The Volkswagen up! is a city car that lifts the company out of its run of poor form in this sector.
It’s almost entirely gimmick-free, features an incredibly economical 1.0-litre engine, is well built, small on the outside and big on the inside. What more could you want? A little personality maybe, but that’s a tiny grumble. Two thumbs up!
The three cylinder engine revs cleanly and pulls decently enough, even in 60bhp guise. Obviously it’s not quick but it’s got enough about it to blend sweetly into city traffic. The standard gearbox is a five-speed manual and it’s light and precise with the option of a single-clutch sequential box if clutch pedals bore you. The steering is similarly effort-free but accurate. For city driving the Up is exactly as you’d want. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s anything but. It’s built to a tight remit and it succeeds.
At just 3.54 metres in length, 1.64 metres in width and 1.48 metres in height, the Up is one of the smallest four-seater city cars, measuring a full 11cm shorter than a rival Fiat Panda. Clever packaging means that interior space is maximised. The wheels are teased out to each corner, with the wheelbase of 2.42m being one of the biggest in class, combined with that compact engine and lateral radiator allowing the front bulkhead and crash structures to shift forward too. If the standard three-door bodystyle doesn’t suit your needs, talk to your dealer about the five-door version. Either way, there’s decent room at the back, with a 251-litre boot being a tad bigger than is typical in this class. Drop the rear seats and this space extends to 951 litres.
The interior is colourful, with the option of painted body-coloured panels, evoking the spirit of the original Beetle. The interior design is clean and easy to get to grips with, featuring a compact centre pod for many of the minor controls. There’s loads of storage and the cool dished three-spoke steering wheel frames an instrument cluster of refreshing simplicity. Although there’s no shortage of hard plastics, this doesn’t feel like a car that’s been ruthlessly built down to a price like its Fox predecessor. It just feels agreeably minimalist.
Any city car stands or falls by its ongoing costs and the Up looks to have all its bases covered. Even the top of the line 75bhp models will return a combined fuel economy figure of 60.1mpg with emissions pegged at 108g/km. Opt as most people will for the 60bhp engine and the figures are better again, at 62.7mpg and 105g/km. Those looking for better economy still will be drawn inexorably to the BlueMotion model which averages a fantastic 67.2mpg and emits just 97g/km of carbon dioxide.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Volkswagen will break its run of city car duds with the Up. It’s well-priced, offers plenty of space, a decent enough drive and looks the part.
Super-low running costs and a decent breadth of customer choice also score in its favour. It won’t have things all its own way in this sector as the competition just gets more intense with each passing year, but it’s a very impressive turn.