Even before it has hit UK roads, the new Volkswagen up! has claimed top honours at the prestigious What Car? awards, being named Car of the Year for 2012 as well as best City Car. Taking the Car of the Year title for the sixth time makes Volkswagen the most successful manufacturer at the What Car? awards since they began in 1978.

It was a highly successful night for the manufacturer overall at the motor industry’s annual ‘Oscars’ held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, with the Golf returning as winner of the Small Family Car category for the sixth time overall and fourth consecutive year, and Volkswagen also taking the coveted Safety Award.

Volkswagen up! named What Car? Car of the Year 2012

Commenting on the awards, What Car? editor-in-chief Chas Hallett said: ‘The Volkswagen up! sets new standards for a car at £10,000. It’s a city car that can seat four adults, while offering new levels of refinement, quality and maturity at this price; none of its rivals feels quite so grown-up. Buyers will be looking for even more for their money than ever in 2012, so the up! is a worthy winner of the What Car? Car of the Year.’

Once again, the What Car? editorial team found the evergreen Golf hard to fault, and summed up by saying: ‘The Golf now has four wins in a row in our Small Family Car category – proof that Volkswagen got the package just right. This is a particularly demanding category, but the Golf has all the right ingredients: it’s practical, comfortable and good to drive, holds its value well and is economical. It’s really all the car most people will ever need.’

Meanwhile the Safety Award was in large part the result of the availability of Volkswagen’s innovative City Emergency Braking system on the up!. Although safety features are no longer the preserve of larger, more expensive models, the judges were impressed by this particular example of ‘big car’ technology filtering down to a smaller model. The system uses sensors to scan the space ahead, then applies the brakes automatically if it detects that the car is about to hit an object in front. Hallett added: ‘It works well – particularly in town, the up!’s natural environment – and the biggest achievement is that Volkswagen is offering the technology at a respectable price on its smallest model.’ City Emergency Braking costs from just £225.

Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Brand with responsibility for Development collected the award and commented: ‘We are very grateful for this award which recognises the achievements and qualities of our new small car, the up!. We set out to design a car which would combine Volkswagen values and maximum space in a distilled and compact package; a car which embodies the pure essence of the brand.

‘From its modern, clean and efficient engines, through its class-leading safety features to its innovative infotainment system, it is a design which encapsulates modern urban mobility.

‘Furthermore the up! is not a standalone product, but the first child in a new small car family. Groundbreaking Volkswagen models including a fully-electric version, the up! Blue-e-Motion which is due in 2013, will also join the family, and other Volkswagen Group brands will also benefit from its arrival. We are very excited about our new car and are delighted that the influential judges at What Car? magazine clearly share our views on the up!.’

Director of Volkswagen UK, Chris Craft, added: ‘We are absolutely delighted with the awards we have received from What Car? this year. The magazine continues to be one of the most thorough and important sources of new car buying information for UK customers and winning the overall Car of the Year accolade gives our new city car, the up!, the best introduction to the UK market that we could have hoped for.

‘Our Retailers are excited about the up!, we’re excited about the up! and judging by the reaction of the press and public, customers are also very excited. Our new up! offers small car buyers all the high quality, safety and value for money for which Volkswagen is renowned in an unbeatable compact package.

‘We are very grateful for this award and we are sure it marks the start of a very successful year for the Volkswagen brand.’