Volkswagen has surely got its timing right with the launch of its new up! The crystal ball gazers say that city car sales are set to boom with the rising cost of fuel. The makers of the ‘people’s car’ have set out to maximise the appeal of the mini car.
Can the up! do better than VW’s previous attempts at a such a size of car? The slightly loopy Lupo was overpriced and did not take off. Then came the rather staid Fox that failed to light many fires. So what makes me think that the men and women of Wolfsburg have more chance of succeeding third time around?
Well, just look at the car for a start – it has cute styling mixing both the minimalist and the modern. Inside there is just about room enough for four grown ups. Add great economy from the pint-sized engines and a keen starting price of £7,995 and the little package starts to look smart.
There are two versions of the new three-cylinder, 1.0-litre unit with power outputs of 60 or 75PS. Smoother and quieter than most of their ilk, they stretch the gallons impressively. Both return more than 60mpg on the Combined Cycle and emissions below 108g/km.
I drove a 60PS up! in and around London for a few days and found it an easy car to live with. The little engine seemed eager to please and was able to cruise at the legal limit (and beyond) on the M4 – though the proximity to the towering juggernauts was a bit daunting. It was equally at home around the avenues of Richmond and a joy to take into the underground car park.
Of course, you need to adjust to the modest 0-62mph acceleration time of 14.4 seconds. This is compensated for by the engine’s sheering willingness. There was little problem keeping pace with the frenetic London traffic. The practicality of the up! is better than most small three-doors. The boot is bigger than you find on most city cars and the front seats slide forward easily for access to the rear.
There are three trim levels and the VW folk could not resist a few puns – they are called Take up!, Move up! and High up! There are several affordable high tech options normally found only on bigger and more premium cars.
My favourity is Maps and More – offering cut-price sat nav combined with a trip computer for an attractive £275. You can even get an emergency braking system that stops the car automatically at below 19mph if it detects that a collision is imminent. You can add this for £225.
The up! is a proper car in miniature and has the expected VW attention to detail. Built at Bratislavia in Slovakia it goes on sale this month. Later this year, VW will add a five-door version and Bluemotion economy version capable of almost 69mpg Combined. An electric up! is planned for 2013.
Easy to purchase and easy to run, the up! should appeal in these difficult days. In fact, the closest competition will come from its siblings by SEAT and Skoda who are offering the same car with diferent names and badges. Close study of their pricing and specs is called for.