TwinUp concept



The Numbers

800cc 2cyl plus 8.6kWh e-motor, FWD, 55kW, 1.0L/100km 0–100km/h in 15.7secs, 140km/h

The Topgear Verdict

TwinUp concept

What is it?

It’s a prototype of a city car using the drive train from the amazing XL-1 that VW released (in very small numbers) last year. In a glorious example of trickle-down, VW has stuffed the XL-1’s hybrid drivetrain – an 800cc two-cylinder diesel, alongside an electric motor and battery – into its dinkiest city car. It’s an arrangement that promises a combined power output of 55kW, along consumption of a mere one litre per hundred kilometres. Where the range-extender BMW i3 gets a tiny nine-litre fuel tank, the TwinUp’s holds a capacious 33 litres.

What’s it like to drive?

In electric-only mode, the TwinUp isn’t quite as sprightly as, say, the Nissan Leaf, but it’s poky enough to do the traffic-light-to-traffic-light urban stuff that’ll constitute most of the Up’s life. In fact, the electric motor is slightly more powerful than that in the XL-1, to overcome the Up’s extra weight and less piscine aerodynamics. It’ll give you 80km before draining the 8.6kWh lithium-ion battery.

And if you need more shove, simply call on the cheery diesel twin, which wakes up unobtrusively and emits the happiest of putters under heavy load. The two power sources combine seamlessly to deliver more than enough go for suburban schlepping while eliminating EV range anxiety. Though 0–100km/h takes a not-so-fast 15.7 seconds, more relevant is that the TwinUp will get from standstill to 60km/h in under nine. Fast enough, just about.

So… about that fuel economy…

The TwinUp seems to represent the best of both worlds: a zero-emissions, cheap-to-keep plug-in EV for around town, but with the option of making it from Melbourne to Brisbane and back again on one tank.

On the inside, it feels like… well, it feels like an Up. The modest battery doesn’t cut into bootspace or legroom, instead nestling down by the rear axle, with only the front bumper extended to incorporate the hybrid’s added cooling gubbins. We’d love to have seen some of the XL-1’s more outlandish touches (bullet-cam mirrors, carbon chassis) make their way onto the Up, but that would rather undermine its billing as an affordable city-thing.

Well, hopefully affordable. The car we drove was an early prototype, with VW officially stating it hasn’t decided whether to put the TwinUp into production. However, insiders tell us we’ll likely see the finished thing in 2016. If the TwinUp can reach the road at a reasonable price this thing could be a gamechanger. 

Driven: June 12, 2014