Volkswagen up! review
Want a small car with all the trimmings? The new turbocharged Volkswagen up! is one to consider.
Dave Humphreys
Dave Humphreys

Published on January 16, 2017

What are you driving?

This is the range-topping version of Volkswagen's up! city car, which is creatively called the High up!. While the prospect of a performance-based Volkswagen up! GTI might still be some way off, the boffins in Wolfsburg have added a turbocharger to the three-cylinder petrol engine to up power to 90hp. This engine is, however, limited to the range-topping High up! model driven here. You can of course still get this specification with either the 60- or 75hp engines, but if you're willing to spend the extra money on getting all the interior trimmings, we think it's worth going the extra bit and choosing the 90hp engine, too.

Name its best bits

This new 90hp engine gives the up! a more fun feeling and that additional power does help to somewhat justify the high price it commands. Granted, this is the top of the range specification, but it feels like one of the most polished and refined cars in the A-segment. There's a genuine sense of quality about the whole car.

It still has a recognisable three-cylinder engine thrum, but the engine generally doesn't feel as laboured when doing normal commuting. When you demand more from it the power is there when you need it, though it's happy to rev right up towards its 6,000rpm redline. When you are pushing on the suspension copes well with everything, remaining reasonably composed at times when other cars of a similar size and shape might feel like pogoing along the road. Cruise control is another welcome addition to this model, and it is standard on the High up!.

Inside, there have been some improvements made to the design and function of the dashboard and centre console. The instrument cluster retains a simple, easy-to-read layout, while the centre console gets a more upmarket look and feel. Replacing the previous model's satnav system that could slot into a holder atop the dashboard, there is now a smartphone cradle enabling you to dock your mobile device and use its maps and data for media streaming, amongst other things. Volkswagen also has developed a smartphone app that doubles as an additional trip computer for your car. It features the 'Think Blue' assistant that helps guide towards more economical driving.

Anything that bugs you?

The lack of a proper handle and pull on the boot lid is a little annoying, especially as it is prone to getting dirty and muddy from spray being kicked up by that short rear end. As for the boot itself, while the space isn't all that bad at 251 litres, its shallow rectangular shape and deep floor doesn't provide the most practical cargo space to attempt putting larger items into it.

And why have you given it this rating?

When you consider its bigger brother, the Volkswagen Polo, the up! is an expensive car for this segment. That said, as small city cars go, the up! delivers all you could want. While the 90hp engine might carry a near €1,000 price premium over the still quite capable 75hp version, we think it's worth the extra stretch of the budget. It won't necessarily give you the up! GTI many of us have longed for, but it does provide greater performance around town and a more relaxed driving experience when you need to take on motorway journeys.

I want to know more

This test drive format is intended to give our first impressions on a car we've not yet fully reviewed. Go to our Ask Us Anything page, send us a question and we'll give you as much detail as you need on any specific aspect.

Further reading:

First drive of the Volkswagen up! 1.0 TSI

Volkswagen up! 75hp review


Tech Specs

Model testedVolkswagen High up! 90hp TSI
Pricing€18,292 as tested; range starts at €12,650
Engine1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmissionfive-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door hatchback
CO2 emissions108g/km (Band A3, €190 per annum)
Combined economy64.2mpg (4.4 litres/100km)
Top speed185km/h
0-100km/h9.9 seconds
Power90hp at 5,000rpm
Torque160Nm at 1,500rpm
Boot space251- to 959 litres
EuroNCAP ratingfive stars; 89% adult, 80% child, 46% pedestrian, 86% safety assist