► VW Connect: does it work?
► Testing the app-based data tech
► It judges your driving and more
Apps that pair your smartphone to your car are not a rarity these days. At best, they let you keep useful data from your car to hand when you're not on board, and they load your car's infotainment system with your phone's finer features. At worst they're gimmicky, glitchy and of limited use. Good or bad, they're generally only possible if your car's infotainment system is modern and high-spec – if you're in the dark ages of analogue dials and cigarette lighters you can forget it. Except that VW has come up with a system that can bring a bit of 2019 to some slightly older models.
The VW Connect app is a user-friendly system that extends some of the benefits of state-of-the-art connectivity to cars from as long ago as 2008. Our Up GTI long-term test car is a 2018 model, but it's a fundamentally old design that's a generation behind the likes of the latest Touareg. To bridge the gap, our Up came with a VW DataPlug, a Bluetooth-enabled device that plugs into the diagnostics port and pairs with your phone.
It can be fitted to any 2008-on VW and brings a previously unconnected car into the age of the smart device. It's been standard on the Up and Polo since April 2018, or can be bought for about £39 from Amazon or VW dealers. Aside from the DataPlug, all you need is a smartphone, on which you download the VW Connect app, sign up for an account and follow the instructions for how to pair it via Bluetooth.
Once up and running, the app will display a lot of information about your car, your driving and your fuel use. It can help you anticipate when and where your next service will be, and makes booking easy. It can remember better than you where you parked the car, and navigate you back to it via GPS. And it can capture all the information you need as a business user, and generate a PDF.
The most interesting bits are the driving style read-outs and challenges. It will, for instance, give you a high score for smooth braking and acceleration – and a low score for a more aggressive driving style. To add a bit of interest to a potentially dull journey you can get it to set tasks such as keeping the engine speed below 2000rpm for seven miles, or suggesting landmarks to visit.
Whether you use VW Connect as a practical business tool, or as a way of encouraging green driving habits, or as a bit of fun, it's easy to use and integrates well with the car.
How it works
Plug the device into the OBD socket and pair it to your phone. Once the app is downloaded it'll talk you through the process.
It knows how far you've driven, how much fuel you've used, where you've gone and where you've parked.
You'll be scored on driving skill after every trip and those scores will be averaged every month. Be good if you want green bars.
VW Connect: does it work?
Yes. It logs everything with impressive accuracy (but keep your phone out of 'battery saver' mode if it has it, for a more consistent connection). The challenges will keep those of a competitive nature interested and simple-yet-handy features make the app a good companion.