Volkswagen up! review
The VW up! city car offers a stylish design and comfortable interior to rival the Skoda Citigo
The Volkswagen up! takes luxuries from big VWs like the Golf and Polo and squeezes them into a four-seat city car that's about the same size as a Fiat 500. What's most impressive is the level of comfort and luxury on offer, although the up! does cost more than its city car siblings, the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii. On the inside, there really is enough space for four adults, while on the road it feels planted and good to drive. It’s available in three and five-door bodystyles, while a more powerful up! GT model that develops 108bhp from the same three-cylinder engine will join the line-up shortly. An all-electric e-up! model has already bee announced, but won’t be unveiled until the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It uses an electric motor with peak power of 81bhp, for a 0-62mph of 14 seconds and a range of just over 90 miles on a single charge. Its price hasn’t yet been confirmed, but expect it to cost around £15,000 after the £5,000 government grant. A rugged Cross up! model was revealed at the Geneva show, but it is not yet known if it will be coming to the UK. There are rumours that Volkswagen is also working on an up! GTI that could be powered by an 130bhp version of the same three-cylinder engine.
Our choice: 1.0 (60) Move up! BlueMotion
The Volkswagen up! is certainly a distinctive car. It might be small, but chunky looks, a blunt nose and big windows really help it stand out. And when lined up against its siblings, the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii, there’s no doubting that the VW looks the sharpest. There are huge badges on the front and rear, and a shiny black glass tailgate, which adds a novel, futuristic touch. The interior follows a similar approach, with a simple, high-quality layout that can be specified with body-coloured panels. It’s comfortable and neatly styles, but there’s nothing that really sets it apart from the less expensive Citigo and Mii. Plus, while the piano-black finish on the dash and steering wheel looks great, we found the reflections it causes in sunny weather to be distracting. It’s available in three trim levels – Take up!, Move up! and High up! – as well as two special-edition versions, called up! White and up! Black. Entry-level Take up! models come with 14-inch steel wheels, but Move up! cars do get air-con and split-folding rear seats. High up! cars come with 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, heated front seats and a touchscreen sat-nav. Both special editions are expensive but come with 16-inch alloys, keyless entry, special paint and even the option of sports suspension. The optional sensor pack bring parking sensors and cruise control but costs an extra £300, which is pricier than on the Skoda.
The Volkswagen up! was born to rule city streets and, thanks to its compact dimensions and tight turning circle, navigating traffic-choked junctions is easy. Entry-level cars are powered by a 59bhp version of the tiny three-cylinder petrol engine, but thanks to its lightweight 926kg body, it still feels responsive and agile. However, the more powerful 74bhp versions are better and sacrifice little in terms of economy. A five-speed ASG automatic gearbox is available as an option but is best avoided, as it’s jerky and slow to shift, making a quick getaway a tough task. Made worse by the car's lack of torque, you'll need to rev the engine before changing gear.
The up! has a five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, with 89 per cent per cent for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent in the safety assist category. All versions come with driver and passenger airbags, as well as Isofix, ABS and seat belt reminders. However, ESP isn’t standard on entry-level Take up! cars, which is disappointing. The up! features a few clever safety systems, including the optional City Emergency Braking, which uses a laser to scan the road ahead and will apply the brakes if it senses an accident is imminent. The up! is still too new to feature in reliability reports, but Volkswagen finished 18th in the 2012 Driver Power results, having tumbled three places in a year. Owners said that the maker’s cars cost too much to run and don’t come with enough hi-tech kit, but did offer praise for its dealers.
At 3,540mm long, 1,641mm wide and 1,489mm tall, the up! is a very small car. It’s the same size as a Fiat 500 but, thanks to a 2.4-metre wheelbase, It’s much more spacious than the Fiat. With four seats and a 251-litre boot, the up! is perfect for short journeys with young families. It gets the same interior as the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo and, although it isn’t as big as a VW 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.
As all versions come with a tiny 999cc, three-cylinder petrol engine, the up! will be relatively cheap to run. The lower-powered BlueMotion model is the most efficient, with a claimed average fuel consumption figure of 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of just 95g/km. The higher-powered BlueMotion model returns 67.3mpg and emits 98g/km, but even the higher-powered non-BlueMotion model manages 60.mpg, although it does emit 108g/km of CO2. This means that it won’t cost anything to tax in the first year and very little afterwards, but crucially for some, that it isn’t exempt from the London Congestion Charge. The ASG automatic gearbox actually improves emissions by 2g/km in the non-BlueMotion models, but it is jerky so we’d recommend sticking with the manual. The up! has better predicted residual values than either of its cousins, retaining more than 50 per cent of its value over three years.