Currently reading: Buy them before we do: second-hand picks for 4 September
If your budget can stretch to it, the VW Up is one of the best of the current crop of city cars and an alternative to coronavirus-addled public transport
Autocar
News
4 mins read
4 September 2020

For those hesitant about using public transport once they return to work after lockdown, buying a city car could be a tempting alternative, given their practicality, reliability and cheapness to buy and run. They have come a long way over the years, too, so any lingering visions you may have of crushed Coke cans can pretty much be dismissed.

The best, if your budget can stretch to it, is the Volkswagen Up. It can be fairly nippy, especially if you find one like we did with the 89bhp 1.0-litre turbo engine. This turns the Up into a decent performer, meaning you don’t have to fork out £11,000 or more for the GTI version if your commute includes some out-of-town stretches.

The Up is a relatively practical proposition, too, with plenty of room both front and rear. It can seat only four, but that’s okay, since you would be getting very intimate with those either side of you if you tried sitting in the middle of most city cars.

There’s also a deep boot (with even room for a spare wheel), so you could park up, pull out a Brompton bike and ride that last bit to the office.

Splashing out for the more powerful engine means you’ll be getting into a better-specified car, since it was only available in top-spec High Up (such as our lurid yellow 2017 example with 63,200 miles) or Beats Up. Both will have air-con, alloy wheels and electrically adjustable door mirrors as standard, but the High Up comes with heated seats for those cold winter mornings, while a Beats Up model has an upgraded sound system in the form of a 300W Beats stereo. That will allow you to proudly sing along to your favourite tunes. Try doing that on the train…

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Skoda Citigo, £3695: As you would expect, the Citigo is the sensible choice, lacking the classy touches that lift the Up’s interior and the Mii’s sportier suspension. But Elegance models, like this 80k-miler, get all the posh bits (including heated seats) of the Up, just for less money.

Fiat 500, £3194: Ignoring the feeble 1.2 Fire, you once could get a 500, like this 89k-miler, with a 1.4-litre turbo engine and six-speed gearbox nicked from the Panda 100hp. Thankfully, it didn’t also use that car’s suspension, so it’s suppler (but leans like another icon of Italy).

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Seat Mii by Mango, £4897: Seat makes the most stylish of our VW Group city car trio. This 57k-mile Mii by Mango (a fashion brand that makes handbags, apparently) is the nicest-trimmed Mii, with partly Alcantara seats, but crucially also has the punchier (74bhp) 1.0-litre engine.

Suzuki Ignis, £8999: If you go for a pricier model with autonomous emergency braking, the Ignis is an NCAP five-star car. This 2017 49k-miler was registered before 1 April 2017, so incurs not a penny of road tax. A 12V mild-hybrid system helps performance and economy, too.

Auction watch

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Ford Cortina Crayford Convertible: Don’t baulk at the £20,376 paid for this Mk1 Cortina, because that was actually around the mid-estimate point. And given that the Crayford-built convertible is a very rare Ford, that price does seem to be justifiable.

Fewer than 50 were made; 30 were sent to Bermuda for use as taxis, but none of those are known to have survived the humid climate and rigours of service life.

This one had deteriorated to a poor state but was saved in 1988, when it was bought for £1000. During an extensive restoration, it received a few upgrades to bring it up to the level of the range-topping GT, such as the additional gauge pack and the remote gearlever.

Future classic

Audi S1, £13,950: It’s a wonder the S1 ever got past Audi’s accountants. True, it shared its 2.0-litre turbo engine with other Volkswagen Group cars, but the four-wheel drive system needed to handle 228bhp necessitated an entirely different multi-link rear suspension set-up and a new rear floorpan. This meant some versions pushed £30,000, which is no doubt why the S1 is far rarer than the Volkswagen Golf GTI. However, this should count in this diminutive rocket’s favour in future.

Clash of the classifieds

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Brief: I would like a sporty, BTCC-style toy for £5000, please.

