Overall rating: 4/5
Priorities and lifestyle will influence whether the Volkswagen e up! is right for you or not, but if you live in town, have a short commute or plan to use it as a second car it could be the perfect solution. A seamless power delivery, low running costs and plenty of style ensure it might just be the most interesting up! concept so far.
In the Metal:
It looks just like the regular up!, well apart from the stickers on the example we drove anyway. And that's surely part of the appeal, this eco-friendly version blending in with conventionally powered models and retaining their sense of style.
There's little difference inside either, the instruments gaining a power meter rather than a rev counter and a DSG-shaped lever for the single-speed gearbox being the noticeable changes. The portable satnav will also search out the nearest charging points for when you need to top up.
Like all electric cars the e up! is an eerie experience, filled with fuss-free momentum and instant torque with only the subtle hum of the electric motor in the background. Certainly, with 210Nm at its disposal this particular up! feels lively, especially in built up areas where instant acceleration is only a brief prod of the pedal away.
It makes for an easy driving experience, allowing every gap and space to be grabbed with ease. The single-speed drivetrain means there's a simple flow to the experience that can't be matched by conventionally powered (and geared) models.
There is an option to vary the degree of brake energy recuperation, the most efficient seeing the car slow rapidly when lifting off the throttle. We certainly preferred to leave it in default mode, where a free-wheeling sensation made for a far smooth experience.
A bespoke platform, batteries and electric motor mean the e up! is around 200kg heavier than its petrol brethren, which can dull responses slightly- especially around faster corners where movement in the body is more evident. Still, a full charge only takes 5.5 hours on a conventional AC system, and 30 minutes on a fast charger, giving a range of around 150 kilometres.
What you get for your Money:
In terms of technology you get plenty for your money, the e up! using a specially developed platform, an 82hp electric motor and a lithium-ion battery placed under the floor. Equipment levels mirror the other up! models, and of course in terms of running costs 're-fuelling' your e up! with electricity is much cheaper than using petrol.
However, it's expected to cost a fair chunk more than those models. And when you consider that they are already incredibly economical and efficient, the e up! isn't quite as appealing as it first appeared.
The electric technology was first seen in the Golf Blue-E-Motion back in 2010, and despite work continuing on that car, it's the e up! that will make it to market first (some time in 2013). More weight means more power required, so the Golf has 115hp and 270Nm, allowing it to race from 0-100km/h in 11.8 seconds. Top speed is a similar 138km/h and it takes seven hours to fully charge. However, unlike the up! and its bespoke platform, boot space is compromised in the Golf, dropping from 350- to 279 litres.
Volkswagen's up! range looks set to keep growing, and from a technical point of view the forthcoming e up! is the most interesting. Like all electric cars the relatively small range presents some compromises, and the petrol models may still be a better all-round solution. However, for certain types of buyers the electric version could be worth the premium.