Volkswagen up! ASG

Does the brilliant Volkswagen up! city car make more sense with an automatic gearbox? We find out...

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The VW up! is a brilliant city car that offers refinement and quality that were previously unheard of in this class. But this ASG box feels at odds with the rest of the package, with the slow responses we’ve come to expect from city car autos. Plus, despite the gains in efficiency, you pay the same for road tax – so unless you really need it, we’d steer clear.

Automatic gearboxes are ideal for city car drivers who spend their lives in stop-start traffic, and that’s why VW has just fitted a five-speed auto to the up!.

The ASG box is an automated version of the standard five-speed manual, and adds £595 to the price. A similar gearbox in a Citroen C1 costs £500.

In this 59bhp Move up!, economy rises to 64.2mpg – 1.4mpg better than the manual – and emissions drop by 3g/km to 103g/km. It sounds promising so far, but things unravel behind the wheel. There’s no creep function, so you have to jab the throttle to get the car moving, which makes for a bit of a jittery urban crawl.

When you get out on the open road, the ASG box is slow to shift, and while you can change gears manually by pushing the lever up and down, shifts are no quicker. Under hard acceleration, there’s a huge drop-off in power between shifts, and the transmission doesn’t change down quickly enough under braking, either.

It’s a shame VW couldn’t develop a better gearbox to suit the up!, considering the city car revolutionised this market with its quality, refinement and grown-up driving experience. We still love everything else about the car, and for some drivers the ASG will be the right choice, but it’s frustrating to find this chink in its armour.

Still, every other automatic city car on the market has the same problem with slow shifts – and few can match the general all-round appeal of the up!.

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