Alfa Romeo 33, £2995

Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi, £3499

Felix Page: Prices for the Alfa Romeo 155, which actually took part in the British Touring Car Championship, have climbed out of your reach, so how about this similarly styled but smaller and rarer 33? Okay, its 1.5-litre boxer engine won’t set your world alight, but this is a solid and well-kept candidate for conversion into a track toy. Swap in the later 1.7-litre 16-valve lump, strip out the interior and invest in some trick chassis hardware. Max, you appear to have accidentally chosen a minicab.

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Max Adams: That’s the whole point of the BTCC, Felix. You’re supposed to race a boring family car, which describes my 2009 Vauxhall Insignia perfectly. It also meets the 2.0-litre engine size restriction and has two turbos for a creditable 217bhp. Plus, at £3499, you have £1500 left for the brake and suspension upgrades necessary for repeated weekend track action.

FP: Hmm, and then I suppose you can do some airport runs afterwards to pay for new tyres? My 1993 car has a cloverleaf on its side, and that signals performance pedigree that you can’t just buy. I can’t imagine Nicola Larini at the helm of a Vauxhall.

MA: A cloverleaf, you say? Perhaps they should have washed it before taking the photos. Oh, wait, I think I’ve misunderstood: I doubt the factory stuck on that badge, sir. Besides, Larini never raced a lowly 33.

FP: Semantics come second to track antics.

Verdict: I loved the 1990s, so give me that Alfa.

READ MORE

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Volkswagen Up GTI 2020 UK review 

How Volkswagen plans to clean up after Dieselgate

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si73 4 September 2020

My wife has a Mii by mango

My wife has a Mii by mango and it is a very plush little car, feels quite upmarket for a city car, the 74hp engine has plenty of pull and does motorway speeds in the hilly West country with 4 on board perfectly well. The only real negative is servicing, it's just reached its 5th birthday and as such needed a quite expensive timing belt and water pump replacement service, which seems quite early to me, but that is the recommended interval. More worrying was the fact the removed belt had signs of age and stress related hairline cracks in places, which is totally unexpected on a 25k mile car.

The fiat 500 1.4 was naturally aspirated, the only turbo charged 1.4 was in the abarths iirc. The 1.2 that you criticised is a cracking engine, quite torquey as it pulls well from low revs and still only £30tax.

nimmler 4 September 2020

si73 wrote:

si73 wrote:

My wife has a Mii by mango and it is a very plush little car, feels quite upmarket for a city car, the 74hp engine has plenty of pull and does motorway speeds in the hilly West country with 4 on board perfectly well. The only real negative is servicing, it's just reached its 5th birthday and as such needed a quite expensive timing belt and water pump replacement service, which seems quite early to me, but that is the recommended interval. More worrying was the fact the removed belt had signs of age and stress related hairline cracks in places, which is totally unexpected on a 25k mile car. The fiat 500 1.4 was naturally aspirated, the only turbo charged 1.4 was in the abarths iirc. The 1.2 that you criticised is a cracking engine, quite torquey as it pulls well from low revs and still only £30tax.

Clueless autocar snobs editors giving false info again. Forget the 1.2 500? why? In the REAL WORLD people what dependable reliable cars and not lap the Nordschleife in under 7 minutes.. 1.2 engine is fine for the lightweight 500, its more reliable than the 1.4 arbarth engine which grenades itself when the timing belt snaps.. also no doubt it has been driven hard (this is why people buy them over the 500)and on its last legs at 90k miles with near mot failing bald tires and a worn clutch which costs more ££££ to put right , a Basic easy to work on non turbo non gdi 1.2 engine driven conservativity by a female owner would be a better 2nd hand buy, cheaper to run , less maintenance , cheaper insurance. Also don't get me started on the alfa, only someone who is insane and wants to burn money on a bonfire will buy the 33. Autocar snobs not living in the real world recommending the wrong 2nd hand cars as per usual...

BenzinBob 4 September 2020

age

not sure about a lot you've written then..things are different these days. So whos this conservative female owner then???