Best buys - city cars: Volkswagen’s still Up on top for urban runarounds

Asian rivals are closing in, but the German still has a lead


Best in class: Volkswagen Up

The Up (and its all-but identical sister cars, the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii) might be an ageing design but it’s one that has aged rather wonderfully. Being starkly simple in its lines probably helps in that regard, and if anything it looks more elegant and modern now than it did when first launched. Want proof that car makers are trimming back their model offerings? Look no further than the Up, which has seen its lineup reduced to just three models - A Take Up, and a Move Up with an automatic option for the Move Up, and all models are looking a touch pricey these days. There’s no three-door model anymore either, although we’re less upset about that. Still a fun-to-drive small car, with a sweet 1.0-litre engine. Its ultimate iteration is the fantastic Up GTI, but sadly that’s still not officially available in Ireland.

Best one: Basic €12,750 Take Up 1.0 is the best one to go for.

Prices: From €12,750. Finance from €189 per month.

In two words: Up-standing.

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Hyundai i10

The i10 is actually the better value compared to the Up, although you wouldn’t think so from a quick scan of the price list. An i10 Classic is actually around €1,000 more expensive than a basic Up if you’re paying cash on the list price. Of course, no-one does that anymore, and a quick look at the finance offers shows that you can put an i10 on your driveway for €155 a month on a PCP deal (all usual caveats about PCPs apply, of course). That’s a lot of car for the cost of a good meal out every month - it may be small, but the i10 feels big inside, and is surprisingly comfy too. Basic spec is a touch mean, although you do get a lot of safety kit for the price. A shame that you can’t option out the rubbery steering, but I guess you can’t have everything.

Best one: There’s no point in spending big, so get the cheapest €13,745 Classic

Prices: From €13,745. Finance from €155 per month.

In two words: Sensible selection.

Toyota Aygo

Recently updated (you can spot the new model by the nose - the old one has plastic inserts to make the distinctive X shape, the new one is all body-coloured) the Aygo remains one of the cheapest cars you can run. That 1.0-litre VVTI engine will run on fumes, while the signature Toyota reliability (even if there is some Peugeot and Citroen DNA in there too) means that you’ll be minimising your unexpected visits back to the dealership. The Aygo is one of the few small cars offering a full lineup, from x-Play to x-Trend and standard kit is excellent - it includes alloy wheels, a touchscreen, and a reversing camera. That does make it a pricey choice, though, with the Aygo starting north of €14,000. To drive, it’s reasonably zippy but perhaps not quite as engaging as either the Up nor the 500.

Best one: Cheaper is better; €14,355 x-Play

Prices: From €14,355. Finance from €139 per month.

In two words: Aygo cheap-o.

Wild Card: Fiat 500

Another design that’s reaching for the Oil Of Olay on a daily basis (the current 500 dates back more than a decade to 2007, and its 1.2-litre engine has its roots in the late seventies) but the dinky Fiat has still got it where it counts. And where it counts is in the looks department, because it’s all-but impossible not to fall for the charming retro styling. Inside, the 500 is a touch compromised, as rear seat space is best described as ‘minimal’ and in the 12 years it’s been in production, Fiat has never quite gotten the driving position sorted out. In its favour, that interior looks far more interesting and welcome than those of rivals, and while its handling is of the bouncy-bouncy variety, there’s no denying that it’s rather engaging and enjoyable. Quality is good, too, but then the 500 is built in Poland, not Italy. All-new model (allegedly) arrives next year, with electric power.

Best one: Again, in this segment, keep it cheap; €13,210 1.2 Pop

Prices: From €13,210. Finance from €99 per month.

In two words: Bella macchina.