Because the heritage of modern city cars begins with the Mini and Fiat 500, there is an unwritten rule that they should all handle like swollen karts. Many subscribe to this approach and duly fail to offer the kind of obliging pliancy required by British roads. Not so the Up. Volkswagen has sensibly opted for lower ride rates, which help the car to accommodate the peaks and troughs of amateurish resurfacing efforts. The resulting sense of big-car comfort is a critical part of Volkswagen’s efforts to differentiate the Up from the competition.

It’s an interesting facet of the model’s broader appeal – and one likely to be embraced by buyers fed up with being jiggled and jolted after downsizing to something more manageable. However, it has not been achieved without compromises. For one thing, the Up leans into corners with more roll than most other VWs, and over quicker ground it has a habit of bobbing around rather than bedding down.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
The Up isn’t the fastest away from the line, but it displays big-car comfort

The softer set-up also makes itself felt during gearchanges under high load, when the Up’s body tends to buck. 

Nonetheless, with most issues only noticeable when the car is placed under some duress, the general demeanour at casual speeds is one of agreeable, accomplished progress. Predictably, the steering has been tuned for the kind of weightless resistance that makes car parks and high streets easy to navigate, but even beyond town centres its patent lack of intelligible feedback is barely a hinderance due to the usual surfeit of VW-engineered front-end grip.

The Up’s lack of mass and girth also profits the entire driving experience. Tipping our scales at 945kg puts it among only the class average, but for buyers exchanging a corpulent saloon car, the pint-sized model will appear engagingly amenable to the quick-fire requirements of city driving.

Top 5 City cars

  • The Volkswagen Up city car isn't revolutionary, it's just quantifiably better than the opposition

    Volkswagen Up

  • Hyundai i10
    The Hyundai i10 is offered with either a 1.0-litre petrol engine or a 1.2-litre petrol engine

    Hyundai i10

  • The Celerio is an all-new city car from Suzuki

    Suzuki Celerio

  • Panda’s 4 star EuroNCAP crash score falls short of some rivals

    Fiat Panda

  • Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE is priced from £7995

    Vauxhall Viva


Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    More powerful Clubsport version of Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch proves thoroughly entertaining on our track-only first drive in Portugal
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    Suzuki has added an automatic diesel powertrain to its S-Cross crossover line-up. Does it offer a compelling choice over the manual versions?
  • First Drive
    24 November 2015
    Alpina’s D3 saloon and estate benefit from the latest BMW 3 Series updates. We've always loved it, but is it still as beguiling as ever in this latest form?
  • First Drive
    24 November 2015
    Our first UK drive shows that few supercars offer as rounded a package as Audi's new R8. It isn't the last word dynamically but it still has a lot to offer
  • First Drive
    20 November 2015
    A new 1.8 turbo petrol engine and manual gearbox make the Ibiza Cupra a more satisfyingly brutish, hands-on hot hatch, but it's still not the best of its breed