Volkswagen up! review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Volkswagen up! has city car dimensions, but is stuffed with the best bits from larger Volkswagens

Great to drive, stylish design, low running costs
Entry-level versions are very basic, small boot, lack of torque

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The Volkswagen up! is a high-quality, high-class city car forming part of a trio of city cars from the VW Group - alongside the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii. It has the same quality feel of models like the VW Polo and VW Golf, all crammed into a package similar in size to the Fiat 500.

The up! feels much more grown up than its size, looks and name suggest. Comfort levels are high, and it feels planted and enjoyable on the road with impressive handling.

It comes in three and five-door body styles and is offered in five trim levels. The range starts with the Take up!, moving through to Move up! and top-spec High up! trims. There's also the Street up!, Club up! and Rock up! editions which have been added to the range more recently – all based on the High up! model but offering buyers a few extras.

The VW up! is available only with 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines in two states of tune - either 59bhp or 74bhp. There's a choice of manual or ASG automatic gearboxes and, for those looking to save even more on their running costs, the up! is available with VW's BlueMotion Technology which features stop-start as part of the package.

There's also a fully electric e-up! which is just as refined and good to drive as the standard car, but it is expensive and has a limited range. There are also rumours of an up! GT which could produce 108bhp from its three-cylinder engine.

Out of the VW Group trio, the Skoda Citigo is our favourite city car, but we think the VW up! looks the best, and the VW badge is likely to appeal to many buyers. It will also help when you come around to selling it on.

Our choice: 1.0 (60) Move up! BlueMotion

Engines, performance and drive


The small size of the up! lends itself perfectly for navigating city streets and tight car parks, so it fits the brief of a city car well. The tight turning circle makes it particularly good for nipping in and out of traffic and is a doddle to park.  

Entry level Take up! cars are powered by the little three-cylinder 59bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine but thanks to its lightweight 926kg body, it still feels pretty nimble and responsive.

Volkswagen up! rear view

The more powerful 74bhp versions of the up! are better and sacrifice little in terms of economy. Volkswagen's five-speed automatic ASG gearbox is available as an option and is perfect for city-drivers who spend most of their time in stop-start traffic. The downside of this is, is that it costs around £600.

Despite being over 200kg heavier than the standard up! due to its heavy batteries, the fully electric, zero emissions Volkswagen e-up! drives just as well as its petrol counterpart. The extra weight is beneath the floorpan and between the axles to help provide a low centre of gravity.

The turn in is still sharp and precise, and because all 210Nm of torque is available from a standstill, the Volkswagen e-up! accelerates quickly. However, beyond 60mph, it starts to run out of steam.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


Volkswagen doesn't offer a diesel engine on the up!, so all versions come with a 999cc three-cylinder petrol unit that has a power output of either 59bhp or 74bhp.

The 59bhp engine is only available on the Take up! and Move up! versions, and has a combined economy of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 105g/km. The 74bhp unit found on the Move up! and High up! models manages a combined cycle of 60.1mpg and puts out 108g/km of CO2.

Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen also offers its ultra-efficient BlueMotion tech on mid and top-end Move up! and High up! models and these achieve a combined cycle of 68.9 mpg and 95g/km of CO2.

The automatic gearbox found on the Volkswagen up! actually improves emissions by 3g/km in the non-BlueMotion models. However, it's somewhat jerky so we’d recommend sticking with the manual.

The Volkswagen up! has better predicted residual values than either of its cousins, the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii. It’s predicted to keep more than 50 per cent of its value over three years.

Thanks to a 18.7kWh lithium-ion battery, the electric e-up! can cover over 90 miles on a single charge, and can be charged up to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes.

Interior, design and technology


Despite its small size, the up! is a distinctive city car with its large Volkswagen badges, stubby nose and big windows. There's a wide range of colours and alloy wheels available, so the scope for personalisation is fairly wide. The shiny black glass tailgate contributes to the car's funky, futuristic look, too. 

The interior of the up! is simple yet high-quality, and it can be specified with body-coloured panels. While it's comfortable and neat looking, there's nothing that really sets the up! apart from its less expensive siblings, the Skoda Citigo and the SEAT Mii. The piano-black finish on the steering wheel and dash also looks great, but it does reflect the light in sunny weather and can be a distraction.

The three mainstream trim levels of Volkswagen up! come with various levels of standard kit. The entry-level Take up! gets a CD player and Isofix seatbelts, while Move up! versions get air-conditioning and split-folding rear seats as standard. Range topping High-up! cars get 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated front seats and touch-screen sat-nav.

