red-highlighted seats initially, but they grew on me. However, the light grey colour that made up the majority of the front seat bases and backs wasn’t such a good choice. After a year with us, there are numerous stains, and getting them out has proved difficult. Ultimately, the black seat option is a far more sensible choice.
There was some more bad news inside. Our Up’s radio wasn’t very good at hanging on to a station, which meant there was a constant hiss, even when listening to national stations. Our local dealer did the best it could, testing the radio unit itself as well as the wiring, but nothing could be found and eventually I had to accept defeat.
The rest of the cabin was seriously impressive, though. The dashboard plastics felt high quality and the minimalist dash design looked great. The High Up’s removable Navigon sat-nav screen was a nice touch, too. Some found its buttons a little small and fiddly, but the menus were clear and easy to read.
We also loved that the boot was good for more than just the weekly shop, and its adjustable floor meant placing the odd bag was that bit easier when the whole space wasn’t needed. In fact, with the rear seats folded, we even managed to squeeze in an adult-size bike.
The Up also proved a cheap car to keep on the road. Although our best effort of 47.0mpg was some way short of Volkswagen’s official 60.1mpg figure, it was impressive considering the amount of time the car spent buzzing around London. The low insurance group and CO2 emissions ensure it won’t cost you much in other ways, either.
We already knew the Up was good, but running our benchmark city car for a year merely reinforced our original verdict. Rivals came and left the What Car? car park over those 12 months, but none could offer such a complete package.
What Car? says...
Price when new £10,515
Price now (new) £10,900
Extras Candy White paint (£250 – no cost option when new); City Emergency Braking (£225)
Total price new £11,125
Current part-ex value £8195
Overall test fuel economy 43.8mpg
Worst fuel economy 41.6mpg
Best fuel economy 47.0mpg
True MPG 47.1mpg
Official fuel economy 60.1mpg
CO2/tax liability 108g/km/13%
Contract hire £165
Cost per mile 31p
Insurance group 2
Servicing and repairs
10,000-mile service, £115
Replacement mirror cap (driver side) £80; replacement mirror cap (passenger side) £145; driver’s door repainted £300