Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fire up the... Volkswagen up!

THINK of this not as a car, but as a sort of automotive Batman Begins. An attempt to get back to basics and inject a bit of freshness into a long-running franchise.

The franchise in question, of course, is Volkswagen's city car offerings, which way back in 1999 proved a bit of a hit with the trendy little Lupo. Yes, I know it was really a rebadged SEAT Arosa - which went on sale nearly three years earlier - but the Lupo's loopy headlights, the build quality, the fun-loving image and the cachet of the VW badge meant it sell.

It was a great package which its eventual sequel, the Fox, never really mastered. Bigger, duller and built to a budget, it never really caught the imagination in the same way the Lupo did, so VW's gone back to doing what it does best. Injecting everything you know and love about the Golf into a much, much smaller package.
Some of you might have already spotted a bit of a canine theme running through VW's small car names and I was hoping they would've called their new arrival something like Wolf or Coyote to carry it on but they've gone with up! instead, which is a stupid name. Don't bother writing in to say you've spotted a typo in that last sentence - it really is called the up!, which VW insists we all stick by. Not a chance. As they say in Essex, the only way is Up.

Luckily, it's a stupid name stuck on the back of what really is a good little car which captures the mood in much the same way the Lupo did. You might not get as much money for your metal as the Fox but VW has gone for quality over quantity and it shows - the interior, in particular, feels pretty much indestructible and is a delightfully quiet, solid sort of place to be. You can even fit four adults inside comfortably, and while the boot isn't going to take all their luggage for a long trip away it'll easily cope with anything a supermarket shop can throw at it.

Fiat's Panda, which I've already roadtested, is the city car you'd find me in because it gives you a bigger smile more of the time, but if you're an A3 or Golf driver who wants a small, sensible car but won't compromise on quality then you've really got to get one of these (or the pretty much identical SEAT Mii or Skoda Citigo, which are both the Up in all but name).

It works for exactly the same reason the Lupo did. It's a Golf, only much, much smaller.

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