Volkswagen gives the Street up! special edition unique 16-inch alloys, privacy glass, decals on side, bonnet, boot, roof and wing mirrors, a leather steering wheel, black roof lining and special cloth upholstery. The Club up! gets similar added spec along with 'Blueberry' metallic paintwork, while Rock up! gets a black rear diffuser panel, sporty side-skirts, a bonnet stripe and a touch-screen infotainment system.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


Don't be fooled by the up!'s big-car feel, it is still very compact, with a length of 3,540mm, width of 1,641mm and height of 1,489mm. It is the same size as the Fiat 500, but thanks to its 2.4-metre wheelbase, the up! is much more spacious than its Italian rival. 

Volkswagen up! steering wheel

With four seats and a 251-litre boot, the Volkswagen up! is perfect for short journeys and young families. The boot space is the same in both the three-door and five-door models, but, five-door models of the up! have better access to the rear seats. Volkswagen gives the up! the same interior as the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo but while it isn’t as big as a Polo, the versatile interior should prove practical enough.

All cars bar the entry-level model get split-folding rear seats, which creates a 951-litre load area (the 500 can only manage 185 and 550 litres). There are plenty of generous cubbyholes, so it should be set to take whatever family life can throw at it.

Reliability and Safety


The Volkswagen up! is one of the safest city cars on the market thanks to its five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP.

The little Volkswagen scored 89 per cent for adult occupant safety, and 86 per cent in the safety assist category. It's a disappointment that Volkswagen doesn't give the entry-level Take up! models ESP as standard, but all versions come with driver and passenger airbags in addition to Isofix, ABS and seat belt reminders.

The up! features a few clever safety systems which include the optional City Emergency Braking system, which uses a laser to scan the road ahead and will apply the brakes if it senses an incoming collision.

Volkswagen doesn't offer a deal like the long-term unlimited-mileage warranty found on the Hyundai i10, but its simple front-engine, front-wheel drive layout and large number of tried-and-tested components from across the Volkswagen Group make it easy to find and fix problems should they occur.

Disqus - noscript

How's entry to back seats? I'll tell you, dreadful. Front seats don't remember last position, but go all the way back. And it's almost impossible to get out on your own from back. For a city car, that's a cardinal mistake. My first gen twingo is better.
Up is nicely built but is more expensive and less practical than competitors. That said, first gen twingo is more spacious and pratical than any of them.

Water leaks, transmission problems, exhaust noise and vibration, clutch noise and engine vibration - google volkswagen up! problems - seems that it involves pigs and pokes....

Piss off Hrvoje go back to your Croatia and enjoy in your hair dresser's french piace of formage!

Wow, thank you for that constructive comment. You sure showed me.

Valid point on the seats tbh but the Twingo is no where near as high quality and it won't hold it's money as well.

Every car is going to have it's problems, but it's one city car of the year award and what car of the year 2012. So can't be all bad. People expect far to much from a city car these days. These segment cars are going to be fairly basic. If you want a quiet, comfy, spacious then spend the 10k extra and buy a 1 series or a Golf.....

why did he mention the fiat 500 regarding space and not the fiat Panda? Always trying to make Fiat looking bad ....

I always thought Up! was a severely over-rated car and I didn't agree with the sweeping rave reviews it generated. Following a test drive, I would probably give it 3 or 3 1/2 stars - max.

This review shows that the experts are begining to wake up to the fact that while Up! is a good car yet it doesn't deserve 5 stars which should be given only to an exceptional car and that Up! is not.

Finally a sensible review! I had no idea why reviewers sang so highly for Up. Took a test drive, and it seems only to be an imitation of Aygo everywhere.

We have two of these in the family and a friend has one too. No problems with any of them. The quietest, most refined, solid small car out there and 55mpg. That is why we all bought them.

It is very noisy, even compared to a tractor. Took a test drive, and I got deaf!

Just seen one of these in beige. Nothing more to be said really.

Well, I would think that most people who buy city cars would think practicality and price over quality of plastics. I can from experience say that twingo (1993-2007) is a naked car - but it's extremly practical car with great concept - everybody is dazzled how much room it has from the inside. And while it's all cheap plastic, it doesn't mean it's bad quality - there's not really much to go wrong. Simple engine, simple cabin...
Renault kind of lost it with second and third gen, though.

Must've been a respray then - they don't do beige.

Because the Panda is starting to move into Polo size. The 500 is the directly comparable car.

No you did not, and you are missing the point.


Last updated: 26 May, 2015