For those hesitant about using public transport once they return to work after lockdown, buying a city car could be a tempting alternative, given their practicality, reliability and cheapness to buy and run. They have come a long way over the years, too, so any lingering visions you may have of crushed Coke cans can pretty much be dismissed.
The best, if your budget can stretch to it, is the Volkswagen Up. It can be fairly nippy, especially if you find one like we did with the 89bhp 1.0-litre turbo engine. This turns the Up into a decent performer, meaning you don’t have to fork out £11,000 or more for the GTI version if your commute includes some out-of-town stretches.
The Up is a relatively practical proposition, too, with plenty of room both front and rear. It can seat only four, but that’s okay, since you would be getting very intimate with those either side of you if you tried sitting in the middle of most city cars.
There’s also a deep boot (with even room for a spare wheel), so you could park up, pull out a Brompton bike and ride that last bit to the office.
Splashing out for the more powerful engine means you’ll be getting into a better-specified car, since it was only available in top-spec High Up (such as our lurid yellow 2017 example with 63,200 miles) or Beats Up. Both will have air-con, alloy wheels and electrically adjustable door mirrors as standard, but the High Up comes with heated seats for those cold winter mornings, while a Beats Up model has an upgraded sound system in the form of a 300W Beats stereo. That will allow you to proudly sing along to your favourite tunes. Try doing that on the train…
Clash of the classifieds
Brief: I would like a sporty, BTCC-style toy for £5000, please.
Alfa Romeo 33, £2995
Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo SRi, £3499
Felix Page: Prices for the Alfa Romeo 155, which actually took part in the British Touring Car Championship, have climbed out of your reach, so how about this similarly styled but smaller and rarer 33? Okay, its 1.5-litre boxer engine won’t set your world alight, but this is a solid and well-kept candidate for conversion into a track toy. Swap in the later 1.7-litre 16-valve lump, strip out the interior and invest in some trick chassis hardware. Max, you appear to have accidentally chosen a minicab.
Max Adams: That’s the whole point of the BTCC, Felix. You’re supposed to race a boring family car, which describes my 2009 Vauxhall Insignia perfectly. It also meets the 2.0-litre engine size restriction and has two turbos for a creditable 217bhp. Plus, at £3499, you have £1500 left for the brake and suspension upgrades necessary for repeated weekend track action.
FP: Hmm, and then I suppose you can do some airport runs afterwards to pay for new tyres? My 1993 car has a cloverleaf on its side, and that signals performance pedigree that you can’t just buy. I can’t imagine Nicola Larini at the helm of a Vauxhall.
MA: A cloverleaf, you say? Perhaps they should have washed it before taking the photos. Oh, wait, I think I’ve misunderstood: I doubt the factory stuck on that badge, sir. Besides, Larini never raced a lowly 33.
FP: Semantics come second to track antics.
Verdict: I loved the 1990s, so give me that Alfa.