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How much? £10,390
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 999cc 12v 3-cyl, 74bhp @ 6200rpm, 70lb ft @ 3000-4300rpm
Transmission: 13.2sec 0-62mph, 107mph, 60.1mpg, 108g/km CO2
Performance: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
How heavy / made of? 929kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 3540/1640/1489
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Rated 4 out of 54

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Rated 2 out of 52

VW Up 5dr (2012) CAR review

By Ben Pulman

First Drives

02 February 2012 10:00

This is the Volkswagen Up, a little city car we’ve been excited about ever since the first rear-engined and rear-wheel drive concept was unveiled in 2007. Alas a layout akin to the original people’s car (the Beetle) proved too expensive to develop in the 21st century, so the production car is standard urban runabout fare – i.e. front-engined and front-wheel drive.

But the massive economic of scale (VW subsidiaries Seat and Skoda are also producing their own versions) mean the Up might be able to deliver all the qualities so beloved of Volkswagen at a price point us plebs can actually afford – prices start at under £8k. There’s a three-door version, and for just a few hundred quid more there’s the five-door tested here, which 52% of customers are expected to opt for.

I’m excited about this little city car. What’s the VW Up 5dr like?

The front and rear styling of the Up 5dr remains the same as the 3dr, which means a smiling mouth and darkened glass bootlid. But there’s change between the B- and C-pillars: the lower window line no longer kicks upwards towards the rear, but now runs straight back.

VW reckons the 5dr will carry a mere £375 premium over the 3dr in the UK, helped by the back windows only being pop-out items. Boot space remains identical to the 3dr Up, at 251 litres, or 951 litres with the rear backrest folded down. There’s only room for two in the back, but there is plenty of space for rear seat passengers’ feet beneath the front seats.

What about the interior?

Great. The dials are clear, the air-con and radio controls are grouped high rather than clustered down behind the gearstick, and the (optional) Maps+More portable touchscreen sat-nav and infotainment system that snaps into place atop the dash is easy to use. Headroom is plentiful, the seats are comfortable, and there’s plenty of room too. Just like in the Fiat 500 a big slab of glossy plastic helps lift the ambience, but the quality of the plastics and the refinement levels are ahead of the Italian.

It might be a small car but there are big car features – which are optional, of course. The City Emergency Braking system does what it says on the tin, braking the Up if speeds are between 3mph and 18mph (it’s a more rounded 5-30km/h if you live on the Continent), and you can spec a panoramic tilt and slide sunroof too.

There are five versions of the Up available…

The entry-level Take Up with 14in wheels, ABS, power-assisted steering, daytime running lights, a folding rear bench, and body coloured bumpers.

The Move Up with body coloured wing mirrors and door handles, gloss back interior highlights, remote central locking, air-con, front electric windows, a 60:40 split rear bench and ESP.

The High Up (which we’ve tested) with 15in wheels, fog lights, Maps+More, heated front seats, electric and heated door mirrors, air-con, MP3 connectivity and a leather-adorned steering wheel and handbrake.

The Up Black and Up White (VW UK has wisely reversed the names) are based on the High Up but come with 16in wheels, chromed wing mirrors and side strips and tinted rear glass – and obviously one is black inside and out and the other is white.

And to drive?

There are just two engines available, both 1.0-litre triples but in different states of tune. There’s 59bhp (for the Take Up and Move Up) or 74bhp (for the others) to choose from, with power going to the front wheels via a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. And there’s a Bluemotion Technology version of the 59bhp model (only available in Move Up guise) with stop/start, a trick alternator, low-friction engine ancillaries and low rolling resistance tyres to shift the figures from 62.8mpg and 105g/km to 68.9mpg and 96g/km CO2.

And unless you can’t drive with three pedals, don’t opt for the automated manual gearbox. VW reckons a DSG ‘box would cost around £1500 and a conventional torque converter would be a £1200, so the estimated £800 means it’s a cheaper alternative. But it’s jerky and ponderous and quite possibly the worst example of an automated manual I’ve ever tried. Lifting as you shift limits the head nodding, but then that’s not really the point of an auto.

But the manual version is excellent. The gearbox is light and slick (as is the steering), the engine thrums away happily without becoming tiresome and intrusive (a la Aygo/107/C1), the ride is comfortable and supple, and visibility is very good. Refinement levels are high too, so 80mph on the autobahn is handled with ease, and while you need to drop down a gear or two to make any progress, overall it’s a wonderful little package.

Anything else?

We also tested the Cross Up, a jacked-up Allroad-esque version of the 5dr with raised suspension, faux off-road cladding and flared wheelarches. To drive it’s all but identical to the normal 5dr, but at least to these eyes the visual tweaks add a little visual flare to offset the more grown-up image created by the extra pair of doors. Pity it won’t be sold in the UK.

