Volkswagen Up! Road Test car review
Model/Engine size: Move up! BlueMotion Technology 1.0-litre 59 bhp
Fuel economy combined: 68.9 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 8/10
Much hype has surrounded the launch of the new Volkswagen Up! – so we tested the Move up!, in 68.9 mpg BlueMotion Technology form, to see if the car lives up to the high expectations.
Volkswagen Up! Summary
• High quality and refined feel
• Light weight aids the driving experience
• Potential for good economy, especially in BlueMotion Technology form
• Predictable downsized-Polo design approach
Volkswagen Up! Background
The city car sector is growing, and Volkswagen hasn’t had a strong contender in this category. The company’s previous city car offering, the Fox, didn’t stand out in any way apart from the fact that it was far off from being class-leading in the area of economy.
The up! has been the subject of a huge amount of PR from Volkswagen in what feels like a long run-up to its launch. The initial up! concept was rear-engined, but the final production model has appeared in more conventional front-engined form.
Character is important in any car, and this is especially true in the city car class. The final production version of the up! is more like a scaled-down Polo than a truly funky city car. The interior looks and feels high quality, and we did test its spaciousness using four adults and it managed to accommodate everyone without the requirement for any physical contortion.
The boot is larger than you might expect in a car of this class, and surprisingly deep if you remove its false floor. You can also lower the rear seat backs to create a two-seater city car with a large luggage area.
However there are some minor issues with the interior:
• Firstly, there are air vents at the outer extremities of the dashboard, but none in the centre – this limits the amount of fresh air that you can direct at occupants in hot weather.
• T he front seats don’t have any form of handle at the top to allow you to tilt the seat forward; the only way you can do this is by the normal seat adjustment mechanism at the bottom, meaning that you lose your seating position every time someone enters or exits the rear.
• Y ou can hear all sorts of things thrown up into the rear wheel arches, such as gravel and water, due to lack of sound insulation.
• Another issue common to most three-door hatchbacks in cities is that the doors are very long and difficult to open in confined spaces.
The Volkswagen Up! has one thing in its favour: light weight. This, combined with a small engine containing fewer components than normal, resulting in less resistance and so giving it free-revving characteristics, means that the up! feels fun to drive – more so than you would expect from a typical Volkswagen. The three-cylinder petrol unit has a characterful note but it’s not particularly intrusive and the 5-speed manual gearbox works well.
The up! is fairly happy on a motorway at 70 mph; again, it’s quieter than you might expect, but there’s not much acceleration from this 59 bhp engine. With the car full of adults, it was still able to perform adequately, although the normally comfortable ride suffered as the suspension didn’t like poor road surfaces or speed bumps. The steering is light – not in a bad way – and the car’s light weight means that the brakes are effective, and the whole car feels reasonably fun to negotiate the city.
The Move up! BlueMotion Technology model, with its 3-cylinder, 1.0-litre 59 bhp petrol engine, has an official economy figure of 68.9 mpg, along with low emissions of 96 g/km. The BlueMotion Technology model is the most economical choice in the range; to achieve this, it comes with stop-start technology, low rolling resistance tyres and brake regeneration technology.
This means that you won’t pay any road tax, and the car is Congestion Charge-exempt in London. We’re sure that the car can achieve these mpg figures in the official NEDC cycle test, however we think it’s unlikely that most owners will achieve such levels of economy in real life driving, not because the car isn’t capable of this, but because the nature of the engine encourages you to rev the car, which impacts upon the economy. We achieved an average of 55 mpg.
The Move up! BlueMotion Technology model is the lowest-powered version, but it’s also more expensive than some other Up! models due its ‘eco’-kit. It’s also more expensive than most rivals. It makes sense in London due to its Congestion Charge exemption ; for people who plan to do longer journeys, the 74 bhp version is likely to be better.
The up! has a fairly simple dashboard but it has reasonable levels of standard equipment, and there are various options. Our test car came with the ‘Maps & More’ infotainment device , which costs £275. This is a removable ‘infotainment’ device that sits on top of the dashboard, and in addition to featuring SatNav, it also provides a range of information including fuel economy. There are three trim levels; Take up!, Move up!, and High Up! As with most Volkswagens, the up! is a sensible buy and is likely to prove durable.
The Volkswagen Up! is certainly an impressive car. It’s fun to drive, although this is more down to its light weight than any special chassis dynamics. Its engine is responsive, mainly due to its small size and subsequent lack of inertia. You would be prepared to travel outside of the city in this car, although the more powerful engine option would be preferable for such use. However the main thing that characterises the up! is the fact that it resembles a shrunken Polo. This means that it has a similar quality feel to its larger Volkswagen family members, and this is quite rare in the city car class. The downside of this is that there are cheaper city cars, in a segment where price is important.
Would we buy one? If we wanted a quality feel in a small package, then maybe. However if we wanted a car for the city that didn’t feel like a city car, then we’d buy the new Fiat Panda. You’d be happy, rather than just prepared, to take the Panda out of the city, and it has more of the ingredient that is so important for car buyers, especially in this segment: genuine character.
Fuel economy extra urban: 78.5 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 56.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 96 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – first year £0
Weight: tbc Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 10%
Insurance group: 1E
Power: 59 bhp
Max speed: 100 mph
0-62mph: 14.4 seconds