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City Car of the Year 2017: Volkswagen up!

The Volkswagen up! is the 2017 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Kia Picanto and Skoda Citigo commended

A facelifted version of the Volkswagen up! hit the market towards the end of 2016, and although the company didn’t alter its successful formula drastically, there was an important addition to the refreshed range that’s helped the up! climb to the top spot in the city car sector for 2017.

VW introduced an 89bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged engine to the line-up, offering buyers even more performance without having to make sacrifices when it comes to efficiency. The up! is competitively priced compared with sportier city car rivals, too, but if it’s affordability and low running costs you’re after, the naturally aspirated 1.0-litre models still offer just that.

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There are 59bhp and 74bhp versions available for even less cash, yet build quality is still first rate for the sector. CO2 emissions as low as 96g/km and claimed fuel economy of 68.9mpg mean the up! delivers motoring on a shoestring.

It’s fun to drive and surprisingly mature for a small car, too. The suspension smooths out all but the worst roads with remarkable composure, plus the compact chassis serves up good body control and a surprising level of grip, making the lightweight up! genuinely enjoyable to drive. Sharp steering and a slick manual gearchange only enhance the experience.

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There’s also an automatic option on the lower-powered models to make driving easier in town, but we’d save some money and stick with the manual transmission; spend the extra on the five-door body, which adds even more practicality, helping the up! rival some superminis from the class above.

The car’s packaging is a masterpiece, with more than enough space inside for four adults as well as a decent 251-litre boot.

Volkswagen up! - front

It excels around town and is easy to thread through tight city streets and park in small spaces thanks to its compact dimensions. But with features such as cruise control and heated seats available, allied to the impressive refinement, the car isn’t in the least bit taxing on longer journeys.

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A revised infotainment system that uses a dedicated smartphone app is a clever solution that delivers a big-car feel, while affordable finance deals – even for the new 1.0 TSI – make the up! the most convincing option in the city car class.

Our choice

Volkswagen High up! 1.0 75 5dr (£12,135)

We’ve gone for the higher-powered 74bhp engine in top-spec High up! trim. This model delivers style and substance, with attractive features available such as climate and cruise control, and autonomous braking. You can also add sophistication, safety and space to that list, while even in five-door form in this trim the up! remains affordable. 

Commended

Kia Picanto

Kia Picanto - front

The all-new Picanto proves Kia is on top of its game, delivering a city car that offers almost as much practicality and maturity as the VW. It’s not as upmarket or as fun to drive, but the design is much improved, the interior spacious and the infotainment on higher-spec cars gives buyers what they want in this class. 

Skoda Citigo

Skoda Citigo - front

There’s a new Citigo due in showrooms soon, but the outgoing model is still a brilliant city car that deserves praise. Using the same platform as the up!, it offers similar practicality and driving fun, although there’s no turbo option in the engine bay and the interior and infotainment system aren’t as slick. 

Auto Express New Car Awards 2017

For complete, in-depth coverage of the 2017 New Car Awards, buy your collector's edition copy of the Auto Express magazine now or click here to subscribe...

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