Nearly-new buying guide: Volkswagen Up

These are uncertain times for Volkswagen’s mini marvel. Complex emissions rules threaten to consign the Up and other city cars to the dustbin of history, with only electric versions of group siblings, the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, clinging on and, hopefully, prospering.

For now at least, there are still both petrol and electric versions of the Up. Launched in 2014 and updated in 2017, the e-Up EV has a range of 99 miles. It’s a rare bird on the used market but an example of VW’s ambitions for its little city car. Putting the e-Up to one side, at the lower end of the Up model range is the 1.0 60 Take Up 3dr and at the other the daft-as-a-brush Up 1.0 115 GTI.

The Up was launched in 2012 but here we’re interested in the facelifted version from 2016. Highlights included a more powerful 89bhp Up 1.0 90 TSI, sitting above the existing 59bhp 1.0 60 and 74bhp 1.0 75 engines, plus restyled headlights, standard-fit LED daytime-running lights and new bumpers. Smartphone integration and fresh colours and styling packs were new, too.

There were also some new trims in addition to the core Take Up, Move Up and High Up trims inherited from the pre-facelift Up. Partly because it’s offered with all engines bar the 115 GTI, the most popular among these bonus trims on the used market is Up Beats (VW’s puns aren’t Uplifting), with its 300W sound system.

Back to the three core trims and easily the most popular and plentiful is mid-spec Move Up. It has all the kit you need in a city car, including a smartphone-based media system, air conditioning, a split-folding rear seat, electric windows, central locking and driver’s seat height adjustment. It’s got alloy wheels, too. They look good but check for kerbing.

It’s a pity Move Up is available with the 59bhp engine only. Like all Up petrol motors (there’s no diesel), it’s a three-cylinder affair with a pleasingly raspy exhaust note, but while its heart’s in the right place, you do have to work it. It wouldn’t matter but for the fact that even on healthy models, the gearchange action is a little baggy and obstinate. While you’re getting used to that, check for clutch slip. Worn or problem clutches do appear to be an issue.

The more powerful 1.0 75 is just as economical but barely any quicker. In any case, it’s available on more expensive High Up and Beats trims only, so is less plentiful. The 1.0 90 TSI, also confined to High Up and Beats models, supplies a little more low-down urge and is a more capable motorway tool. However, it’s even rarer. Top of the pile is the 1.0 115 GTI, to which we awarded four stars for its moments of handling brilliance, design appeal and value. We were less taken with the engine and gearchange.

Across the range, prices go from around £5000 (or from £2500 if you count pre-facelift cars) to £15,000, which only shows what splendid value the Up is. Buy one before they’re gone.

Need to know

If your licence only permits you to drive an automatic or it’s your transmission of choice, be sure to try out other slushmatic rivals before deciding on the Up’s optional automated manual ’box. It can be jerky and slow to respond and dulls the performance of the already low-powered engines.

Bear in mind that a 2016-reg Up 1.0 75 High Up 5dr with 22,000 miles costs around £6000, while a same-age and mileage Ford Fiesta 1.0 100 Ecoboost Zetec 5dr is only £1500 more and better to drive.

The What Car? Reliability Survey reports that the Up is only averagely dependable by the standards of the class. More reliable city cars include the related Skoda Citigo, the Hyundai i10 and the Toyota Aygo.

Our pick

Up 1.0 75 High Up 5dr: High Up trim is available with only the slightly more powerful 74bhp engine but brings extra kit, including heated seats and alloys, on top of Move Up’s air-con (useful since steamed-up glass is common) and split-folding seats.

Wild card

E-Up: Wild now but will be the norm one day. The 18.7kWh battery is good for 99 miles, officially, and generates 89bhp. We found an approved used 2016-reg with 21,000 miles for £11,750.

Ones we found

2016 Up 1.0 60 Beats 5dr, 39,000 miles, £5500

2017 Up 1.0 75 High Up 5dr, 30,000 miles, £6500

2018 Up 1.0 60 Move Up 5dr, 4000 miles, £7750

2019 Up 1.0 90 High Up 5dr, 6000 miles, £11,900