Hyundai i10 1.2 Premium
List price £11,275
Target Price £10,387
Our reigning city car champ is a cracking all-rounder. Can it fend off this latest onslaught?
Renault Twingo 0.9 TCe 90 Dynamique
List price £11,695
Target Price £10,122
Tiny turning circle and a gutsy turbocharged engine give the Twingo plenty of on-paper appeal
Volkswagen Up 1.0 75 High Up 5dr
List price £11,980
Target Price £10,825
Our 2012 Car of the Year gets refreshed styling and a more advanced infotainment system
Before the Volkswagen Up appeared in 2012, choosing a city car was a bit like shopping at Poundland. Sure, there was plenty of choice and some very tempting price tags, but nothing on offer was particularly spectacular.
While the Up undoubtedly moved the game on, it wasn’t long before the even mightier Hyundai i10 arrived and stole its crown, and that car has sat proudly at the top of the city car class for the past three years. The Up is back, though, with a new look and an altogether more advanced infotainment system. Is that enough to put it back on top?
Our third contender is the Renault Twingo. With a tiny engine at the back driving the rear wheels and a black cab-rivalling turning circle, it’s a completely different take on the modern city car. It’s also the most generously equipped and, officially at least, the most fuel efficient. Is it also the best?
What are they like to drive?
City cars are designed primarily for the hustle and bustle of urban driving, where light but positive controls and turn-on-a-dime manoeuvrability are key. The Twingo’s tiny 8.6-metre turning circle is certainly a boon in tight situations, making three-point turns a thing of the past, while the super-light steering really takes the effort out of parking.
The i10 and Up can’t compete for low-speed manoeuvrability, but they both have far more positive controls; pulling away slickly and braking smoothly are much easier than in the Twingo. The Up impresses most, though, with the sweetest gearchange and the most feelsome clutch pedal.
Venture out of the city centre and the Twingo’s light steering starts to grate. It makes the car feel twitchy at anything above 30mph and delivers barely any feedback to your fingertips through corners. The i10 stays the most upright through tight twists, but its steering, while surprisingly weighty, doesn’t tell you much about what the front wheels are doing. In contrast, the Up’s steering gives you plenty of feedback, allowing you to place the car exactly where you want to through bends and even have some fun in the process.
Despite its remarkably grown-up handing, the Up is the most accomplished at dealing with bumps, too. It’s the most settled of our trio along scruffy urban roads and it rides just as smoothly as the i10 at motorway speeds – although the i10’s suspension is quieter. Switch to the Twingo and you immediately feel bumps that you didn’t even notice in the others; its ride never settles down no matter what speed you’re doing.
The one chink in the Up’s armour is its feeble performance. You won’t find this too much of an issue pootling around town at the weekend, but you will on a weekday commute, especially if you venture onto A-roads or motorways, where accelerating up to speed takes an age. Even in urban environments the Up’s shortage of oomph away from traffic lights and junctions can be frustrating.
The i10 and Twingo are much nippier, and there’s little to split them for outright acceleration. The difference is that you need to work the i10’s engine harder to access its performance whereas the Twingo’s turbocharged engine pulls harder from low revs. This means you need to make fewer gearchanges to keep up with the ebb and flow of traffic on faster roads.
Page 1 of 5