Scallywag Muddy Ground road tests a VW Up!

No ride for me on Sunday; we had to go shopping to buy stuff for our daughter's holiday. I agreed as my shoulder hasn't improved since I fell of my bike three weeks ago. Plus sometimes it's just nice to doss about with the family isn't it? I'll not bore you with the shopping details, but we ended up in Horsham, a pleasant enough if slightly boring, middle-class town. [Note that if you have children, then the park and swimming pool are right up there amongst the best.]

As usual we all had to be fed and watered, but as usual boy-variant child didn't want anything until we were back at the car and all the local shops were closed. What to do with the whining child? Well being a free-loader I picked on a nearby hapless car dealer, this time VW. Big main dealers of any group usually have a toilet and free drinks on offer for the scally amongst us. So in we popped but as usual my git children gave the game away; my daughter shouting at the top of her voice that she'd found the fridge. The salesman obviously knew we were scallywags and rather pleasantly asked if he could help. I had a quick look around, noted no Up! so said that we had come to look at one but alas we'd have to leave as none were present. This guy must have dealt with a scally like me prior; he said would I like to look at his demo around the other showroom?

Bugger, bluff called.

Indeed he went further and just gave me the keys saying "see you in two hours!"

Double buggeration.

And I really do mean he just gave us the keys. No pre-amble, no "who are you?" type questions or anything at all in writing. We walked in, said Hi! and got the keys to a new car within two minutes.

So, what's the Up! like? Well it has a stupid name, although the optional roof sticker " this way up!" is funny for all of three seconds. I'd have the sticker and be eternally happy, but then I have a goldfish brain. But, apart from the exclamation mark, it is a damned fine car - dare I say it but better than the basic specification Fiat 500. Bigger inside than my Mk 5 Fiesta, and as nippy around town. Way better than a 1,600cc auto Ford Focus for acceleration, although hills ae few and far between in Horsham so I can't comment on torque. The engine thrums a bit as you drive along, and you can feel the vibration wibble at traffic lights, but it isn't unpleasant at all. Just there. The car rode surprisingly well, got up to 60mph better than most reviews would have you believe, and was a hoot through corners, being reasonably grippy in the dry. Even my car-sick prone boy rode in it happily, and that in the back where he couldn't quite see out of the two door we had. I didn't drive it for the full two hours, naturally - that would have been silly and would have clearly indicated my scally status to the salesman. One has to create doubt. But I did drive it in town, along A and B-roads, plus a good stretch of dual carriageway - what you Dear Americans would call the freeway or highway? Call it 20 miles of varied driving for 40 minutes or so; enough to get a good impression of the car anyway.

Inside the boot didn't quite look 250 litres big though; quite short but perhaps deep enough to warrant the claim. OK if all of your shopping is vertical, like wine perhaps or French bread stood on end. Actually it looked pretty deep and a bit of a stretch over the bumper and down into the car to get stuff. There is no spare tyre as this is a £50 option, but when was the last time you had a puncture? Oh, actually I've had two punctures within the past two months, so deleting the spare just to create the impression of boot volume is a bit of a scam isn't it. Put a spare tyre in there, and the boot shrinks to Fiat 500 proportions. It was very light and airy inside the cabin, even with a solid roof and black seats, with what felt like quality materials. The dash was wonderfully simple, take note Ford with your current and frankly awful 1980's stereo dash. The White we had looked very nice on matchingly painted alloys. Cute even, but I can't see it being taken to heart like the original Mini, it's not that cute. My wife even commented that on closing the boot lid, the noise and solidity experience was very much as the advert suggested; just like a Golf. Well it would be dear, it's made by the same people.

The Up! didn't get overly loud at speed either, and wind noise seemed reasonable. Certainly from the back I could still easily hear my kids being horrible to each other.

So for the want of acquiring bottled water by dubious means, we came away very impressed with the car and may well get one if either of our current cars die or we get seriously bored of them. We've bought new a few times, and find the expense fine'ish provided you keep the car for more than six years and can get 0% finance*. Well we would be happy if Skoda weren't offering the exact same car for £500 less, and if the Up! itself wasn't near £14,000 with just two options fitted; a sunroof and slush box. You could get a Fiesta or Honda Jazz for that, both slightly bigger cars. But then this kind of game gets silly, as you could be in an Octavia for the same cash but then you'd not have the easy parking, better looks, or essentially free road tax, or 60mpg economy. Or being perceived as ancient if you buy the Jazz, or Essex 'youff' if you buy the Fiesta. Or you could go down the used route and dream of a 1980's Bentley Turbo for the same cash outlay. You see? Up! or Bentley Turbo, you decide.

What value a badge? VW or Skoda? [SEAT version doesn't do it for me looks wise.] The Skoda to my eye actually looks the better car, although the colours offered aren't that hot - one would assume they appeal to people that like the colour of puke, or who take a stand against local libraries closing down.

Oh, and VW even do bike racks for the Up!

Oh and if anybody from a rival manufacturer like Toyota or FIAT want to loan me a car for an alternative test and comparison, then do please feel free ;¬) I promise not to bring my kids. Indeed to my eye a Panamera Turbo is a likely and viable alternative to the Up! so Porsche, don't be shy now. It'd be good publicity for you, a post on my blog - after all, some days I get upwards of, oh, six or seven people visit this site. Not bad eh?

* A guy from work looked at a used Mondeo today for £10k. Not a bad buy; diesel auto, three years old with 25,000 on the clock. He asked for finance, which at that price level is a bit of a no-no from a car dealer isn't it? Anyway, he wanted to finance it through them for some reason best known only to the insane amongst us. Go on Dear Reader, how much would the interest charges be on a £9k loan through a main Ford dealer? Nope, nowhere near, you are wrong, so wrong. Interest alone over five years ran to £1,700 per year. If he'd have gone for it, at 35% he would have paid in interest the same again as the car cost. This excludes insurance at £700 per year, servicing at £200 or £260 road tax. Oh and the sub 40mpg figures.

Intrigued by this finance quotation I decided to look how much it would cost to hire a brand new Mondeo from Gatwick. Best I could find after very little research indeed was £600 for two weeks, and that includes insurance, road tax and servicing. A Focus you could hire for a month for the same money. Do you see where I'm going with this? You could buy an Up! or such on cheap main dealer finance, and use that for the slog to and from work, tip or shops but hire a Mondeo sized car for when you go on holiday. The Up! would do 60mpg all day long, quite possibly paying for itself on the commute - you've seen train prices right? Then when you need a bigger car for something like an holiday, just hire one. So instead of having this hulking monster of a car cluttering your life up for 48 weeks of the year when you don't need it, you could effectively car share a new one. Seems to make financial sense to me. But then I tried selling own design t-shirts for a living, so don't take my word for it - I'm fundamentally stupid.