Quirky, clever and big on quality, the up! offers good value too and will make a big impact on a small segment in 2012.
Pricing: from around €10,800
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 60 or 75hp.
Transmission: five-speed manual/six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door hatchback
Rivals: Toyota iQ, Ford Ka, Kia Picanto
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Tax Band: A
Combined economy: 4.2 l/100km (60hp), 4.3//100km (75hp)
Top speed: Circa 160km/h
0-100km/h: No figures provided
Power: 60hp / 75hp
In the Metal: 4/5
The up! was penned by Walter Da Silva, Volkswagen’s design chief who has had more design hits than you have had hot dinners so it isn’t a surprise that the car looks good. But crucially, while it has a friendly face, with a large VW badge sitting on a smiling grille, the lights are designed to make the car look more ‘intelligent’ and weirdly it works. Unlike the car’s predecessors, which always looked a little innocent, this new car looks much more purposeful. The packaging is quite good, with a deceptively high roofline, masked well by VW’s design team. This means that when you step inside, up front a six-footer will have inches above his head and in the rear there is a respectable amount of head- and legroom. It is a good-looking car, especially in silver, which is perhaps its best colour. It will no doubt be the most popular shade. At the rear there is a small (251-litre) but not useless boot with a split-level floor. Volkswagen will sell you various boxes to keep this organised too.
Inside, the dashboard matches the car’s exterior colour and the quality of the plastics used on the areas your hands and eyes spend the most time is really good given the car’s size and price tag. The centre console is quite simple, with fairly basic controls, but there is room on top of the dash for an optional plug-in satellite navigation /PDA which will cost around €400 and will not only work as a GPS, but thanks to downloadable apps will be able to display album covers, display trip information or even train you how to drive more economically. One wonders though, why this couldn’t have been an iPhone or iPad instead. That would have been very cool.
Driving it: 4/5
The experience of Volkswagen’s previous city cars was pretty unremarkable. Both the Lupo and Fox were too heavy and weren’t that good to drive, but the up! feels much better. It has light steering and gearchange but doesn’t feel flimsy. The 3-cylinder engines are throaty, but sound quite good. Acceleration is vocal and not hugely swift, but on city street and even at speed on the autobahn the up! is quiet. With the wheels pushed far out to each corner there could definitely be room for a GTi version, which a Volkswagen spokesperson could neither confirm or deny, but you get the feeling 1.4 TSi engine will find its way into the up! at some stage. Until then, the most you can get is 75hp, but the electric version, coming in 2013 should be quick.
What you get for your Money: 4/5
We haven’t been fully briefed as yet on to what the up! will have in terms of standard equipment, but we know that there will be three grades of up!, the Take up!, Move up! and High up!. The basic car will most likely do without air conditioning and probably alloy wheels but it will only be an €800 price walk to the next grade, which will add both of these. The High up! will come in at under €13,000 and should come with most of the potential bells and whistles thrown in. Options will include a City Emergency Braking system, which will brake the car automatically in the event of it detecting an imminent collision. Pricing in Ireland is going to start at €10,800, which is pretty impressive.
The plug-in navigation system is likely to cost around €400, with downloadable apps available.
The up! is likely to be a big player in a small segment. While this class of car has traditionally been quite flimsy and insubstantial, the up! is well-built and quite fun to drive. Expect it to be a strong seller.