You Wait For Years Then Three Come At Once

Three new ‘city’ cars from the VW Group are on their way, but which is the best option?

Within the next few months, Volkswagen, Seat and Škoda will each launch their variants of a new city car on to the British market. With all of them sharing the same platform, engines and gearbox, it could be argued that the potential buyer has little to choose between them. However, there are subtle differences between all three models in styling finishes, so ultimately it will be the aesthetics of each vehicle that probably finalises the choice.

In the ever-growing subcompact market, Volkswagen delivers the Up!, Seat call their derivative the Mii and Škoda, rather predictably, offers the more practical name of Citigo.

The model variant has been nearly five years in the making, having first made its debut as a VW concept vehicle at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. In line with the usual VW expectations, the entry-level model has promised to set new standards for quality and refinement in city cars. At the time of launch, all cars will offer the choice of two 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines, one generating 60PS and the other 75PS. If one expects any level of performance, then the higher aspirated version is the engine to choose. Whilst three-cylinder engines are not as smooth as a four-cylinder, the offering from VW is generally a sound unit, although likely to be a little noisy at high revs.

All models promise a supple ride, which will undoubtedly please motorists in the UK as our roads become infested with potholes. The cars are easy to drive, with light and positive steering, and their compact dimensions provide agility and fun for the driver. All vehicles carry standard safety kit with four airbags and ABS. with additional safety features available on the higher spec models.

The overall design of the body affords good interior space with adequate headroom and almost class-leading boot space with the rear seats in place. Once these are folded forward, there is more luggage space than in some of the supermini segment. In addition, the interior features deep door bins, a large centre console storage area and a lidded glovebox for all those odds and ends.

Each model derivative from the respective marques will have their unique attributes although these are mostly cosmetic. Many will be attracted to the Up! because of its quirky front end treatment and styled rear side windows. Both the Mii and Citigo share the same side profile although front and rear end treatment is different. The Up! has a shiny black finish to the tailgate beneath the rear window which may not be to everyone’s taste.

In summary, all models raise the standard in the subcompact market as they offer big-car refinement, grown-up driving dynamics, high quality and clever packaging, all coupled with low running costs. Whilst prices have yet to be fixed for the Škoda and Seat, the VW starts at £7995 for the Take Up! However it is likely that prices from the other manufacturers will undercut the Volkswagen, thereby offering even better value. Observant readers will notice that the Škoda is also shown in 5 door disguise. It is understood that both VW and Seat will also be offering 5 door derivatives. My choice of the three would be the Škoda Citigo for its classic looks and clean cut lines although the Seat Mii looks quite attractive too. For me the VW Up! is too cluttered and gimmicky in appearance.

Models already established in the subcompact market include the trio of Citroën C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo, all of which have recently been face-lifted. Other similar vehicles include the Ford Ka, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10.