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Auto Express's verdict on the Volkswagen up! city car in £8,970 mid-level Move trim

Small cars are big news ""“ none more so than the diminutive new Volkswagen up!.

The compact three-door city car gets chunky styling, huge Volkswagen badges and a brand-new chassis. Under the bonnet there's a new 999cc three-cylinder petrol engine too, which is capable of returning more than 60mpg.

The VW up! is available to order now, with deliveries starting in spring 2012. At launch there will be six different versions to choose between ""“ all powered by the new engine in two different states of tune.

Prices will start at £7,995 for the entry-level 59bhp Take up!, and rise to £11,180 for the range-topping, limited-edition up! White and up! Black, both of which offer 74bhp.

We've already driven the top-spec car earlier this year, so this time plumped for a mid-level Move up!, which costs £8,970 and delivers 59bhp.

We're big fans of the up!'s looks, which give the car a functional and robust appearance. Look closely, and you'll see shades of the VW Polo, particularly in the car's profile and headlamp design. At 3,540mm long and 1,641mm wide, it's about the same size as rivals like the Fiat 500 and Toyota Aygo.

Inside, the cabin looks and feels well made, with shiny piano black trim splashed across the dashboard, helping add an upmarket feel. Instruments include a very large speedometer and a small rev counter, both of which are very nicely detailed.

Our car also offered the firm's portable Navigon sat-nav and MP3 player (a £300 cost option), as well as electronic stability control and Volkswagen's new City Emergency Braking system (£400), which is designed to prevent accidents at speeds up to 20mph.

Cabin space in the four-seater, front-engined, front-wheel-drive model is generous, and we had no problem finding a comfortable driving position, despite the fact there's no reach adjustment on the steering column. The rear seats are spacious, too - thanks in part to the up!'s 2,420mm wheelbase - so you'll have little problem carrying four adults.

Boot space is a useful 251 litres - 66 litres bigger than a Fiat 500's ""“ and the luggage area includes a false floor, which allows you to store valuables out of sight.

At idle, the three-cylinder engine sounds gruff and delivers a bassy rumble as engine speeds climb. Even in our low power 59bhp car, however, it feels responsive and powerful, thanks to the car's low 929kg kerbweight and 95Nm of torque, all of which is available from 3,000rpm.

If there's one criticism, it's levelled at the car's throttle response, which feels a bit ponderous at low speeds. Around town, quick getaways from junctions and traffic lights need you to dial in plenty of revs before you lift the clutch.

According to official figures, the car will go from 0-62mph in 14.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 100mph.""¨ On the open road however, the car feels much faster than these numbers suggest. It's happy mixing it with cars cruising in the outside lane, and feels stable and secure.

Over bigger bumps, the ride can get a bit choppy, as the body bucks around on the supple suspension, but the steering is light and accurate. The brakes are sharp, too, and the car pulls up quickly and without fuss.

As a long-distance cruiser, it's a surprisingly efficient tool. And journeys are sure to be made all the sweeter, thanks to our car's claimed fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg, and a theoretical range of 500 miles.

But it's the car's performance around town that's most important. Here the car's good visibility and compact dimensions make it easy to thread through congested streets. It's tight turning circle is also a bonus, making it possible to perfrom taxi-style U-turns between kerbs.

Overall there's much to like, but despite the appeal of the £8,970 sticker price, we can't help feeling that standard specification might be too basic for some tastes. To buy a car you'd really enjoy living with, you'd need to add at least £1,200 of optional extras, including that portable sat-nav and the city emergency braking system.

Read more: http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/carreviews/firstdrives/274066/volkswagen_move_up.html?CMP=NLC-Newsletters&uid=bfa7e6becb18d045d7680e1746f94a0b#ixzz1bJ0mwMfa
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