Volkswagen up! BlueMotion Driven

It’s no secret that Volkswagen make good small cars. And whilst they’re quite happy to let their compatriots dominate the executive market (and dominate it they do), make no mistake; the European market for C-segment cars downwards belongs to the Wolfsburg outfit.

Both the Golf and its younger Polo sibling are leaders in their respective classes and, in terms of knowing what their loyal customers want, Volkswagen excel in rarely releasing a dud model. So when Dr. Winterkorn and the VAG board sign off an all-new model for what they predict to be the fastest growing segment over the next few years, the safe money is on this trend to continue.

The up!, although already on sale in continental Europe, will begin to appear on UK roads this month. Initially buyers will have a choice of three specifications, starting with the Take up!, which starts at £7,995, making it the most accessible model in a range that culminates with the 75bhp High up!, which adds chrome and body coloured dashboard panels as well as a leather trimmed steering wheel amongst other niceties. There are also a few special editions and if you factor in the amount of variants on display at this year’s Geneva Motor Show (which even included a ‘Swiss’ Up!), it all becomes a little bewildering.

From bottom left clockwise: x up!, Swiss up!, Winter up!, Cargo up!

The model that we are interested in, however, sits in the middle of the range: the Move up! BlueMotion. The Move up! Bluemotion comes with a new generation 60bhp, 3-cylinder engine that’s capable of an impressive combined 68.9mpg and 96 g/km CO2. Stop-start technology and low rolling-resistance tyres help contribute to these figures as well as low-friction engine components. Although power is not the name of the game with an eco-friendly city car, 60bhp does seem a little tightfisted. If, however, you take into consideration the up!’s weight of around 940kg, then that power output becomes more acceptable. Until you reach a hill at least. In any case, the up!’s strengths lie elsewhere.

Build quality is at the same stratospheric level that we have come to expect from Volkswagen, but even so, it’s still a surprise for such a small car to feel so solid. Responsible for the up!’s design are Walter da Silva (who allegedly sketched the up! on a plane home from the 2007 Detroit Auto Show) and Klaus Bischoff, and when viewed in the metal it’s clear that there’s a lot happening in a very small space. The finished product, however, doesn’t feel over-designed and there’s a remarkable iconic simplicity to the up!’s silhouette.

The up!’s face is characterized by an unbroken rectangular wire grill. This is a continuation of the bracketed fog light theme first seen on the E-Bugster Concept in Detroit earlier this year. It is also defined by the up!’s headlights, which follow the same form as those found on other Volkswagen models though scaled down. Overall, the up! is a tidy package as far as the exterior is concerned and exudes more class than many of it’s competitors, such as Fiat’s Panda or the Toyota Aygo, could ever hope to possess.

The good news continues on the inside too. A long wheelbase and small engine, which is mounted very far forward, belies its diminutive proportions, and adds design flare that was desperately lacking in its predecessor, the Fox. Volkswagen have managed to combine a high seating position with a high steering column; not easy, but the result is that you’re very aware of the space that becomes available within the upper half of the cabin without the feeling that you’re sitting on top of the car, rather than in it (as is the case with the Mk IV Polo). Bare in mind that the up! is comfortably shorter than the Hyundai i10.

High up! interior

The defining feature of the interior is a glossy dash pad (bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Fiat 500) that spans the entire width of the dashboard. On high-spec models this can be customized to mirror the exterior colour of the car. Set into the dash pad is a grown-up switch module that tapers slightly towards a usefully big storage compartment behind the gear stick. The High up! also comes with a surprisingly neat detachable Navigon navigation system as standard. New, modular seats also lend the interior a sporting attitude and although this won’t be fooling anyone they certainly look the part. But beware that the finish of the up’s interior is hugely dependant on the overall specification of the car.

From behind the wheel the up! excels at what it has been designed to do. Small dimensions, good visibility and a light steering rack make this city-car easily maneuverable and a pleasure to drive once you have accepted it on its merits. The up! feels reasonably agile and a gearbox with a shorter throw than expected makes for more fun than one would perhaps credit a 60bhp supermini with. The up! is unsurprisingly set up to understeer but it is doubtful that most owners will get near the limit of the car’s traction. Importantly for this type of car, the up! doesn’t instill impatience into the driver, as so many cars in this category do (Citroen C1, ahem).

Overall, the up!’s good looks and decent dynamics make for an enjoyable driving experience. It will be interesting to compare the up! to the 2012 Fiat Panda, which we expect will lack the class of the up! but may well make up for it with a surfeit of charm. Until then, the up! comes highly recommended.

Photography courtesy of Mark Raybone

Move up! Bluemotion Technology


Engine: 1.0 litre petrol engine, 3 cylinders, 12 valves Gearbox: 5-speed manual Power: 60bhp @ 5000-6000 rpm Torque: 70 lbs/ft Top speed: 100mph Economy: 68.9 combined mpg (urban – 56.6 mpg) Emissions: 96 g/km CO2  Price: £9,330 OTR


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