City Car of the Year 2019: Volkswagen up!

The Volkswagen up! is the 2019 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Kia Picanto and Skoda Citigo commended

Not much has changed in the city car class, so last year’s winner retains its crown in 2019: the best city car you can buy is still the Volkswagen up!.

There is a fairly wide range of engines for a city car, and whichever one you go for, you can be sure it’s a good choice. The entry-level 59bhp model is perfectly adequate for a compact hatch and fun to use. If you want more power and better motorway manners, the 74bhp version of this naturally aspirated unit might be worth a look, while there’s an 89bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged model, too.

Then there’s the 113bhp up! GTI, which is brilliant fun to drive and surprisingly quick for such a small model. It’s as much fun as you can have for city-car money and the driver’s favourite, but any up! will give plenty of enjoyment. This lightweight car has good body control, grip and agility, so even the more basic versions are great to drive.

The up! is in its element around town, because it has excellent visibility, as well as light steering, a precise manual gearshift (an auto box is available as an option, but the manual is best) and a compact footprint.

You can choose between three and five-door models, but it’s the latter we’d go for, given that a little extra money buys much more flexibility. In fact, the up! is roomy inside and seats four passengers in comfort, while its 251-litre boot is surprisingly useful for a tiny car as well. As a result, it’s even more practical than some superminis.

It’s a refined little car, too. Although the up! is very much at home in the urban jungle, it’s great for motorway trips as well. And with claimed fuel economy of up to 67mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 95g/km, it should work out to be every bit as cost-effective to run as it is to buy.

Finally, the intuitive and simple controls for the in-car tech and infotainment add to the VW’s ease of use and are the icing on a small but perfectly formed cake, with satellite navigation provided via an app on a smartphone which is held by the handy mount on the dashboard. 

Our choiceVolkswagen up! 1.0 75 S/S High up! 5dr (£13,120)

We recommend the slightly more powerful 74bhp engine with High up! trim, because it comes with upmarket technology like cruise control and autonomous braking to boost safety. It’s worth choosing a five-door model, which is more practical, yet won’t break the bank thanks to the whole range being so affordable. PCP deals make this even more attractive.

Commended Kia Picanto

Kia’s latest Picanto is nearly as practical and refined as the up!, but can’t quite match the VW for agility or quality. Still, the new 1.0-litre turbo petrol is surprisingly quick, and it’s great fun to use while still being economical, adding even more choice. The Picanto is really well equipped, too. 

Skoda Citigo

The Citigo is largely the same as the up!, with just as much versatility, practicality and fun on offer as in the VW. Fewer engine options – there are no turbo models – mean that there isn’t as much choice as with the up!, but it’s still great value.

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