Micro is a step Up
Volkswagen Up. Supplied picture

I get the same question over and over. And over.

It goes: "What's the best car you've driven?"

Instead of saying a Ferrari, I sometimes give a less-predictable response, such as a Hyundai.

It's this love of testing cars that most people can afford that had me excited about this week's launch of the Volkswagen Up.

The Up is as affordable as European cars get - from $13,990.

For that money, you even get radar and automatic braking technologies that can prevent a rear-ender.

At inner-city speeds, the radar can detect an impending collision.

The driver is warned audibly and visually while the safety systems are primed for action.

If the driver's reaction is inadequate the brakes apply by themselves.

The system is similar to Volvo's City Safety technology, which attracts discounts from some insurers.

The Up is part of a wave of tiny cars with tiny motors heading our way. It's the kind of transport loved by Europeans but scorned by us, up to now.

The key question in my mind concerned the Up's performance, given its 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine: Would it go?

I also wondered if the car would look dorky and whether the cabin would feel cramped and built down to a price.

I didn't wonder at all about agility, frugality or parking ease.


The Up has a friendly face but doesn't go down the too-cutesy route often traversed by city- focused micros.

Though shorter than its $16,990 sibling, the Polo, the car's airy-feel cabin has more headroom while legroom is similar.

In the rear, sensibly, there are two seats rather than the usual three designed for stick insects.

For the typical users - singles and empty-nest couples - the boot gets a tick.

It's a mere 251 litres, enough for a couple of overnight bags. Just.

But the rear bench splits and folds, providing lots more room.

There's even a full-size spare.

Cabin trims are smart, including the shiny piano-black dash, and there's useful storage throughout.

A 55kW naturally aspirated engine, that on paper seemed a cylinder short, meant just one thing to me.

Volkswagen would map out a drive route on the flattest piece of Victoria it could find. But, oozing confidence, the brand sent us into the hills. Aided by its trim 850kg figure and a slick five-speed manual, the car provided plenty of zip. Its 4.9L/100km fuel use is also a winner.

At just $500, the must-have option is the classy, high-tech Maps and More, which delivers an excellent portable sat-nav system, Bluetooth, a trip computer and eco-driving training.

The sat-nav, if you've taken it with you, can even tell you where you last parked the car.

Cruise control, an essential for me, is bundled inconveniently in a $600 option pack.

Alloy wheels are horrendously expensive, at $2500 bundled with some other bits and bobs. That's 18 per cent of the car's price.

The Up has two omissions, which will be glaring for some buyers. Despite the car's five-star crash rating, for rear occupants there is no airbag protection, which is quite rare in new cars.

Secondly, an auto - the favoured shifter for city buyers - is unavailable in Australia.

It's to do with the auto's single-clutchless-manual technology, which is tolerated by Europeans but is too jerky by us.

The entry model is a three-door hatch, with the five-door starting at $14,990.

The Up is brilliantly priced but its influence in this country could be its biggest value.

Its real-car looks, feel and dynamics should do wonders for the reputation of micro cars here.


Model Volkswagen Up
Price $13,990-$14,990
Engine 55kW 1.0L three-cylinder petrol
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Fuel use 4.9L/100km

The West Australian

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