Volkswagen e-up! review

13 Sep, 2013 6:00pm Jack Rix

Volkswagen e-up! was always designed for electric power, and now we find out what it’s like on road


For a certain type of driver, who lives in a city, has money to spend and owns a second car for the weekends, the new e-up! will be ideal. For everyone else, the classic electric car limitations of price, charging time and range will get in the way. From behind the wheel, though, it’s nippy, refined and lots of fun.

While Audi and Porsche are spearheading the VW Group’s efforts with plug-in hybrids, Volkswagen has picked up the baton for electric cars. An all-electric e-Golf, due in November, debuted at last week’s Frankfurt Motor Show, but first to arrive will be the e-up!.

Volkswagen up! review 

To rate its chances, we took the production car for a spin on the German city’s busy roads. Buy an e-up!, and you won’t get the stickers on the side, but you should still be able to spot it instantly. All electric VWs will have C-shaped LED lights up front, plus slippery, aero-optimised alloys. The batteries are under the floorpan, between the axles, so boot space is the same as on any up!, expanding from 250 litres to 950 litres with the seats folded.

But the e-up! weighs 210kg more, at 1,139kg – that’s just 66kg less than a Golf 1.2 TSI. Hauling you along is an 81bhp electric motor, which drives the front wheels via a single-ratio gearbox. The quoted 0-62mph time of 12.4 seconds might sound a little sluggish, but it’s eight-tenths quicker than that of the 74bhp petrol up!, and it feels it. Squeeze the throttle, and the car surges away from a standstill, spinning its wheels if the surface is wet. And it’s that hit of 210Nm of torque at zero rpm that makes the e-up! the perfect choice for weaving through jams and darting from point to point around town.

The car’s simplicity is really appealing, too. With its bright, minimalist interior, great seating position and straightforward powertrain, the up! feels as though it was designed from the outset to run on battery power – which, of course, it was, hence the neat packaging. All that extra weight hasn’t ruined the supple ride, either.

It still glides over bumps in the road like a car twice its size. And without a three-cylinder engine thrumming away in front of your nose, refinement has improved significantly, too. The up! has always liked to be chucked around, and that hasn’t been lost in the conversion from petrol to electric power. In fact, the lower centre of gravity means it feels marginally more stable in corners.

The steering is light, but due to the car’s size you always feel connected to the front wheels. There are no fewer than five levels of regenerative braking force to choose from – D, D1, D2, D3 and B. In the default D mode, the effect is only activated once you touch the brake pedal. Select B, and the moment you come off the throttle it’s as if you’ve given a firm prod to the brakes. It takes some getting used to.

However, in stop-start traffic there’s really no need to touch the brakes at all; you simply let the regenerative braking do the work for you and charge up the batteries as you go. Drive carefully, and you can expect around 100 miles from a charge. To help maximise range, Eco and Eco+ modes limit power from the motor.

Topping up the batteries takes nine hours from a 240V household socket. That’s all pretty standard fare for an electric car. What’s not is the price. The e-up! is expected to cost anywhere from £18,000 to £20,000 after the Government’s £5,000 electric car grant. That’s expensive – especially when, for a few grand more, you could have the more spacious BMW i3.

Disqus - noscript

want one

So before the grant it's expected to be £23-25,000? Either you'd pay a touch more for the i3 or buy a Zoe. Can't see this selling at all.

Eeeee up lad just the t'car I ve been waiting for.

not enough range for driving round t'dales

18 grand after the government grant!
That better be a misprint. No chance!
I don't want to sound rejectionist but the VW will have to come up with a very good monthly price plan to shift any of these at all.

Great idea for the city, turbo diesel torque without the diesel rattle! i would still miss the characterful 3cyl though

I can't understand how swapping out the petrol engine, fuel tank, exhaust etc. for a motor, controller, batteries and various other bits can add an extra £15000-£17000 on top of an £8000 car. To be fair at £18000 after the grant, considering the battery lease costs of the Zoe this would save the average user roughly a grand a year so the difference would be made up in around 5 years. It's still a viable choice but not an outstanding one at that price. £20000 would simply be too much.

I'd say the Chevy Spark would be a lot cheaper, one to watch out for.

A word of caution (NO) E.U and U.S made EV will be compatible with the already in place fast charge network that uses CHAdeMO. The SAE standard has been adopted by E.U and U.S auto makers. So that will no doubt stall the roll out of fast charges, and what's more is Zoe can't fast charge from anything (yet) because it's the only car in the world to have a built in 44kw cahrger. that uses a/c only.

So my bet is for a few years all new chargers will have to have a/c SAE and CHAdeMo fast charging.

So if you buy a non E.U/U.S ev you're screwed so best keep to Nissan for now as I don't think there would be any kind of adapter.

Besides in 2 years Nissan will have much more range than the E-Golf or E-Up.

Well now, we've had the Nissan Joke, now a Yorkshire version of a VW, the Eee-oop!

eeeeeeup lass, no one from t'dales would pay that money for a car.

no one from t'dales would be seen dead in a little German handbag like this.

As a patriotic man from the t'dales I was thinking of trading in me t'Jaguar XJ for an E Up!

Eeee up Michael lad. I certainly won't be tradin in t'van. No way lad.

Eeee up lad - despite the name, it's not for me. Eeee up, I think me O2 mobiles ringing..tara lad.

Eeee up lads and lasses from t'dales. Think I'll be keepin me Chelsea tractor since I live in t'London these days. I miss t'dales...

I am waiting for my E-up! gonna use it from home to work and back again
(25km each way). I get free charging at work. Gonna save 720 Euros on
tollroad each year. Since its free on the ferrys in Norway (only pay for
me), I will save about 4070 Euros on the ferry each year...... For me
this is a great car to buy, and here in Norway we can use bus/taxi lines
racing past petrol cars sitting in line wasting time :) :)

Key specs

  • Price: £18,000 (est)
  • Engine: Electric motor, lithium-ion batteries
  • Power/torque: 81bhp/210Nm
  • Transmission: Single speed, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62/top spd: 12.4 secs/81mph
  • Range: 100 miles
  • Charge time: Nine hours (240V)
  • Equipment: LED daytime running lights, sat-nav, CD radio, air-conditioning, heated seats
  • On sale: 5 Nov

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