Volkswagen Up! Review

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Volkswagen Up! Tested November 2011

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Rating

5 stars

Quick Summary

Highly recommended. The Volkwagen Up (or up! to give it its proper moniker) is by a country mile the best crack at a city car VW has ever made, as we found out in our Volkswagen Up review.

Road Test

What the Volkwagen Up may lack in personality, it more than makes up for by being excellent in every other which way.

First shown at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Volkwagen Up has had many conceptual tweaks and changes before coming to market. Back in 2007 the car was a radically styled rear-wheel drive four-seater, and while today's production car has had some of the concept's quirky edges rubbed away, it's still a unique-looking little box.

Inside, an otherwise conservative dashboard is given a radical expanse of body coloured metal which works very well. Everything is as you'd expect: neat, instantly fathomable and solid.  What you don't expect, however, is to be presented with so much space.

This really is a car for four large people, and unlike most city cars, it retains a proper, useable boot - and flexibility. The cargo space hits 951-litres with the rear seatbacks folded; a VW Passat Estate has a 603-litre standard boot, for comparison.

As is usually the case at this end of the new car spectrum, the basic model has little more than a steering wheel and an ashtray inside. For example, middle-spec 'Move Up' cars have 'easy-entry' seats, which means that getting into the back of an entry 'Take Up' version is a graceless affair. You'll be winding the front windows up and down too, like they did in the '70s.

At the top end of the range, however, there's some tech that's not found in any other city car, like City Emergency Brake. More synonymous with luxury cars, it brakes the car automatically when it senses an imminent smash below 18mph. The removable 'maps + more' nav unit is a neat, status-enhancing feature as well.

It's on the road that the Up's grown-up qualities really shine through, as our  Volkswagen Up road test showed. This is a very well sorted out chassis, whose suspension strikes a beautiful balance between pothole-soaking comfort and cornering feel. Ditto the steering, which is carpark-tastic in its lightness (combined with a tiny turning circle) but hefty at higher speeds. Fun to drive and mature are difficult qualities to harmonise in a city car, but Volkswagen has done it here.

The engine choice is limited to two - well, one really, but in two states of tune. The three-cylinder petrol engine, with 59- or 74bhp, isn't rattle-free, but is easily the most refined application of a three-cylinder we've ever driven in a little car. They're both up to task, but gutless when pressed, and for that reason we'd choose the smaller and cheaper of the two. The Bluemotion version, with almost 70mpg, looks ideal on paper, but ask yourself if it's really worth the extra money for a few mpgs, with the mileage you'll do.
However, cost is one thing that VW has on its side with the Up, because instead of trying to hit the premium end of the market, where MINI, Audi and Fiat dominate, it's focussed on shifting as many copies of its car as it can build.

A well specced car can be yours for less than ten grand, and VW is even proposing a scheme that could see ownership for as little as £100 per month when it hits the shops in April 2012.

All-in-all then, we think we've found the new king of city cars.

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