Top 10 2013: Volkswagen Up

VOLKSWAGEN’S diminutive, distinctly undersold Up goes beyond being just a scaled-down Golf – though there are striking similarities there, too.

As the first of a line that its maker intends to someday become the brand’s global best-seller, the Up pioneers the same level of groundbreaking flair in its under-$15K sub-light-car segment that the first Golf brought to the Datsun 120Y class way back when.

Let’s begin with the dinky ’Dub’s packaging brilliance. Imagine a Polo with about a Subway Footlong’s worth of overhang chopped from each end, while still retaining the same interior length. VW basically miniaturised the mechanicals. Tiny engine. Smaller ancillaries.

Only the tracks are narrower, but that’s perfect for a city car. So four adults fit in fine, sitting comfortably on firm seats, backed up by a sterling driving position. Whether you’re in the driver’s seat or just in for the ride, no rival can match the Slovakian-built runabout’s disarming refinement. Its quality ambience is certainly no Mirage.

Mind you, all is not perfect inside, with pitiful face-level ventilation, feeble air conditioning on hotter days, and vision-obstructing A-pillars.

The boot is also fairly bijou at 241 litres, although Up’s boxy proportions mean the available 951 litres with rear backrests down is actually very useable. Meanwhile a super-frugal 55kW/95Nm 1.0-litre triple makes light work of hauling the sub-900kg VW around, aided by a slick five-speed manual shifter, a big wad of low-down torque, a revvy disposition, and a rorty exhaust.

Better still – and here’s where the Golf connection tees off big time – is the Up’s class-redefining dynamic capabilities. Crisp electric power steering that feels tight, sharp and reactive around town is one thing, but tenacious high-speed grip and fabulous body control on skinny 165/70R14 rubber is quite another. Throw in subtle traction-intervention tuning, strong brakes and a supple ride, and the invigorating Up makes you feel alive.

What we’re saying, folks, is that the classless Volkswagen Up transcends its now more-affordable $14K driveaway pricing with breathtaking insouciance. Friendly, accessible, safe and fun, it’s the modern VW masterpiece most Aussies inexplicably ignore – perhaps due to the lack of an automatic transmission option. Even then, the manual-only Up is still our automatic baby of choice, hands down.

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