Designed for European cities but right at home in Australia, the Up is a great first car or second commuter runabout. "The three-cylinder engine is why we call it the giddy-Up," James Stanford said at the COTY judging.
The doors shut with a thunk, the turning circle is tiny, but the boot is surprisingly roomy. It's not a particularly brisk drive, but it gets along well in traffic and - provided you're prepared to use the gearbox - is quick enough for suburban roads and highway cruising at 110km/h.
The braking is solid, it grips pretty well in corners, and all the controls and light and easy to find. There is some suspension clunky over low-speed potholes, and it's never going to win a cornering contest, but the ride smoothes over 80km/h and it’s fairly quiet.
We'd much prefer to have the choice of an automatic, but the Up! is what it is. That means it has to be compared against its size and price rivals, where it comes up a winner. You can say that it will cost $17,000 to put a fully-loaded Up! on the road, but that would be a tasty little car with equipment you cannot get in something like an Alto or a Spark.
It feels more substantial - read that as safer - than an Alto, Spark or Micra, as well as having parts and assembly work that lives up to the Volkswagen badge. It's not a Polo or a Golf, but it's impossible to build that sort of car for $13,990.
So what you get is an Up! that resets the bar for the smallest cars sold in Australia today, and in a good way. It deserves four Carsguide stars, not when you think about cars as classy as a Benz C or a Porsche 911, but because of how it relates to its direct rivals, and the way it beats them.
Volkswagen Up! three-door
Price: from $13,990
Engine: one-litre fuel-injected 12-valve three-cylinder
Transmission: five-speed manual, front wheel drive
Power: 55kW @ 6200rpm
Torque: 95Nm @ 3000rpm
Fuel use/emissions: 4.9l/100km, tank 35 litres 95RON PULP; 114g/km
Brakes/safety systems: Driver and front passenger airbags, front seat side/thorax, stability control (City Emergency Braking, Brake Assist (EBA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control), rear parking sensors
Dimensions: Length 3540mm, width 1641mm, height 1476mm, wheelbase 2407mm, cargo volume 251 litres, weight 880kg
Wheels/tyres: 14in steel wheels