Things are definitely lookin up for Volkswagen in the important city car sector, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

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Volkswagen up! five-door

Price: £8,360 to £11,670

Engine: 1.0-litre, 60 or 75PS three-cylinder petrol

Transmission: Fiv-speed manual as standard driving the front wheels

Performance: 60PS, 0-62mph 14.4 seconds, top speed 99mph; 75PS, 0-62mph 13.2 seconds; top speed 106mph

Economy: 60.1-68.9mpg

CO2 emissions: 95-108g/km

Small cars are now a big deal as buyers seek to save money and not battle with parking and all the rest in our increasingly crowded cities. A new wave of small cars boasting big-car refinement and road manners has changed urban motoring for the better.

Cars from the likes of Kia, Hyundai, Ford, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota make up the bulk of what’s available. Missing someone? Noticeable by its absence from that list is Volkswagen, which is odd considering it has what seems like a model in every other class.

However, along Volkswagen Group members Skoda and SEAT, VW has finally entered the fray with its amusingly named up!. And, yes, that is the correct spelling and grammar.

With rivals now well established in this fiercely-competitive market, the need to produce something that is more than just ‘edgy’ is important. Having broken the ice with its three-door model, does the five-door up!, well, stack up?

The short answer is yes, especially as the diminutive VW is only 3.5m long. Launched in city car-friendly three-door form, the up!’s modest footprint offers the ability to zip in and out of traffic with minimum fuss and no hint of compromise regarding the ownership experience. The up! is a small car, but shares all the refinement and quality of a VW.

So, three doors good – five doors better? Volkswagen would like you to think so, especially if you’re seeking extra versatility carrying passengers. The traditional three-door format is popular for city cars but those extra two doors can make the difference if you’ve got a (very) small family, for instance. Gone are the days when you’d rush to ditch your city car when the family headcount increased.

But what makes the up! different from so many other city cars? Volkswagen hasn’t always had an easy ride with its urban motors, and it’s an understatement to say that the up! has been a hotly-anticipated car. Unlike in the past, this time Volkswagen distilled all that is good about its cars into a concentrated package. It has learned that making a cheap-looking and feeling car and sticking a VW badge fools no one.

The up! a premium piece of kit. The compact and lightweight platform is powered by an impressively-advanced 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, available with 60 and 75 horsepower. This is no gruff, underpowered lump – motorway cruising is big-car quiet, and there’s plenty of oomph for the traffic light grand prix. That the engine sounds rorty and full of character when accelerating hard, yet remains hushed when cruising is an important achievement.

Factor in a slick five-speed manual gearbox, the option of an clutchless manual gearbox and suspension that soaks up the bumps in a way that would many family saloons blush with embarrassment, and the up!’s polished and mature character is nothing short of astounding given its size and asking price.

It’s clear that, from behind the wheel, the five-door up! is the real deal, and the practical benefits of those two extra doors are genuine, too. Volkswagen boasts of comparable head and legroom for rear seat occupants as the three-door car and, if sat behind a driver or passenger of average height, there’s little reason to doubt this. In fact, once inside, the experience is a pleasant one.

Also, such performance elevates the five-door up! above the usual ‘only good for giving friends trips to the local pub’ description, as there’s enough space for two grown-ups in the light and airy cabin and it never feels like a compromise. As such, you could easily travel a lot further than to the King’s Arms without feeling claustrophobic.

Aside form the extra two doors, this up! shares the same trim levels and kit of the three-door, which includes solid-feeling switchgear, legible instruments, a quality audio unit, plus the likes of air-conditioning, remote central locking, parking sensors, MP3 player and Bluetooth phone connections, integrated portable sat-nav and a sunroof depending on the model chosen.

A small car with big ambitions, Volkswagen’s five-door up! delivers the same smile-inducing driving experience as the three-door model, while the inclusion of those two extra doors adds a welcome extra layer to the ownership experience and is proof that Volkswagen is back in the small car game.

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