Volkswagen up!: Car Review
Just about everything you will need from a city car.
What’s it like?
The Volkswagen up! is good value, safe, practical, efficient and very well built.
Would it help me stay safe?
Every up! comes with anti-lock brakes, driver’s and front passenger’s airbags, side head and side thorax airbags.
Who should buy it and how much does it cost?
The up! would suit the town dweller whose motoring habits have changed to reflect leaner times. The VW costs from £7,995.
Our review: Good Motoring, Summer 2012
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
We chose the base model for this test and were surprised at just what good value this little car is. You get zippy acceleration, a lovely five-speed gearbox and it’s smooth. It even takes potholes well (sorry, VW; I wasn’t aiming for them, I promise).
What lets it down just a little is the dull steering feedback and throttle response; this means the driving experience is more ‘nice’ than ‘fun’.
Our entry-level car was powered by the 59bhp version of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. On A-roads and motorways it can feel a little out of its depth, but around town it’s fine. The more powerful 74bhp version should be a better bet if you regularly tackle longer journeys.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Inside the up! is simply amazing. It’s a small car and I am a big guy at 6’3”. So, after wondering how I would get my legs in, I found that I actually had to move the front seat forward. The seats are good and both the driving position and visibility are excellent.
I was also able to get in the back seats. Thanks to the very clever design, I actually felt quite comfortable back there. You also get a decent boot, too (251 litres). With the rear seats folded down, you get a staggering 951 litres of space.
Build quality is as good as you’d expect from a VW, although the base model is sparse and feels tinny. You can see where the cost cutting took place – like the manual stick to adjust the side mirrors and manual wind-down windows.
We tested the three-door version, but a five-door has now joined the range. For an extra £365 the second pair of doors will be welcomed by anyone with a young family.
For just under eight grand you get excellent safety features including anti-lock brakes, driver’s and front passenger’s airbags, side head and side thorax airbags. Stability control is fitted to all but the most basic models, and can be added to the entry-level version for £150.
City emergency braking is an optional extra, designed to prevent low-speed rear-end collisions or at the very least reduce their severity. It’s bundled in with a front-seat airbag deactivation switch so child seats can safely be fitted in the front. The price? At the time of writing these two items combined will add a modest £225 to the cost of your up!.
The VW has been put to the test by safety experts Euro NCAP and performed extremely well, earning a five-star rating. The only disappointment was a low score of 46% for pedestrian protection.
The most basic model, the Take up!, is pretty sparse. There’s a manual stick to adjust the side mirrors (remember those?) and winders to raise and lower the windows. Air conditioning? Remote central locking? Not on this model.
We’d rather spend the extra on the mid-spec Move up!. This does have air-con and electric windows, remote central locking, driver’s seat height adjustment and a 60/40 split rear seat.
The High up! has alloys wheels, front fog lights, and a ‘Maps & More’ sat-nav and infotainment device.
At the time of writing there are also ‘Black’ and ‘White’ special editions.
Unfortunately the daft punctuation is standard on all models.
There’s no arguing that our driving habits are changing. We’re all conscious that fuel prices are high, so we purchase more fuel-efficient and smaller cars than ever. Against this background the up! makes a lot of sense.
Prices start from a modest £7,995. There are cheaper city cars out there, but that’s still pretty keen. If you like your creature comforts you can spend as much as £11,670 on the up! White.
Whichever model you pick, running costs are rock-bottom. The cheapest model has official combined economy of 62.8mpg. Low emissions put it in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) Band B, and it sits in insurance group 1. That makes it a great choice for your drivers looking for affordable premiums.
For even better economy and lower emissions, look to the BlueMotion model. This has even lower emissions, dropping the up! into Band A for VED. Fuel economy of 68.9mpg on the combined cycle is quite exceptional for a petrol powered car.
The higher powered models are barely any thirstier. Official figures promise 60.1mpg, and the car sits in VED Band B. Despite the extra power it’s only one insurance group higher than the base model.
Resale values are usually a Volkswagen strong point, and the early signs are that the same will apply to the up!. So, it’s cheap to buy, cheap to run, and holds its value. If you are looking for an inexpensive new car, this is it.
An exceptional small car that’s cheap to buy and run.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 14.4 seconds
Tax: Band A (£0)
Verdict : 4.5/5