Volkswagen Up!: Finally, a Great City Car?

Volkswagen Up!, front

City cars either scare the bejesus out of prospective U.S. drivers, or they make fun of them, or they just don’t see the point.

The point is, folks, that the U.S. badly needs a good city car—something that’s well-built, handles well (enough), is spacious enough to carry four comfortably and is, above all, small, parkable, low on emissions and high on fuel economy.

Volkswagen’s Up! appears to fill the minicar prescription and should sell well in Europe when it appears in March. It’s “brilliantly packaged and effortlessly easy to drive,” says TopGear, which gave the Up! its 2011 Small Car of the Year award.

A front-driver with choice of two 3-cylinder engines, the Up! actually gives its passengers, including those in the back, real room since it has a long wheelbase of 95.3 inches, wheels out at the corners, and is 64.6 inches wide. A 9-cubic-foot trunk (34 cf with rear seats folded), gives you real carrying capacity. It’s smaller than the MINI Cooper, with more interior space. And it’s better-looking and better-packaged than the Fiat Panda, another competitor.

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Green Update: No Market for Small City Cars in the U.S.?

Fiat Panda, front

CNNMoney ran a recent piece on six Detroit dinosaurs that are, or should be, on the way out. They included truck-platform SUVs like the Tahoe, muscle cars like the Mustang, all Lincolns and the Chrysler 200. Yes, send them all to the cruncher.

One of the cars on their list was the Chevy Volt, whose sales are ridiculously low and whose price is ridiculously high. Since GM totally bungled the production and marketing of this car, maybe the concept can be rethought and reduced in size and price. There is no way this car in its present form can take on the Prius.

American carmakers are still fighting to preserve the past in some of their offerings, and to be sure, the U.S. market will not change overnight. But why can’t some of the decent, long-tested small cars of Europe be brought here—at least to the urban car market?

Instead of giving us junk like the Nitro, why doesn’t Chrysler import the Fiat Panda (above), a great small funky wagon-hatch that has been a hit for 30 years in Europe and around the world?

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