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 bigger Volkswagens such as the Golf 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 and there are in three permanent models in the range – the base model Take up!, then the Move up!, High up!. Volkswagen has made top-of-the range special editions, with the up! White and the up! Black going on sale shortly after the car was launched. Currently, the special edition up! models on sale are called Groove up! and Rock up! A more powerful up! GT model that develops 108bhp from the same three-cylinder engine will join the line-up shortly.
Although the GT doesn't wear the famous GTi badge, it promises to live up to the legend. We've driven a prototype, which had GTi-style tartan upholstery, and a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds. Volkswagen has made the Cross up!, a rugged five-door version if the city car, that comes with plastic wheel arch protectors, and chunky bumpers to give it an SUV look, however it isn’t on sale in the UK yet.
Also in the pipeline is the VW Taigun, a SUV based on the up!. It's taller, wider and has a longer wheelbase than the standard car but could use the same engines as the up! VW has yet to reveal a release date for Taigun. The Skoda Citigo is our favourite from the VW stable of city cars but to our mind, the up! has the sharpest looks out of the three and a desirable Volkswagen badge which could come in handy when it is time to sell the car on.
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 Groove up! and Rock up! special editions. Even entry-level models are a great deal, with Take up! versions offering 14-inch steel wheels, while Move up! cars 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. The three-door only Rock up! special edition gets its own distinctive paint job and 16-inch alloy wheels. The optional sensor pack bring parking sensors and cruise control but costs an extra £355, 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 and is perfect for city car drivers who spend their lives in stop-start traffic. The auto adds an extra £595 to the price, which is a bit more expensive than for the Citroen C1, which has a similar automatic gearbox. The zero emission e-up! drives just as well as it's petrol-powered counterpart. It may be over 200kg heavier than the standard up! due to the heavy batteries, but all of that weight is beneath the floorpan and between the axles. The turn is sharp and precise and because all 210Nm of torque is available from a standstill, the e-up! is quick off the mark. However, venture past 60mph and it start to run out of steam.
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. However, in Auto Express' 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, Volkswagen climbed two places to 16th. The Volkswagen up! is still too new to UK customers to feature in our survey yet. Volkswagen don't offer a deal such as the Hyundai i10's unlimited-mileage warranty, 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 when they do occur.
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. The boot space is the same in both the three-door and five-door models, but, five-door models have better access to the rear seats. 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. Thanks to a 18.7kWh lithium-ion battery in the e-up! it can cover over 90 miles on a single charge, and can be charged up to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes. Prices for the e-up! start at £19,250 and that includes the £5,000 government grant for buying a plug-in car. The inital cost of buying the e-up! is steep but once paid for you don't have the expense of fuel or road tax and the car is even expempt from the London congestion charge.