After an extensive search, finding a reasonably priced, properly maintained Australian-built sedan proved a summit too great to climb.
The hours spent combing through online car ads was time that could have been better spent doing anything else. The only return for those hours was frustration.
There were some genuine contenders, however, these examples sold within minutes conclusively demonstrating there’s only the quick and the dead.
While the search for a locally made sedan will go on in the background as more of a hobby than a full-time gig, it was time to look for something else.
Finding something interesting and affordable on the used market isn't hard if you keep an open mind.
After a few weeks of research, we kept coming back to the Volkswagen Up!, it’s a city car that’s developed something of a cult following in some circles.
The Up! caused something of a stir when it was launched thanks to low-speed autonomous emergency braking being standard. Looking back, it was kind of a big deal.
Even today, the Up! remains a unique take on the city car. VW managed to blend an engaging powertrain, a modern cabin and excellent packaging while preserving a purist driving experience.
It’s a car that was only ever going to appeal to the purists and budget-conscious as a consequence of not offering an automatic transmission.
Representing strong value wasn’t enough to move the Up! in large numbers and it was removed from VW’s local range after only a few years on the market.
The small car market is an increasingly difficult segment to be profitable. A fact that sees plenty of manufacturers retreat from the segment to chase stronger margins in other categories.
At present, only the MG 3 and Kia Picanto sell in numbers large enough to brag about. It won't be long until MG owns the segment outright. In a very price-sensitive part of the market, the MG 3 is available from $16,490 drive-away. Mainstream rivals are struggling to get anywhere near that.
Our 2012 Up! was purchased for less than half the price of a new MG 3 and only had 45,000km on the clock. It was heavily optioned, in good condition with a complete service history from a VW dealer. Not too shabby.
Given a test drive wasn’t possible due to Victoria’s lockdown, we purchased it having never driven the model. Considering the price, it was worth the punt.
Prices on a wide range of used cars are rising on the back of supply issues caused by the pandemic. Prices for an Up! were already climbing before Covid. There was a time when used car dealers couldn’t give them away, but the Up! has now found a niche as an enthusiast’s daily driver which is seeing demand exceed the limited supply.
Don’t let the diminutive footprint fool you, the Up! is a lot of car for the money. It also stacks up very well when compared to equivalent new models.
Over the coming months, we will review the Up! and document our ownership. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a sleeper on the used market, it’s worth a look.