Volkswagen rocked the world recently with their superb Volkswagen Up! – that exclamation mark was intentional – winning the European Car of the Year award for 2012. But their rivals SEAT and Skoda have more of a claim to competing for that prize than Volkswagen may admit. What have they got in common?
SEAT’s Mii and Skoda’s Citigo are both manufactured in the same factory as the Up! – and so they all share very similar technical DNA. Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Despite carrying the same kinds of mechanics, their individual manufacturers have plumbed for different interior trims, exterior stylings and price points. So what’s the same, and what’s not?
First up (excuse the pun), let’s look at the exteriors. Though they all share the distinctive wedge-like lovable brutality borrowed from old-school hatchback designs, it’s hard to deny that the VW is the snappiest of the bunch. The slimline grille is just perfect for this kind of vehicle – it’s understated functionality incarnate. The old-school grilles carried by both the SEAT and the Skoda just hark back to another age – the age before the super-compact. And that wasn’t a fun age, if you owned a small car. VW market the Up! as being the flagship member of their New Small Family (NSF) model line – and it looks futuristically urbane. The others? You might as well be looking at facelifted Ford Kas. It’s not a bad look – just not as radically sleek as the Up! manages to manifest.
So what about the interior trim? No surprises here – the Up! is the most expensive, and it feels it. That’s refreshing in a small car of this ilk – the Skoda and SEAT, though cheaper, just don’t match the sheer raw material quality of the VW. Add in some extras, though, and the picture changes. Volkswagen like putting nice stuff in their cars, and they expect their customers to pay top dollar for their doing so. SEAT and Skoda know their market to be a little more thrifty, so chucking in a SatNav doesn’t break the bank (in fact, it’s standard on the top-of-the-line Skoda). It is worth mentioning, though, that the VW does come with a shocking number of what we might consider to be ‘extras’ as standard – including that SatNav. So, the ground’s a little less clear here.
And the drive? While Auto Express found that the Skoda just about snagged the best fuel economy and lowest emissions prizes, there’s so little in it as to make comparing their outputs absurd. They all carry the same mechanics, so the differences are down to styling
So Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT have a little more in common than you might think. But really, there are a few little differences too – and they might just be all the difference in the world.