Volkswagen’s new up! has a cheeky style and on-road feel that’s sure to appeal to many

Volkswagen’s new up! has a cheeky style and on-road feel that’s sure to appeal to many

And now for something completely different – yet at the same time something that’s a blast from the past.

The Volkswagen up! has a cheeky shape that’s like nothing else on the road. This is a very difficult thing to achieve because the smallest VeeDub could have looked like any other low-priced hatchback. Full marks to the designers who have used a clever front grille style and a distinctive kink in the rear pillar to make their up! stand out from the madding automotive crowd

VW’s marketing gurus like the new model’s name to be spelled as up! – complete with lower-case ‘u’ and an exclamation mark. Our computer’s spelling checker hates it, but …

Volkswagen up! is the reigning World Car of the Year and is available in three- and five-door hatchback bodies, with just one equipment level but a number of option packages. More about the latter in a moment.

The blast from the past we mentioned in the intro is that there’s more than a hint of the original VW Beetle in the way up! feels on the road. Not in its handling, which is infinitely better than the old swing-axle Beetle that could see the car tipped onto its roof at a moment’s notice, but in the cheeky way it accelerated and the happy way it corners and stops. The buzzy sound from the three-cylinder engine is another endearing feature.

If you don’t smile from time to time while in the driving seat of an up! we feel for you.

At just 3.54 metres in length the VW up! is a delight in tight city areas and we found ourselves having access to parking spots that nothing else with four wheels could fit into.

There is seating for four, although rear seat adult passengers will need to impose on those in the front seat to get comfortable legroom. If you’re buying an up! as a small family car make sure the kids are aware that they won’t be able to wind down the rear windows.

There are no headroom problems in any seat and just the occasional elbow bumping between the two front seat occupants.

Maximising the size of the passenger cabin inevitably reduces storage space and, at 251 litres maximum, the boot is relatively small. However it is quite deep and can take a single large suitcase with several soft bags squeezed in around it. The rear seatbacks fold down to greatly increase carrying capacity.

There are a number of cost-saving cues in the up! including sealed side windows in the rear of the three-door version and hinge-out windows (only to about 10 degrees) in the five-door.

Power for the cute little Volkswagen up! comes from a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine. Peak power is 55 kW at 6200 rpm and 95 Nm of torque between 3000 and 4300 rpm.

By their nature lower-powered cars do require a bit more thought and planning in the driving technique needed to get best out of them. For the time being, there is no automatic transmission on offer. It’s sold only with a five-speed manual gearbox.

Fuel consumption during our test week was generally in the six to seven litres per hundred kilometres range, on the open road it was possible to get it under five litres without using any extreme economy driving measures.

There are three option packages available with the up!. The biggest seller will almost certainly be the Maps+More Package; a portable infotainment system displayed on a five-inch touchscreen monitor mounted onto a bracket above the centre console. Features include satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, trip computer with a fuel-saving trainer and media player. At just $500 it’s a steal.

The Comfort Drive Package ($600) provides cruise control, multi-function display and rear parking sensors.

The $2500 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 panoramic powered sunroof is available for just $1400, so is also likely to be a popular option.

A major safety feature of the up! Is City Emergency Braking (CEM). This uses a laser sensor mounted at the top of the windscreen to scan a space 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.


Volkswagen up! 1.0-litre petrol three-door hatch: $13,990 (manual)
Volkswagen up! 1.0-litre petrol five-door hatch: $14,990 (manual)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Volkswagen dealer for driveaway prices.

ABS Brakes: Standard
Automatic Transmission: Not offered
Cruise Control: Package option
Dual Front Airbags: Standard
Front Side Airbags: Standard
Electronic Stability Program: Standard
Rear Parking Sensors: Package option
Reversing Camera: Not offered
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: USB package option, Auxiliary standard
Bluetooth: Option
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard

SPECIFICATIONS (Volkswagen up! 1.0-litre petrol five-door hatch)

Capacity: 0.999 litres
Configuration: Transverse, threee cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Bore/Stroke: 74.5 mm x 76.4 mm
Maximum Power: 55 kW @ 6200 rpm
Maximum Torque: 95 Nm @ 3000-4300 rpm

Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Five-speed
Automatic Transmission: Not offered
Final Drive Ratio: NA

Length: 3540 mm
Wheelbase: 2407 mm
Width: 1641 mm
Height: 1476 mm
Turning Circle: 9.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 880 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 35 litres
Towing Ability: 750 kg (1800 kg with braked trailer)
Boot Capacity: 251 litres (951 litres with rear seatbacks folded)

Front Suspension: Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs
Rear Suspension: Porsion beam, trailing arms, coil springs
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Drums

0-100 km/h Acceleration: 13.2 seconds

Type: Petrol 95RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 4.9 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 8.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 9.5/10

Three years/100,000 km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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