Nevertheless, I still find it hard to dote on the car, never able to quite escape the nagging feeling that Volkswagen has made a better job of shrink-wrapping the Golf’s civility than it has the panache.
Minoring on the fun is perhaps one symptom of its staunchly conventional approach. The Up is a cut-down front-drive, front-engined hatchback so exempt from idiosyncrasies that the driver’s inability to lower the passenger’s window is considered significant.
It makes Renault’s response, the rear-engined, rear-drive Twingo, seem fabulously eccentric until you recall that the Up started out the same way before Volkswagen baulked at the associated development costs.
Read the new Renault Twingo first drive review
Side by side, however, you wouldn’t necessarily spot the variance in packaging. Both are big-cabin, short-bonneted five-door hatchbacks in the modern city car mould. To my eyes, the Twingo edges the beauty contest by virtue of being more thoughtful with its curves without getting cutesy.
The Up’s cause, at least in this case, isn't helped by its design’s stodgy accommodation of rear doors.
The running order, however, is reversed once inside. Even in its playfully two-tone, top-spec Dynamique trim, the Renault is no match for Volkswagen’s mastery of material choice and build quality. Where its surfaces are hard and hollow to the touch, the Up’s plastic fascia thuds under knuckle like a safe door.
The Twingo receives plenty of digital trickery – including an impressively large infotainment screen – yet there’s no room for a revcounter in the instrument cluster, and silly ergonomic flaws, such as the removable storage bin removing itself on first encounter with a kneecap, are of precisely the sort that Volkswagen doesn’t make.
Subjectively, the Twingo is as spacious as the Up both front and back. Normally that would be high praise, but given its more exotic configuration and a slightly longer wheelbase, I was expecting the Twingo to deliver a discernible advantage. In terms of practicality, there isn’t much to choose between them.
Four adults will fit snugly into both, and while the boots are clearly differently proportioned (the Up’s being deep and narrow, the Twingo’s shallow and long), there isn’t as much of a gulf between them as the VW’s higher on-paper volume suggests.
Both employ front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beams, and both are powered by three-pot petrol engines. Tested here in their more powerful guises, the Up’s naturally aspirated 1.0-litre unit produces 74bhp, while Renault’s 0.9-litre motor delivers 89bhp courtesy of a turbocharger.
Running costs are closely matched, each besting 60mpg combined, with a difference of only 9g/km in CO2 emissions (the Twingo going duty-free). On the scales, barely 15kg separates them.
Turn the ignition on, though, and the similarities melt away. A vocal, reedy pit-a-pat passes through both cabins, but the greater distance to the Twingo’s motor is palpable – like sitting forward of the jet engines in an Airbus. Neither engine revs particularly freely, and they are similarly recalcitrant beneath 3000rpm.
But while the Up must be tenaciously wound up just to keep pace with the traffic ahead, a floored throttle in the Renault will have you at risk of rear-ending it. With almost 30lb ft extra at its disposal, the whistling, trilling French motor leans into the first four of its five long ratios with noticeably more urgency than the Up – a quality measurable in a near-2.5sec advantage to 62mph and unmistakable in its greater overtaking potential.