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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.3

The Volkswagen Up is as good as city cars get. It’s enjoyable to drive thanks to a smooth ride, alert handling and excellent refinement, while its style, and quality also make it desirable. It’s practical and affordable to buy and run, making this a sensational all-rounder. Don’t buy another city car before giving this one a look.

Reasons to buy

  • Excellent build quality
  • Comfortable yet fun to drive
  • Affordable to buy and run

Running costs for a Volkswagen up! 4/5

There’s no disguising the Up is pretty expensive compared with most other city cars. However, with the kind of spec you’d actually want to own the difference isn’t as great as you might think and the little VW feels every penny of the money you pay. The desirable image means it holds onto its value better than most rivals too, so it becomes a more attractive financial package long-term. Fuel consumption and emissions are never going to be high on a car of this type and the Up’s are competitive, if not class-leading. There’s no penalty in either for choosing the sporty Up GTI version either, which means it can be bought with head and heart in full agreement. Saying that, you’ll want to stick with the standard 60 horsepower version if you want to benefit from the Up’s favourably low insurance costs – a real benefit for young drivers in particular.

The low day-to-day running costs associated with the all-electric e-Up are obvious, but it’s very expensive to buy in the first place and though the range has been improved it will likely function as the household’s second rather than primary car.

Reliability of a Volkswagen up! 3/5

Look at the owner reviews on our site, and there are mixed reports about the Up’s reliability. Most owners are very happy, but a couple seem to have been lumbered with somewhat more troublesome examples. What’s more, Volkswagen features in a surprisingly – and disappointingly – low position in the manufacturer standings of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. The three-year/60,000-mile warranty is about par for the course, but the five-year cover offered by rivals like the Hyundai i10 and Toyota Aygo – not to mention the Kia Picanto’s seven-year one - offer greater peace of mind.

Safety for a Volkswagen up! 4/5

Recent updates to the Up range have addressed previous concerns with a relatively mean standard spec for safety gear. As such all models now include curtain airbags and a camera-controlled lane assist function that’ll nudge you back between the white lines if you start running wide on the motorway. You still pay extra for some functionality and Volkswagen is lagging behind some rivals – notably the new Hyundai i10 – in the equipment it fits as standard across the range.

How comfortable is the Volkswagen up! 4/5

For driving manners, the Up is the best and most polished car in the city car class. The supple suspension gives you a really comfortable ride, both in town and on the motorway, while the lightness of the controls, the snappy gearshift and the dinky dimensions make it a really easy car to pootle around in. And, if the temptation to get your foot down gets the better of you, the car is also quite a lot of fun, with a pointy, agile character and direct steering. There is none of the tiring wind, road and tyre noise to suffer that you'll have to put up with in other city cars, meaning the Up can comfortably take you far beyond the city limits.

For such a small car, the Up is remarkably practical. Front passengers have lots of legroom and headroom, and there’s enough room in the back for one adult to sit behind another in total comfort. This is one of the roomiest city cars available. Naturally, the five-door model gives easier access to the rear seats than the three-door, but every three-door apart from the base model has easy-access sliding front seats. To cap it all, the Up has one of the biggest boots in the class.

Features of the Volkswagen up! 4/5

The entry-level Up has recently been updated to include more standard kit, including an built-in cradle so you can use your smartphone for navigation, Bluetooth media streaming and hands-free phone calls. A colour touchscreen integrates controls for the phone, leaving its screen free for information display. The Beats version cashes in on association with the popular personal audio brand and includes a thumping stereo and subwoofer while the sportier spec throws in luxuries like heated seats, powered mirrors, sports suspension and a more sophisticated, premium look. The flagship GTI combines peppy performance with crowd-pleasing style, not least its traditional checked cloth seats and various sporty trimmings.

Power for a Volkswagen up! 3/5

Conventional engine options are limited to a basic 60 horsepower petrol in standard Up models and a spicier turbocharged version for the GTI. The former is fine for town use with easy-going flexibility, even if it feels a little out of depth on the motorway. With nearly double the horsepower the GTI is a very different proposition and, while still modestly powerful for a hot hatch, has the kind of fizz in its driving style you’d hope for from such a sporty looking machine. For the eco-warriors among us, there’s also a fully electric version of the Up known as the e-Up, and it too performs much better than you'd expect. In fact, because of the way electric motors deliver their power - giving you its full pulling power almost immediately - it's very responsive and feels much punchier than the figures would suggest.