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VW's little bus is big on quality and value

MEET the little car with the big personality. Yes folks, I give you the Volkswagen UP! -- the five-door Tardis that brings quirkiness to a whole new level.

And on a grand scale ... it's the only supermini in the world that comes with it's own exclamation mark!

Now Kia pulled a similar punctuation stunt with the Cee'd but without any real substance.

No, VW wanted to set out a stall that would attract potential customers from all walks of life.

It's target market includes young drivers (especially learners) older drivers who are trading down and young professional singletons/ urban dwellers who need to cut it on the mean city streets.

Meeting the needs of such a broad demographic is no mean feat and calls for a slew of must haves.

Firstly it needs its own identity which you are left in no doubt about given the giant badges stamped on the stub nose (it's almost the size of a football) and an equally grand centrepiece on the flat rear.

Then comes personality which is in abundance the minute you open the door and climb onboard.

In fact, there are so many little touches that make the whole experience unique that it's hard to pinpoint one.

Could it be the Audi TT-style flat based leather steering wheel with shiny piano black inlays?

Or maybe it's the small but brilliantly clever infotainment/sat nav system poking out if the dash?

(This detachable iPhone-sized gadget is a combination of electronic wizardry from Bluetooth, satnav with speed alerts, to eco driving to fuel consumption and finally an MP3 player - a €908 option).

Or perhaps it's down to the ingenious use of 'pop out' fly windows in the rear -- slashing production costs while inadvertently giving peace of mind to anxious parents.

If that doesn't do it for you then the astounding build quality of the cabin with a feel and finish that would make some C-Segment offerings blush in embarrassment.

Space is also a major factor -- with oceans of room both front and rear.

Thanks to the short overhangs the cabin feels large and airy and is as big as the current Polo which looks similar in size to the Golf.

Same applies in the back with plenty of space for two adults or three children and although the boot is tight, it should cater for reasonable loads (251 litres) like a weekly shop.

But this is first and foremost a city car so fuel economy is top of the agenda -- and it doesn't disappoint. The three-cylinder 999CC petrol engine generates a decent 75bhp -- enough poke to get you out of most trouble -- while returning genuine diesel-like mpg.

The book boasts over 60mpg and emissions of 108g/km (Tax Band A -- €160 a year) but we reckon its closer to 50mpg.

Performance-wise, the three-pot powerplant lacks any real torque and to get off to a quick sprint you need to rev her hard.

We could also start moaning about the absence of a sixth gear, but that's not the brief here.

The Up! is what it is.

So should the iconic FIAT 500 be worried? While it may have the edge on looks and nostalgia, the VW will trump it on size and versatility. The biggest feather in the German cap though is price which, at just under €11,000, will be the deciding factor for most Irish punters.

Even the dimmest of bean-counters could figure out that you'd still manage to get five grand after the same amount of years ownership.

That equates to €1,200 per year -- or €25 a week for quality motoring.

And quality is what you get -- and for once at a very reasonable price.

Things are indeed looking UP!