Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fire up the... Skoda Citigo

THE ONLY way is up! That's what Europe's biggest car company - the mighty VW Group - are hoping you'll conclude if you're thinking of buying a small car to squeeze into tight parking spaces.

Yet you don't actually have to stump up for a Volkswagen if you're looking to buy the up!, the German firm's smallest offering. Trek down to your nearest Skoda showroom and they'll happily sell you the same car in all but name. That's the joy of the Skoda Citigo.

Skoda, in case you hadn't noticed, stopped making Eastern Bloc oddities years ago and is now quietly taking over the world with a range of cleverly thought-out cars which are usefully cheaper than their VW cousins; the Yeti you'll already know and love, there's a new Octavia saloon on the way, and for anyone thinking of a Golf or Focus there's now the Rapid hatchback too. The Citigo's a bit more obviously related to its siblings - the aforementioned up! and the SEAT Mii - but that's by no means a bad thing.

You get, for instance, the same neatly-proportioned body, although the Skoda's styling is more conservative than the up!'s. You get the same 60bhp, 1.0 litre petrol powerplant with its offbeat engine note, the same gearbox, and the same solidly built, suprisingly roomy interior. You get an awful lot for your money but - and here's the important bit - you get it for quite a bit less than you would if you'd gone for the cachet of the VW badge instead. Depending on which version you go for, you can save roughly between £500 and a grand by opting for the Czech-badged car.

The trickier question, as I mentioned when I drove the up! earlier this year, is whether to go for it over a Fiat Panda, which lacks the Skoda's solidity and style but is roomier and more fun to drive. That's a tough one to call, but if you're dead set on the up! and its siblings you'll be quids in by swapping the Veedub badge for a Skoda one.

Clever marketing or VW shooting itself in the foot? You decide...

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