Volkswagen up! review
The Volkswagen up! is a sensible city car that has practicality, style and fun driving up its sleeve
The Volkswagen up! is more sophisticated than its size and looks suggest. It’s comfortable, feels stable on the road and is enjoyable to drive. It’s designed to work in town, but it's not overwhelmed by or underpowered for the occasional motorway trip, although the long gearing does make it hard work.
The changes VW made to the up! for 2016 created a classier and more customisable car, while the switch to a smartphone sat-nav system will appeal to younger buyers. It’s as refined and practical as ever, but the updates to the gearbox have resulted in sluggish performance with no real gains in efficiency. Higher list prices mean the VW up! isn't quite as good value as its SEAT and Skoda siblings.
The smallest and cheapest new Volkswagen on sale is the up! city car. While it's compact in size and costs less than other VWs, it hasn't scrimped on the kind of quality that VW is famous for.
Originally launched in 2012, the up! uses a platform that’s shared with the virtually identical SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo. Like the Skoda and SEAT, there are three and five-door variants of the Volkswagen on offer.
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Engines are shared with the Citigo and Mii, so there's a 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol in 60PS and 75PS guises with 59bhp and 74bhp respectively. The exception is VW's 1.0 TSI three-cylinder turbo petrol, which is exclusive to the up!. This can be had with 89bhp in the standard up!, while the up! GTI has a 113bhp version of the TSI unit.
All cars get a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, except for the up! GTI, which has a six-speed box. An ASG auto is offered on selected versions of the 60PS and 75PS engines. Diesel engines aren't offered, so if you want lower running costs than a petrol engine can offer, there's the pure electric VW e-up!. With a list price of around £25,000 you'll need to run it for a while to return similar lifetime running costs to the petrol models.
There are five versions of up! on offer in total, although not all trims are available with all engines – and as of April 2019, all higher-powered models are only available from stock. Versions with 60PS engines can be factory ordered, but production for those with 75PS, 90PS or 115PS engines is currently halted but should continue towards the end of the year.
At the entry point to the range is the Take up!, which is the first in a range of quirky names. It's followed by Move up!, up! Beats, High up! and the up! GTI. Prices range from just under £10,000 to close to £14,000, although the latter is for the GTI, which is something of a performance car bargain, considering its fun character.
As well as the closely related Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii, the VW up! has a number of talented rivals in its sights. Cheaper models should be considered alongside mainstream city cars like the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10, the Citroen C1, Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo trio, while the pricier versions can be seen as rivals to the Smart ForFour/ForTwo pairing, as well as the Fiat 500.
If space is needed, then the Dacia Sandero is a supermini that offers greater value, if not the quality, of the up!, while cars like the Ford Ka+, Vauxhall Viva and Suzuki Celerio are a bit bigger, too, but again not quite to the up!'s standard in fit and finish.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Volkswagen up! is a sensible city car that has practicality, style and fun driving up its sleeve
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe engine options are limited, but that's not too much of a bad thing
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe Volkswagen Up is a small car with a small engine, which means low running costs
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe Volkswagen Up is surprisingly sophisticated for a such a small car
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceIt's small, but the Up is spacious for a city car
- 6Reliability and SafetyVolkswagen has a solid reputation for reliability and the Up has a good Euro NCAP score