04 December 2009

VW Up Lite: almost real

Four-seat city hybrid is surprisingly close to production reality. No, honest, it is

VW Up Lite

This is the Up Lite (actually, it’s the Up! Lite, avec exclamation mark, but we won’t subject you to that punctuation horror) – a 116mpg eco-concept from VW that’ll emit just 65g/km of CO2.
 
Now, we know what you’re thinking: impressive numbers, but it’s a concept, innit, come back when it reaches production.
 
Stop thinking. The Up Lite is, believe it or not, damn close to production reality. VW has already devoted 18 months of R&D to it, and it could reach showrooms in three years.
 
There’s nothing here from concept-land: the Up Lite is powered by an 800cc twin-cylinder diesel engine, essentially half of VW’s 1.6-litre TDI with a couple of added balance shafts. There’s a dinky electric motor wedged between that 51bhp engine and the seven-speed DSG, good for about a mile of all-electric propulsion drawing power from a lithium-ion battery.
 
That’s decidedly modest power, but the Up Lite weighs just 695kg, meaning it’ll crack 60mph in 12 seconds – respectable enough for a city car. Admittedly you won’t manage anything like 116mpg if you’re aiming for that sort of acceleration – maximum economy is only available when you press an ‘eco’ button to limit the engine’s boost.
 
The Up Lite seats four in two-and-two configuration, making it unusually narrow – good news for squeezing through traffic. If you need any more evidence that this is close to production, VW quotes the exact specification of the Up Lite’s tyres: 155/60 R16s, since you ask.
 
Its success, if and when it reaches the road, will depend on price: back in the ‘90s, VW’s 91mpg ‘three-litre’ Lupo flopped because it simply cost too much.
 
If VW can get the Up Lite into showrooms for under, say, £15,000, do you think we’re looking at the future of suburban transport?

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