It's already one of the stars of 2012 – but with an extra pair of rear doors, does the Volkswagen up! make even more sense?
While the three-door up! is already on sale, we’ll have to wait until September for this more practical five-door version, and even longer for a five-door Skoda Citigo or SEAT Mii. But Auto Express has driven a prototype in Germany to see what buyers can expect.
Video: Watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW up!
It won’t cost much more than the three-door – VW estimates an additional £375 – so expect a starting price of around £8,370. That’s still amazing value when you consider a five-door Toyota Aygo costs nearly £9,000.
The reason the five-door up! doesn’t command a big premium is because the extra doors are the only real difference. It’s the same overall length (3.5m), and there’s exactly the same amount of rear legroom and headroom.
The rear seats are slightly raised to give a better view, and thanks to the stretched 2.42m wheelbase, two average-sized adults will be comfortable in the back. Even a six-footer will be able to fit behind a similarly sized driver or front passenger, as the front seats have neat cut-outs in their backs, and there's room underneath for your feet. It is strictly a four-seater though.
The boot is easily accessed and is the same size as the three-door’s, while the extra doors are pretty well integrated. The rear windows don't wind down – instead a clip pops them out.
Of course, this up! doesn’t look quite as smart as the three-door, but it’s still one of the most distinctive small cars on the road. Details like the neat front end with its smiling grille and the glass tailgate help the up! stand out and give it a distinctive identity. That’s not really something you can say about other VW models.
The up!’s cabin is a lesson in high quality fit and finish. All the switches are solidly made, the body-colour panels give it some personality and there's lots of kit. Well-specified High models get a portable iPhone-sized sat-nav system, while a panoramic sunroof is optional, as is a £225 low-speed automatic braking system.
On the move, the five-door is as satisfying to drive as the three-door. Power comes from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, with a choice of 59bhp or 74bhp outputs. We tested the latter, and it proved to be a great little engine, full of character under acceleration and with a pleasing off-beat rumble.
With a 0-62mph time of around 13.2 seconds, the up! doesn’t seem quick on paper, but it feels faster than that. It’s peppy around town and quiet when cruising on the motorway. The five-speed manual has a good spread of ratios and a precise change too. However, we also tested the five-speed automatic, which we wouldn't recommend. In reality it's an automated manual, and it's jerky and ponderous.
Aside from that, the up! is just as much fun around corners as its three-door sister. The steering is light but precise and accurate, and the soft suspension doesn't come at the expense of grip.
Factor in claimed fuel economy of 65.7mpg – which means you should see 50mpg on a regular basis in the real world – and low CO2 emissions, and this up! should be very cheap to run. It all comes down to whether you prefer the looks of the three-door or the extra practicality of the five-door.