City Car of the Year 2018: Volkswagen up!
The Volkswagen up! is the 2018 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Kia Picanto and Skoda Citigo commended
New city cars have hit the market over the past 12 months, but none has knocked the Volkswagen up! off its perch. For 2016’s facelift VW didn’t alter the successful formula drastically; it added a new engine to the line-up that helped it to the top spot here last year, and it repeats the feat in 2018.
With more affordable naturally aspirated units and two turbo options – an 89bhp 1.0-litre and a new-for-2018 113bhp GTI – offering even more fun at great prices if you buy on a PCP, the up! range delivers performance and practicality with no fuel efficiency sacrifices. All versions are cheap to run.
There are 59bhp and 74bhp models for even less, but quality is still first rate for the sector. CO2 emissions as low as 96g/km and claimed economy of 68.9mpg deliver motoring on a shoestring.
The up! is fun to drive, and the GTI has given it a boost. Yet in any trim it’s grown-up for a city car. Less sporty models have a composed ride, but the compact chassis delivers solid body control, plus the low kerbweight means lots of grip and agility. In GTI form especially, the car is truly engaging, with precise steering and positive gearshifts.
There’s also an auto box on lower-powered models for easier urban driving – where the up! is in its element – but we’d stick with the manual. Instead we’d spend the extra on the five-door to boost practicality; it helps the up! rival some superminis from the class above for usability.
It’s brilliantly packaged for a car with such a small footprint, offering enough space inside to seat four adults and a roomy 251-litre boot.
Its compact dimensions mean it’s a breeze to drive and park in tight town centres, but with features like cruise control and heated seats available, allied to the impressive refinement, the car isn’t at all taxing on longer journeys.
Cleverly, the infotainment system uses your smartphone; there’s no built-in screen. But the app delivers a big-car feel that, with its other attributes, makes the up! the most convincing city car around.
Volkswagen up! 1.0 75 S/S High up! 5dr (£12,645)
Our pick is the more potent 74bhp engine in top High up! spec. Despite upmarket tech like cruise control and autonomous braking to boost safety, the car is roomy and benefits from VW’s brand image, and even in five-door form in this trim the up! remains affordable.
The all-new Picanto proved Kia can cut it with the class leaders, and a year on it earns another deserving mention in our awards. It’s nearly as practical and mature as the up!, but doesn’t feel quite as engaging or plush to drive. Still, the styling and quality are improved, the cabin is roomy and higher-spec cars give buyers the infotainment they want.
While a new Citigo has hit dealers since our 2017 awards, the lack of turbo options means there isn’t as much choice as with the VW. It’s still a fine cheap city car worthy of praise, and because it has the same underpinnings as the up!, it offers as much usability and fun at the wheel, with the same neat solution for infotainment.
Auto Express New Car Awards 2018
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- 1IntroductionWhat are the best new cars to buy in the UK today? The 2018 New Car Awards have the answer...
- 2Car of the YearThe Auto Express Car of the Year for 2018 is the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace
- 3City Car of the Year - currently readingThe Volkswagen up! is the 2018 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Kia Picanto and Skoda Citigo commended
- 4Supermini of the YearThe Ford Fiesta is the 2018 Auto Express Supermini of the Year, with the MINI 5-door and SEAT Ibiza commended
- 5Convertible of the YearThe MINI Convertible is the 2018 Auto Express Convertible of the Year, with the Audi A3 Cabriolet and Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet commended
- 6Compact Family Car of the YearThe Volkswagen Golf is the 2018 Auto Express Compact Family Car of the Year, with the Mercedes A-Class and Skoda Octavia commended
- 7Family Car of the YearThe Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport is the 2018 Auto Express Family Car of the Year, with the Skoda Superb and Toyota Prius commended
- 8Compact Executive Car of the YearThe Mercedes C-Class is the 2018 Auto Express Compact Executive Car of the Year, with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE commended
- 9Executive Car of the YearThe BMW 5 Series is the 2018 Auto Express Executive Car of the Year, with the Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S90 commended
- 10Estate Car of the YearThe Skoda Octavia Estate is the 2018 Auto Express Estate Car of the Year, with the BMW 5 Series Touring and Volvo V60 commended
- 11Small SUV of the YearThe Citroen C3 Aircross is the 2018 Auto Express Small SUV of the Year, with the SEAT Arona and Volkswagen T-Roc commended
- 12Mid-size SUV of the YearSkoda is on a roll, and the Karoq is proof that the Czech brand knows exactly what it’s doing in the field of family SUVs.
- 13Large SUV of the YearThe Skoda Kodiaq is the 2018 Auto Express Large SUV of the Year, with the Peugeot 5008 and SsangYong Rexton commended
- 14Small Premium SUV of the YearThe Volvo XC40 is the 2018 Auto Express Small Premium SUV of the Year, with the BMW X1 and MINI Countryman commended
- 15Mid-size Premium SUV of the YearThe BMW X3 is the 2018 Auto Express Premium Mid-size SUV of the Year, with the Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo XC60 commended