Volkswagen up! ASG

15 Nov, 2012 4:00pm Jamie Fretwell

Does the brilliant Volkswagen up! city car make more sense with an automatic gearbox? We find out...


The VW up! is a brilliant city car that offers refinement and quality that were previously unheard of in this class. But this ASG box feels at odds with the rest of the package, with the slow responses we’ve come to expect from city car autos. Plus, despite the gains in efficiency, you pay the same for road tax – so unless you really need it, we’d steer clear.

Automatic gearboxes are ideal for city car drivers who spend their lives in stop-start traffic, and that’s why VW has just fitted a five-speed auto to the up!.

The ASG box is an automated version of the standard five-speed manual, and adds £595 to the price. A similar gearbox in a Citroen C1 costs £500.

In this 59bhp Move up!, economy rises to 64.2mpg – 1.4mpg better than the manual – and emissions drop by 3g/km to 103g/km. It sounds promising so far, but things unravel behind the wheel. There’s no creep function, so you have to jab the throttle to get the car moving, which makes for a bit of a jittery urban crawl.

When you get out on the open road, the ASG box is slow to shift, and while you can change gears manually by pushing the lever up and down, shifts are no quicker. Under hard acceleration, there’s a huge drop-off in power between shifts, and the transmission doesn’t change down quickly enough under braking, either.

It’s a shame VW couldn’t develop a better gearbox to suit the up!, considering the city car revolutionised this market with its quality, refinement and grown-up driving experience. We still love everything else about the car, and for some drivers the ASG will be the right choice, but it’s frustrating to find this chink in its armour.

Still, every other automatic city car on the market has the same problem with slow shifts – and few can match the general all-round appeal of the up!.

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Seems odd that the auto model does not come with auto stop-start on the engine or even available.

Automatic gearbox progress seems to be going backwards.

In the 1990s I preferred self-shifters, as they whipped up and down 3-4 ratios with no problem at all, making for very relaxed urban driving.

But since about 2000, I haven't driven an auto that can manage a key test without pause or hesitation - slowing down for a right-hander, then downshifting to accelerate smartly across the road.

Maybe it's because auto-box designers are too concerned about economy, maybe it's that computer control isn't good enough.

Either way, the solution is simple - I've been driving manuals for the last decade.

It must be bad for AE to give a VW product 3 stars.

No-shift hybrid CVT-like boxes are better for city cars - pity VW didn't go this route

Why do you keep saying it's brilliant? I don't own one but have driven one and don't see anything brilliant in it. Perhaps you just like the badge. There are better equally solid small car packages such as the new Panda.

panda has even full sized curtain air bags

Such a shame - a city car needs an auto-box more than most.

Still, the Hyundai i10 has a proper torque-converter auto, so there is a very viable alternative.

Agreed. It's nothing revolutionary in terms of space management (it's basically the same concept), And none of the reviews shows that 3 door version is critically flawed with "easy entry" which is not really easy (front seat always goes al the way back, on the legs of a person seating there), and certanly isn't "easy exit" as it's hard for person behind to get out on their own. Quality of the materials is great, but price difference is even greater.
Good, but hardly brilliant car

what is it amazing of this car...? there are city car far more interesting that this ... the panda is one example

Key specs

  • Price: £9,675
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 59bhp
  • Transmission: Five-speed automated manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 15.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 99mph
  • Economy: 64.2mpg
  • CO2: 103g/km
  • Equipment: Electric windows, air-con, aux-in, ESP, traction control
  • On sale: Now