Best Buys City Cars: Top billing goes to the little VW

Our choice of the best city cars on the market right now


Best one: Volkswagen Up

The Up is a car that’s ageing like George Clooney. For every year that passes, it just seems to get a little bit better. That process got a serious jolt of youthful hormones this year with the arrival of the 115hp Up GTI. This little hot-rod, which still isn’t confirmed for Irish sales, is arguably the best per-kilo hot hatch around, and it has rightfully re-invigorated interest in the rest of the Up range. The standard car is still a cracker, with high levels of quality, an engaging driving experience, and very good real-world fuel economy. Beware the three-door model (awkward to get in and out of the back) and the boot is pretty tiny, but as far as small cars go, it’s the most impressive. Well, almost - remember that there are all-but identical Skoda (Citigo) and Seat (Mii) versions as well, and they can often work out a little cheaper than the Up, so shop around.

Best model: Take Up 5dr for €12,495 Price range: €11,995 to €14,995. Finance from €169 per month. Co2 emissions: 95 to 101g/km Sum up: On the up.

Worth Contenders:

Ford Ka+

It’s a long, long way from being either the best, or the most exciting, car that Ford makes, and in some ways it just exists to allow Ford to jack up the price of the basic Fiesta a little. But the Ka+ rises, a little, above its station thanks to an interior that feels more solid than it looks, and a chassis that has a surprising level of polish for a small car. It doesn’t have the character nor charm of the original 1997 Ka, but it’s not bad at all. Pricey, though.

Best model: Keep it cheap - base €13,050 Studio model is best Price range: €13,050 to €14,650. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 110 to 114g/km Sum up: More plusses than minuses.

Fiat 500

Somewhere in an attic in Turin there’s a painting of the current Fiat 500 looking aged, decrepit, tired, and faded. The only explanation for the 500’s continued youthful vigour is either that it is the automotive equal of Dorian Gray, or that Fiat just can’t quite work out how to replace it. Either way, the 500 is easily the most stylish car in the class, it’s fun to drive, and has the nicest interior of any competitor. Only the basic 1.2-litre engine is currently available in Ireland but that’s OK as it’s the best one. Keep the wheels on the small side to preserve the ride quality.

Best model: Pop Star 1.2 69hp for €15,450 Price range: €14,250 to €19,850. Finance from €137 per month. Co2 emissions: 110g/km Sum up: Suspiciously youthful. Check the attic.

Kia Picanto

The Picanto looks as it drives - zippy. You can get it with faux-sporty GT-Line embellishments, but is there really any point in lashing out extra money on a car that’s supposed to be cheap? There’s even less point in the X-Line model that pretends to be a titchy 4x4. There are some good options for the Picanto though, such as cruise control with speed limiter (which actually turns it into a surprisingly accomplished main-road cruiser) and a big touchscreen. Worth remembering that the more soberly-styled Hyundai i10 rides on the same mechanical package as the Picanto, and is still well worth a look.

Best model: 1.0 EX for €15,195 with the optional safety pack Price range: €13,295 to €16,995. Finance from €153 per month. Co2 emissions: 101 to 124g/km Sum up: Small but sparky.

Wild Card: Renault Twingo

The Twingo is almost wilfully oddball. Like a Porsche 911, it’s rear-engined and rear-wheel drive, but unlike a Porsche 911 you’d never actually be aware of either of these facts. It’s super-cute to look at, and reasonably roomy inside, but the quality of the cabin plastics and overall build could be better. Standard three-cylinder engine is smooth but gutless, so go for the turbo model. Not-for-Ireland GT version is an appealing tiny hot hatch.

Best model: TCe 90 Dynamique for €16,590 Price range: €13,990 to €16,590. Finance from €115 per month. Co2 emissions: 95 to 112g/km Sum up: Small, French, and quirky.

Upcoming new cars on the way this year: Toyota Aygo facelift