What is it?
The Up is VW’s smallest new car and an altogether more serious stab at building a proper city car that we’ll actually want to buy. Volkswagen has taken its creation very seriously, and, remarkably, intends this to be its biggest-selling model globally. They’ll sell more of these than the Golf. But rather than making the Up a scaled-down version of its larger cars – as it has done in the past – the Up takes a much more intelligent approach.
The Up offers a choice of two power options, and both are variants of a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. The same unit delivers either 59bhp or 74bhp depending on your budget, though more engine choices will be available in the future – including an all-electric variant and a 105bhp turbo petrol. We’ve only driven the more powerful unit so far, and it has a throaty and likeable rasp, somewhat at odds with its sensible personality. This doesn’t, however, make this car feel fast, but around town it’s perfectly pleasant to spend time with, tractable and smooth with few vibrations. The five-speed manual gearbox is fine too, with a positive action: much better than the optional (and very jerky) automated manual.
The Up is a city car, so it has to be easy to drive, and Volkswagen has given its new baby light steering and controls. The ride is good too, and, unlike most other cars in the class, it’s more than capable of tackling a long motorway stint. Refinement and stability are both class leading.
On the inside
The Up has quite a simple cabin, with a dashboard that matches the exterior colour of the car. The plastics are good in the areas where your eyes and hands spend the most time, while the cabin is generously proportioned: even six-footers will be comfortable up front, and, thanks to some clever packaging in the rear, the two back seat passengers won’t grumble too much, either. The five-door adds to the practicality, but the side design doesn’t look as modern, even though this revised look improved visibility. Being a VW, it’s all you would hope in terms of quality and an upmarket ambience, plus we also really like the optional Maps+More satnav system that clips into the dashboard.
Running costs will be very cheap in the VW Up, thanks mainly to the ultra-frugal three-cylinder petrol engine. CO2 emissions dip below 100g/km on Bluemotion Tech models, which makes for free road tax, while fuel economy on all versions is parsimonious. A fully electric version is coming later in 2013, while insurance and servicing are equally cheap.