Verdict

Whereas the Toyota iQ failed to live up to its hype (actually too small, too compromised, too dull) the Up, while not radical, is everything we’d hoped for. It looks cool, it’s fun to drive, plus it banishes memories of the VW Fox and is a city car dripping with quality and worthy of wearing the VW badge. There’s no reason to spend more on the Polo, and while that, the Golf and Passat can be dreary and dull, this is a Volkswagen that’s actually exciting.  

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VW Up 5dr (2012) CAR review

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antonyr

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antonyr says

RE: VW Up 5dr (2012) CAR review

I am at a loss to understand  all the hype  written  about this car. Its basic design  is 10 years old Seat Arosa/ VW Lupo. Its  has not one commendable design feature, please dont count that under front bumper as a good one its not  or the rear low back window look thats been done many times before by  Citroen Peugeot Toyota. . So with typical VW boringness we have the UP  and all its siblings to block our roads with white goods design. UUUUUUURRRRRRRR Move on VW And to think VW will charges a premium price  for this Oh dear what a sad state

14 February 2012 13:35

 

wittgenfrog

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wittgenfrog says

RE: VW Up 5dr (2012) CAR review

@mini1 - You migt be right about the pricing of the new Panda, though as I hinted in my initial post, I'm not expecting many Ups to be sold for the basic price \ spec.  The car market has two main sectors of buyers:

1) Buy new

2) Buy used

 

The 1st category have to accept that they take a BIG hit when they buy.  Driving out of the showroom in a new car costs big money.  The 2nd category love poor resale value: it means they can keep affording good nearly new cars...   In general VWs are pricier than most other cars too, so if you want to keep buying VWs you don't benefit from the better resale prices....

10 February 2012 13:41

 

comment8

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comment8 says

RE: VW Up 5dr (2012) CAR review

@mini1- I don't have a problem with "pure" or "clean" designs. The outgoing Alfa 159 is a good example of pure and clean but adds drama to the equation. VWs current design language is dull and backward looking. Compare and contrast the rear of a 1994 Vauxhall/Opel Omega with that of a 2012 European Passat. You would never know that almost 20 years separates the two. The V/O Insignia has evolved when compared to its antecedents and is also designed with the conservative German market in mind. The current VW “face” has a very similar visage to the 2003 Renault Megane with the French curves replaced by Germanic creases. There is little of offer to excite the senses. We are often told that the Golf has evolved carefully in order to maintain a loyal customer base. Does this mean that with every generation Toyota is winning a new set of customers to take the Corolla to the top of the sales charts? Take a look at the variety of Corolla designs that have come and gone during the Golfs lifetime. Yes, even the Corolla makes VWs seem dull and timid.

10 February 2012 02:27

 

mini1

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mini1 says

RE: VW Up 5dr (2012) CAR review

I have to say, I honestly do not understand all the hate towards this car. I actually think the Up is quite characterful if specced in the right colour, with the right wheels etc. Dull is to some people what 'pure' or 'clean' is to others. 

@masonsugars - The pop out windows will be on every version. They're cheaper to produce and make the car lighter. They can be annoying at times (I speak from experience as I have an Aygo with them) but it depends how often you have people in the back. I never see anyone complaining with 3-door cars, where it is now a rarity to find pop-out windows in the rear quarters of those.

I'm not a 'VW fanboy' before anyone makes that suggestion - I am from an Aygo/Fiat 500 household. The new Panda is nice but it is also more expensive than the Up. And will it hold its value? Probably not. But I'll still be keen to see how *both* cars stack up when they hit the showrooms in the next few months.

09 February 2012 23:23

 

wittgenfrog

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wittgenfrog says

RE: VW Up 5dr (2012) CAR review

It IS terrifyingly 'conventional'..   The cynic in me says that VAG has spotted how well the Panda \ 500 series is doing for FIAT, and wants to try and muscle in with that legendary VW 'quality'. 

 

The £8,500 'starter' version is presumably utterly devoid of equipment (apart from all that good quality plastic).  The version you tested (or that's pictured) appears to have every conceivable extra so I doubt that the £10,390 will cover all that!

 

Personally (I admit to bias) I'd stick with the 'old' Panda over this, and the revised 2012 Panda sounds a LOT better.  Everything else aside the Panda looks 'loved' by its creators, whereas this thing looks like it was cooked-up 'by the numbers' solely in order to give VW a car in this market seqment. 

 

I'm not conviced that the low(ish) cost utility market (like the Panda) will fall for VW's normal aspirational sales pitch ('Like a Golf, but...').   Given the utter dullness of the car, and the excellence of its competitors I think they'll be sunk if they can't make it stick. 

 

AS an aside I note FIAT are having a lot of fun at present with the new Punto campaign implicitly taking the p**s out of VAG's current Golf nonsense.

06 February 2012 12:58

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