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TG Awards 2011: small car of the year

City cars are pure. City cars are disciplined. City cars are great. Two simple factors govern their entire design and development: they have to be cheap, and they have to be small. And so it follows that they have to be clever. You’ll find far more innovation and smart thinking in your average city car than you will in a family saloon or sports car.

Even so, you’ll be amazed how often firms get it wrong. Volkswagen’s corporate cupboard has more than its fair share of skeletons. The Lupo was overpriced; the Fox, a misjudged Brazilian outcast. But the Up is different.

Top Gear drives the Volkswagen Up

To call it a small Golf is to do it a huge disservice. It’s way better than that: brilliantly packaged inside, it has oodles of passenger space in a frame a foot shorter than a Fiat Panda’s. It sports an all-new, three-cylinder engine, weighs less than a tonne, is effortlessly easy to drive, live with and use. It is the cleverest small car around today, the city car we knew VW was capable of producing, the distilled essence of Volkswagen.

Gallery: the Volkswagen Up

Read this and much much more in our huge new Awards issue of TopGear magazine, on sale now

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