Volkswagen e-up! review

6 Dec, 2013 5:15pm Jonathan Burn

Does the electric VW e-up! city car have a spark of genius in the UK?


While the UK’s charging infrastructure is not yet complete, it is improving, so owning a car like the VW e-up! is increasingly viable. It’s just as comfortable and fun to drive as a petrol version, and more refined. Limited range and a high price will restrict its audience, but if you’re ready to take the EV plunge, the e-up! is a fine choice.

This is our first opportunity to see how the all-electric VW e-up! fares on British roads and we'll start with the bad news. The e-up! isn’t cheap – at £19,250 after the £5,000 Government grant is deducted, it’s almost £5,000 more than the larger, similar-spec Renault ZOE.

But unlike some electric cars, it doesn’t shout about its zero emissions status. The only features marking the e-up! out from the standard up! are two C-shaped LED lights on the front, aero-optimised alloys and subtle VW badges framed in blue.

Even the centre console and dash have been lifted straight out of the regular model, so the easy-to-use controls are familiar.

Beneath the floor is the 81bhp electric motor (which weighs 210kg). As it sits between the axles, it doesn’t intrude on boot capacity, meaning 250 litres of luggage space is still available.

Volkswagen up! review

A range of 93 miles on a full charge is a fair chunk less than you’d get in a conventionally powered city car, but it is about on par with rivals. The e-up! is also just as agile and playful as the petrol-powered model, with nimble handling and minimal body roll in corners.

You’ll find the regenerative brakes do grab a little in the most aggressive of the five settings, but in stop-start traffic you barely have to touch the pedal once you come off the throttle.

The two eco modes available also help boost range by limiting the power available from the electric motor.

Yet even when you select these, you’ll be hard-pressed to notice any significant changes in the motor’s performance. Gently squeeze the throttle and the e-up! silently surges away, as all 210Nm of torque is available from a standstill. The car is eight-tenths quicker from 0-62mph than the 74bhp petrol model, taking 12.4 seconds.

Although initial acceleration is good, the e-up! begins to struggle beyond 40mph. Still, this isn’t a car you want to take on the motorway – top speed is a reasonable 81mph, but the lack of an engine note emphasises wind noise and tyre roar.

Happily, this car thrives where it’s designed to live – in the city. If you regularly find yourself in an urban rush hour, the e-up! is an ideal choice.

Key specs

  • Price: £19,250 (after £5,000 Government grant)
  • Battery: Lithium-ion battery
  • Power: 81bhp
  • Transmission: Single-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 12.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 81mph
  • Range: 93 miles
  • CO2: 0g/km
  • Equipment: ABS, cruise control, Bluetooth , sat nav, air con
  • On sale: Now