VW Up: the inside story

Published: 12 September 2008

CAR Online today publishes a secret dossier on the new VW Up – revealing everything we know about the diminutive new city car from Wolfsburg. We’ve already revealed how the Up will switch from rear- to front-engined, but today we flesh out the rest of the story.

Dubbed New Small Family (NSF), Volkswagen’s new baby now follows the template set by the revolutionary new Toyota iQ. Why switch to conventional front-engine layout? Simple. It’ll save VW €750 million. That’s £600m…

Why will the front-engined VW Up cost so much less?

In R&D and procurement costs alone, VW insiders tell us they will slash €400m (£320m) from the bill. Add to that greater economies of scale, reduced investment in tooling and greater production flexibility, and a further €350m (£280) rolls off the cash register.

Make no mistake, this strategic handbrake turn is an accountant’s dream. It will, however, delay the titchy-tiny VW Up by a full year…

And will the production Up look different?

Thankfully not. The U-turn has negligible effect on the well received design. Our artist’s impressions reveal how the three-door production NSF should look and it’s been compiled with the help of inside sources at VW’s design centre.

Shifting the engine to the front means a slightly longer nose to accommodate the lump. Well placed design sources suggest the snout stretches to 50mm longer, but insist the overall effect is the same.

Don’t forget the original NSF concept already had a front-mounted radiator for even weight distribution, so there is no need for larger or repositioned air intakes and suchlike.

Click ‘Next’ for more on the production VW Up/NSF

Just remind me of the idea behind Volkswagen’s NSF

The NSF will be offered in three key markets: Europe, South America and India. As ever in a numbers-obsessed market, the Up project will be shared around the VW Group, but the VW mothership will be the only brand to get all three bodystyles.

Expect this three-door, plus five-door and Space Up! MPV versions if you wander into a VW dealer; Skoda will offer only the five-door; and Seat will sell three- and five-door hatches only.

Bundle those together and you see the financial argument behind the NSF. A combined total of 500,000 cars will be built in a full year. This small car means big business.

And how much will the NSF cost?

VW is targeting prices between €5500 (£4500) and €9000 (£7000), depending on market, bodystyle and specification. Still, we find it hard to believe VW won’t go the premium route in Europe, as Toyota and Smart do with their city cars.

Sadly, the engineering rethink has pushed back first assembly to 2011.

Is this a real iQ rival?

The new front-engine configuration is expected to push up the kerbweight from 800 to 830kg in the case of the three-door four-seater. Other changes include the addition of an optional power steering module, the opportunity to use existing – instead of bespoke – powertrain packages and a more fexible boot area which grows from 180 to 200 litres now there’s no engine slung out back.

These are the approximate key dimensions for the revised NSF three-door:

Wheelbase 2500mm
Length 3550mm
Height 1495mm
Width 1630mm

The wheelbase of the five-door, five-seater is set to grow by 100mm. All versions of the Up have a 400kg payload, a 35-litre fuel tank and 155/65R14 rubber.

Click ‘Next’ for the full lowdown on the engines powering the new VW NSF

So what’s under the bonnet of the VW Up/NSF?

Although the project’s delay would allow VW to make the city car part of the new group-wide MQB family, the Up is all about being bargain basement. So a more radical engineering solution is required: less weight, fewer components and reduced flexibility.

For instance, instead of having to develop a brand-new rear suspension, VW can fit the front-wheel drive Up with a simplified version of the same compound axle that is fitted to the current Polo.

While disc brakes are a must for the driven wheels, drums should be fine in the back. ESP stability control is available, but only at extra cost.

The VW Up engine room

VW plans to offer a choice of three different three-cylinder engines for its NSF models. It is not quite clear whether there will be a bespoke 1.0-litre unit or whether the Up will adopt the existing 1.2-litre 16-valve version from current small VWs.

In either case, the maximum power output is 60bhp and top torque 80lb ft. Next rung up the pecking order is a turbocharged edition rated at
86bhp and 120lb ft. The only diesel earmarked for the new small VW is a 1.2-litre common-rail engine which develops 75bhp and 135lb ft.

A five-speed manual is standard on the production Up, but the stronger petrol unit can alternatively be combined with a dual-clutch gearbox. Target fuel consumption figures are 65.8mpg for the petrol-engined model (95g/km of CO2) and 94.7mpg for the TDI (75g/km).

Will I be able to buy the Up in America?

In case of a mushrooming energy crisis, VW could easily sell the mildly modified NSF in North America. The only casualty of the transition from rear- to front-mounted engines is the proposed downscaled derivative of the New Beetle which has dropped out of the cycle plan.

Do you rate the purity of the real VW Up? Or has it lost the concept’s magic touch? Click ‘Add your comment’ and let us know