Subtle exterior tweaks and added customisation options refresh the Volkswagen up! range. The addition of a new turbocharged 1.0-litre engine shows that the chassis is capable of handling more performance, too.
In the metal
You'll have to look closely to see just where the exterior changes to this updated Volkswagen up! lie. Most noticeable is the new front bumper that protrudes more than the previous model. It fills out the front of the car more and gives it a wider appearance, as well as accommodating the additional engine hardware for the new turbocharged engine.
Giving the up! a sportier stance are optional 17-inch alloy wheels. The standard car will come on 15-inch wheels while High up! versions will feature 16-inch rims. At the back the all-glass hatchback remains, but there is a new light cluster design, along with a more sculpted rear bumper and black diffuser. Boot space remains unchanged at 251 litres, and while this increases to 959 litres by folding the rear seat backs it isn't going to be a car that makes many trips to Swedish furniture stores.
Volkswagen has given the interior a refresh, with most of that attention focused on the centre of the dashboard. Whereas the previous model used a satnav unit connected to the car there is now just a cradle for a smartphone of up to 5.5-inches - like an iPhone 6 Plus or Galaxy S7. A dedicated app then allows for full connectivity via Bluetooth or USB.
Buyers will also be spoiled for choice when it comes to customising the up!. In total, there is a choice of 13 exterior colours, 17 alloy wheel designs and three exterior design packs that add decals to the lower section of the doors. Inside, there are 11 seat designs and ten dashboard covers.
There was always the impression that the chassis underpinning the up! was never really challenged by the performance offered by the engines. With the introduction of a new 90hp TSI petrol engine, the up! feels much more responsive and happily cruises along at motorway speeds. Getting up to speed requires less effort from the driver too.
Thanks to the more powerful engine it's easier to increase speed by rolling on the throttle rather than having to work the five-speed manual transmission. For a small car, its suspension does a reasonable job of absorbing uneven surfaces though the optional 17-inch wheels undo much of this. Body roll through corners is commendably kept in check too, but rear passengers do feel the bumps that bit more than those in the front as they sit virtually over the rear axle.
On paper, a figure of 118Nm of torque might not look like much, but it does arrive early, at 1,500rpm. The engine is more refined than the 60- and 75hp atmospheric three-cylinder units and there is a little less of that characterful three-cylinder thrum, so it does feel more refined. Like the other engines the turbocharged unit likes to rev and comes alive when you push past 3,000rpm, though this will impact on fuel consumption of course. You can make the most of that 90hp though as the little Volkswagen feels surefooted when tipped into a corner at speed. There is a safe amount of understeer when you push things too much, but it is a city car that can be hustled along when desired.
With its wheels pushed out to each corner the up! is agile around town and gets into the tightest of car parking spaces with ease, while the five-door body style benefits from having shorter front doors for squeezing out of the car in small parking spaces.
What you get for your money
Volkswagen Ireland will be offering four different trim levels on the revised up! range, starting with the Take up! that is expected to have a starting price of around €12,000 for the three-door 60hp version. Expect to pay a €500 premium to move up to the five-door (which is advisable) and a further €600 to upgrade to the 75hp engine.
Equipment on all specification levels are still to be confirmed, but expect to see an approximately €1,000 price difference between each grade. The new entry to the line-up is the Beats up!, which features an upgraded speaker system from Beats Audio.
The more powerful 75hp engine is only available on five-door models whereas the 60hp engine will come in both three- and five-door variants. If you want to have the 90hp engine reviewed here, it will only be available in the five-door High up!.
At €17,000 this range-topping Volkswagen up! is only going to have limited appeal in Ireland, but the core elements such as ride quality, refinement and customisation options ring true in the other models in the range. It may sit at the upper end of the supermini price spectrum but the Volkswagen up! is still worth the money.