Volkswagen up! hatchback

£8,975 - £13,725

The Volkswagen up! is one of the best cars in the city car segment and is closely related to two of its main rivals, the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii. Out of these three cars, all produced by brands owned by the Volkswagen Group, the up! is pitched as the most upmarket and commands a premium of around £500 over the Citigo and Mii on a like-for-like basis.

There are of course other manufacturers producing city cars to rival the up!. The Peugeot 108, Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo, rear-engined Renault Twingo, and excellent Hyundai i10 are all viable alternatives but none of them have the same image or build quality as the up!.

The up! is available with either a 59bhp or 74bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine, both of which can be fitted with BlueMotion technology for improved economy. The more 74bhp engine is our recommendation as it gives the car sufficient power to deal competently with anything you might ask of it, be that getting up hills fully loaded, nipping out at junctions and roundabouts in town, or cruising comfortably on the motorway. It still claims fuel economy of 60.1mpg too.

For £350 extra you can buy the BlueMotion version, which raises economy up to 67.3mpg and moves the car's CO2 emissions into the sub-100g/km bracket, making it tax exempt.

Thanks to its size and weight, the up! is a fun car to zip around in most of the time, no matter which engine you choose. As you’d expect of a city car, the steering is light for maneuvering in tight spaces but it still retains some feel and the car handles very tidily. Out of town, the up! is surpisingly refined and comfortable.

Volkswagen has packaged the up! cleverly so that the space inside the car is used to maximum effect. The five-door version is naturally the most practical if you regularly use the rear seats but the boot is one of the biggest in this class whichever model you buy, meaning the up! can carry more shopping or luggage than you might expect. All up! models apart from the entry-level car come with a split-folding rear bench, so you can extend boot space if you really need to.

Volkswagen up! buyers have a choice between seven trims but there are three core levels that were launched initially. The basic version is called Take up!, the mid-range spec is Move up!, while the high-spec model is the High up!. A three-door only Look up! model has since been slotted in between the Move up! and the High up!, while three well-equipped (but more expensive) trims have also been introduced at the top-end of the range. They are the Club up, Street up! and the range-topping Rock-up!.

The basic Take up! trim doesn’t include much in the way of luxuries other than a digital radio but it does come with plenty of safety kit including ABS, a tyre-pressure monitor, electronic stability control, traction control and hill-hold assist.

The mid-range Move up! car is the one we’d advise looking at first. It features nice touches like body-coloured door handles and mirrors, plus an upgraded interior, air-conditioning, front electric windows and a height-adjustable driver's seat.

The Volkswagen up! achieved the full five stars when it was tested by Euro NCAP (though you should bear in mind that some of the car's rivals have been tested more recently under more stringent regulations) and there haven’t been any major reliability issues since its launch.