Volkswagen e-up! overview
When the electric version of the Volkswagen up! city car was first unveiled back in 2012, it was deemed too expensive for the Irish market against the petrol-powered versions. Bear in mind that demand for electric cars wasn't as high as it is now. The up! quietly disappeared from Irish pricelists a while ago, but this year Volkswagen Ireland decided that there is now a place in the market for the e-up! as demand for EVs rocket and it can be sold for a price that makes it look good value against the majority of alternatives.
Back in 2019, the e-up! received a significant update in comparison to the original, and that's the model now available to buy in Ireland, priced at €27,813 on the road including incentives.
The Volkswagen e-up! model range
There's just a single trim line for the e-up! called Style, which comes with 15-inch alloy wheels (pictured are the optional 16-inch rims), privacy glass for the rear windows, USB port for the Maps+More phone dock on the dashboard, air conditioning, rear-view camera, parking sensors, cruise control, auto lights and wipers and heated front seats. There's even a heating element in the front windscreen.
A black roof is standard, as is a fetching Teal Blue non-metallic paint. There are five other optional paint colours.
Just the one electric powertrain is offered, featuring a 32.3kWh (net) lithium-ion battery pack that's officially good for up to 253 kilometres. It can be charged at up to 7.2kW on AC power or 37kW on a DC charger.
The Volkswagen e-up! interior
Though the e-up! looks absolutely tiny next to most other new EVs on the market, its interior feels surprisingly spacious. You sit quite low and there's plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat for good legroom and headroom. Given the proliferation of touchscreens in new cars, the dashboard looks remarkably simple without one. The e-up! instead has an adjustable dock into which a smartphone goes and, when loaded up with the Maps+More app, it interfaces with the car as a mini-touchscreen of sorts.
Even without that in place, the older-style infotainment system works intuitively enough with its buttons and knobs, and it was a surprise to find a good-quality, integrated colour screen for the reversing camera (though arguably it's superfluous in a car of the e-up!'s dimensions and excellent visibility). Instrumentation is by analogue 'clocks' and they're very clearly marked, showing battery charge remaining on one side, the large speedo in the middle and the percentage of power or charge being delivered/taken on the left-hand dial. There's a neat digital trip computer in the middle, too. The rest of the dashboard is covered in textured plastic Volkswagen refers to as "Shark Skin".
The e-up! uses VW's previous-generation multi-function, leather-trimmed steering wheel with actual buttons instead of haptic feedback and it works perfectly. There are push-button controls for the standard-fit air conditioning and there are even heated front seats. It may not all be the latest technology and switchgear found elsewhere in Volkswagen Group cars, but there's no doubting the excellent quality.
The seats themselves are stylish-looking items with integrated headrests and they're really comfortable as well. Between the front seats is the DSG-style drive selector, though it offers different options to the usual as it can be used to vary the strength of the brake energy regeneration. Ahead of it are buttons for the Eco/Eco+ driving modes and releasing the charge cable. There's a 12-volt power socket there as well as a cupholder and a small amount of storage.
A single central cupholder is also found between the seats for those in the rear, where you'll find two seatbelts and pop-out door windows, as has become the norm in the city car class. It's not cramped, either, with wide-opening doors and surprisingly adequate amounts of legroom and headroom given the exterior dimensions of the car.
The rear seat back doesn't split, but it does tilt forward to allow for carrying larger items if required. Open the cool black rear hatch and there's 251 litres of luggage space even with the rear seats in use. The designers have cleverly shaped this as a tall, upright volume, with a recess to store charging cables.
The Volkswagen e-up! driving experience
The e-up! immediately endears itself to the driver with its diminutive dimensions, making it one of the most manoeuvrable new cars on the road. There isn't a gap in the traffic it won't fit through, or a parking space you'd think twice about attempting to get it into. Great visibility in all directions help as well. The steering is well-weighted and moderately direct, yet there's a great turning circle, making it a perfect car for crowded roads and car parks.
At low speeds, the e-up! makes an amusing growling sound to warn pedestrians of its presence that isn't too dissimilar to how a three-cylinder engine might sound at high revs - without the volume. It's switched off at higher speeds. And don't let the 11.9-second 0-100km/h time fool you into expecting this car to feel slow, as it's 'nippy' personified, especially in the 0-50km/h range. That's thanks to the instant delivery of maximum torque from the front-mounted electric motor, and 212Nm is more than adequate in a car that weighs about 1,200kg. It's refreshing to be able to write that in a world seemingly dominated by 2,000kg+ electric SUVs.
Remarkably, the 83hp on tap is also enough for the e-up! to feel perfectly at home on the motorway - it rarely feels lacking in performance. What's more, though it's a city car at heart, the suspension feels made for grander things, so it's stable and secure at a high-speed cruise, and doesn't get scared by crosswinds or big trucks.
Around town, the suspension keeps the body under control without being too firm - even on the larger alloy wheels and lower-profile tyres of our test car - and it's simply a hoot to drive. It turns the most mundane journey into something to relish. Sure, when it's pushed hard through a sequence of tricky corners it's not as sharp as the old petrol-powered models were, due to the extra weight it carries, but by any other measure it's competent in the bends.
When you're having this much fun it's easy to forget about efficiency of course, and we saw energy consumption figures as high as 19kWh/100km when doing so. Conversely, when ambling around at lower speeds, it managed to dip below 10kWh/100km at times, which is astounding. Officially the e-up! will over 253km between charges and, unless you're at 120km/h on the motorway all the time, I suspect that most buyers will see about 200km from it easily enough.
Our verdict on the Volkswagen e-up!
It's unusual in the car world that a vehicle becomes more relevant towards the end of its life, but that's certainly the case for the Volkswagen e-up! as demand for good-value electric cars soars. Its low price, running costs and town-friendly size would have buyers queuing up, but there's even more to it than all that as it turns out to be one of the most characterful and fun-to-drive EVs on the road. And it's shot through with quality befitting the VW badge on the bonnet. Go buy one while you can.