Volkswagen up! was launched almost a year ago, yet hasn’t managed to make the splash on the Australian sale’s charts that we had anticipated. So it made sense to carry out a re-test and see what we think about it almost 12 months down the track.
One of our favourite car shapes of recent times, Volkswagen’s up! manages to make a functional box look interesting. It has a cheeky shape like nothing else on the road so perhaps it’s yet to make its mark because the small-car segment often attracts relatively conservative buyers.
Of particular interest in the design are the area under the front bumper, the triangular shape in the rear pillars and the large tinted glass of the hatch.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Power for the smallest Volkswagen comes from a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine. Peak power is 55 kW at 6200 rpm and there’s 95 Nm of torque between 3000 and 4300 rpm.
Up! is sold only with a five-speed manual gearbox. The fact that no automatic option is another hindrance in Australia where manuals are becoming a rarity in anything other than sports models.
Fuel consumption during our test period was in the six to seven litres per hundred kilometres range overall. On motorways and easy paced open roads it was easy to get it under five litres.
The Maps+More package is a portable infotainment system displayed on a five-inch touchscreen monitor mounted above the centre console. Features include satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, trip computer with a fuel-saving trainer and media player.
The VW Comfort Drive Package provides cruise control, multi-function display and rear parking sensors. The Comfort Style package includes 15-inch alloy wheels; front foglights; leather trimmed steering wheel, parking brake lever and gearshift knob; heated front seats and carpet floor mats.
A major safety feature is City Emergency Braking. This uses a laser sensor at the top of the windscreen to the area in front of the car, detect the risk of imminent collision and selectively apply the brakes depending upon the force required. It will either prevent or reduce the impact of a collision at speeds up to 30 km/h.
There is seating for four, although rear seat adult passengers will need to ask those in the front seats to move their seats forward a notch or two to get comfortable. There are no headroom problems in any seat but some will find themselves elbow bumping in the two front seats.
There are a number of cost-saving measures including non-opening side windows in the rear of the three-door version and hinge-out windows that only open by a few centimetres in the five-door.
Boot space is the first thing to suffer in very small cars and there is only 251 litres of volume in the up!. However, the boot is deep and can take a single large suitcase with several soft bags squeezed in around it. The rear seatbacks fold down to substantially increase capacity.
At just 3.54 metres in length the little VW is in its element in suburban and tight city areas. We found ourselves squeezing it into parking spots that were normal the territory of motorbikes.
The cheeky way the little Volkswagen accelerates and the nimble handling offered in corners because of its light weight makes for driving fun again. The buzzy sound from the three-cylinder engine is another endearing feature.
Volkswagen up! was crowned World Car of the Year for 2012 and is selling well in Europe. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before it starts to spark on the Australian scene. In the meantime you may be able to push through a bargain if your local VW dealer has excess stock.