Volkswagen up! review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

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

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

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Despite costing a little more than its city car siblings, the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii, the Volkswagen up! is still a great city car buy. Volkswagen has managed to take the quality and high class feel from bigger models such as the Golf and shoehorned them into a car that's about the same size as a Fiat 500.

Although its only really capable of taking four adults, the levels of comfort and luxury that Volkswagen gives the up! are very impressive. Its handling is too - on the road, the little Volkswagen feels planted and enjoyable to drive.

Available in three and five-door guise, the Volkswagen up! also comes in three comically named trim levels. There’s the entry level Take up!, the mid-range Move up! and range topping High up!. Volkswagen also offers the Groove up! and Rock up! special editions.

Volkswagen doesn't offer a diesel engine on the up! so buyers only get a choice of three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol units with different power outputs. There’a also the choice of manual or ASG automatic gearboxes while buyers seeking lower running costs can invest in Volkswagen's efficient BlueMotion technology or the fully electric e-up!.

Volkswagen has also announced plans for a GT model of the up, which develops 108bhp from the standard car's 3-cylinder engine.

While the Skoda Citigo is our favourite from the trio of Volkswagen stable of city cars, we think the up! has the sharpest looks of all three, and that desirable Volkswagen badge could come in handy when the time comes to sell the car on.

Our choice: 1.0 (60) Move up! BlueMotion

Styling

4.2

With its huge Volkswagen badges, stubby nose and big windows, the up! is certainly a distinctive looking car in spite of its minuscule size. The shiny black glass tailgate also adds a novel, futuristic aspect.

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 three-door only Groove up! special edition a leather steering wheel, a Fender sound-system with subwoofer and 16-inch alloy wheels, while the Rock up! gets a black rear diffuser panel, sporty side-skirts, a bonnet stripe and a touch-screen infotainment system.

Driving

4

The Volkswagen up! is truly at home on city streets and this is down to its tiny size and tight turning circle. What's more, when these are combined, navigating bottle necked junctions and multi-storey car parks becomes easy.

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.

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.

Reliability

4.2

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.

Practicality

4

Make no mistake, the Volkswagen up! is a tiny car with and its a length of 3,540mm, width of 1,641mm and height of 1,489mm underline this. It's the same size as a Fiat 500 but thanks to its 2.4-metre wheelbase, it's much more spacious and grown-up looking than its Italian rival.

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.

Running Costs

4.2

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.

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.

Indeed.

Last updated: 17 Apr, 2013

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