Review

Volkswagen up! hatchback

Price  £8,765 - £13,465

Volkswagen up! hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Spacious interior
  • Comfortable suspension
Cons
  • No steering wheel reach adjustment
  • Body roll in corners
  • Automatic gearbox is jerky

At a glance

The greenest
1.0 60PS Move up! BlueMotion Technology 3dr £10,170
The cheapest
1.0 60PS Take up! 3dr £8,765
The fastest
1.0 75PS High up! 3dr £11,385
Top of the range
1.0 75PS Rock up! 3dr £13,465

"The VW up! is a small city car with a high-quality feel that takes the fight to the capable Hyundai i10."

The Volkswagen up! is one of the best small city cars on sale today. It competes with our car of the year, the Hyundai i10, and shares many of its parts with the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii

Arguably one of the most appealing parts of the up! is the VW badge on the bonnet. Inside, the up! is pretty basic, but it's well built and simple to operate, while buyers can choose to fit a removable sat nav system that's handy for town driving.

The up! can be specified with a choice of two small three-cylinder petrol engines that are cheap to run, but quick enough for city driving and the occasional motorway trip. They suit the up!'s agile handling and city-friendly dimensions.

Go for the basic Take up! model and equipment is limited to colour-coded bumpers, a CD player with an auxiliary socket for MP3 players, stability control and airbags. Buyers can also choose the Move up! and High up! models, which are better equipped.

MPG, running costs & CO2

5.0 / 5

BlueMotion version offers rock-bottom running costs and free road tax

Low running costs are a top priority for up! owners and Volkswagen has made sure the up! is very affordable to run. There are two engines to choose from, both 1.0-litre petrols, producing either 59bhp or 74bhp. The basic 59bhp engine can return fuel economy of 62.8mpg and emits 105g/km of CO2 for £20-a-year road tax. The same engine fitted with BlueMotion technology is free to tax and can return fuel economy of 68.9mpg.

Opting for the more powerful engine doesn’t dent fuel economy too much. The basic model is capable of 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 108g/km for road tax of £20. Fitted with the BlueMotion tech, those figures improve to fuel economy of 67.3mpg and free road tax.

Insuring the VW should be cheap, with the up! ranging from group one to group four. Maintenance costs should also be low. Volkswagen offers fixed-price service plans, which mean regular maintenance of your up! could cost just £15 per month. 

Engines, drive & performance

3.9 / 5

For such a small car, the up! is surprisingly fun to drive

City cars don’t come much better than the Volkswagen up!. Its small dimensions make it easy to park and simple to control while negotiating tight city streets. The car’s accurate steering also makes it easy to take advantage of gaps in traffic, while the engine’s charismatic thrum means the noise it makes is never too annoying.

The Volkswagen seems like a car that'd be out of its depth on the motorway, but it actually isn’t. A 0-62mph time of 14.4 seconds (or 13.2 seconds for the more powerful version) is never going to feel quick, but the car can cope admirably with motorway speeds. Overtaking on A-roads could prove difficult, however.

Interior & comfort

3.6 / 5

Plenty of room for four adults thanks to a boxy yet stylish exterior

The Hyundai i10 is our car of the year, but it doesn't look or feel as classy as the Volkswagen up! inside. Plastic quality in the up! is excellent, but the dashboard also gets a swathe of body-coloured trim that gives the it some youthful appeal.

Getting a comfortable driving position in the up! is simple and all models come with a steering wheel that adjusts for height. It’s worth noting that the most basic up! does without the height-adjustable driver’s seat that's standard on all other models. On the plus side, the up!’s small dimensions make it easy to park and manoeuvre.

The up!’s engine can be quite noisy when accelerating (although it’s a pleasant sound), but that dies down once you get up to speed. Combine that with suspension that soaks up most of the bumps in the road and the up! makes for a very comfortable small car.

Practicality & boot space

3.2 / 5

The up! is very well packaged inside with plenty of space for a city car

Size isn't on the Volkswagen up!’s side when it comes to practicality, but it manages to feel more spacious than you'd think possible. Space in the front seats is excellent and, even with a tall driver, there's room for two adults in the back. The car’s width means that fitting a third person on the back seat for a short journey shouldn’t cause too much strain, either.

Lift open the boot and you’ll discover that VW has managed to make the luggage area surprisingly big, too. While 251 litres doesn't sound like much, it compares well to the Toyota Aygo (168 litres) and the larger Hyundai i10 (252 litres). There’s a boot lip to lift heavy items over, but Volkswagen has given the car a false floor, which means the boot stays flat with the rear seats down. Doing that frees up 951 litres in total.

Volkswagen has ensured there are plenty of useful storage places, with cubbyholes behind the gearstick, a decent glovebox, and large door bins.

Reliability & safety

4.2 / 5

The VW up! is well made and safety is a priority

On its first appearance, the Volkswagen up! was ranked 22nd out of 150 cars in our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. It scored well for running costs, ease of driving and reliability, but got marked down heavily for its performance, something that's to be expected with a small-engined city car. It's worth noting that the mechanically identical (and cheaper) Skoda Citigo did even better to come second in our survey.

Safety is another area where the Volkswagen up! impresses and it achieved five stars when crash-tested by Euro NCAP. It gets lots of standard safety features, including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and six airbags.

Price, value for money & options

4.2 / 5

Despite the bargain list price, the VW up! is a quality product

While the up! costs about £500 more to buy than equivalent VW Group cars from Skoda or SEAT, its superior desirability and style just about justify the extra money. But bear in mind that the entry-level Take up! misses out on some basic equipment, such as air-conditioning, so you'll probably end up paying for some optional extras. You’re better off making sure that you choose the right spec at the outset.

When you reach the High up!, Groove up! and Rock up! models, features such as removable sat nav (which fully integrates with the car's computer to display audio controls, directions and eco driving tips) are standard. However, optional extras like an automatic emergency braking system that can brake the car at speeds under 20mph to avoid a crash are also available. The five-door is more expensive than the less practical three-door, but it the five-door will probably be a little bit easier to sell when the time comes to move on. All versions of the up! should benefit from VW’s traditionally strong resale values, too.

What the others say

4.5 / 5
based on 2 reviews
5.0 / 5
The up! comes with a brand-new 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet, tuned to either 59bhp (with sub-100g/km Co2 emissions) or 74bhp as driven here. VW have decided to omit a diesel engine because of the extra cost, but a 67bhp CNG version which emits 79g/km will be launched, although it's unlikely to make it to the UK. An all-electric up! will arrive in 2013.
VW has now re-entered the city car market with one of the leading models. We reckon the Up is going to give the Koreans a tough time and if it's sensibly priced it has the talents to be the best one of all.
It's good, the Up. Good enough that the facelifted Panda will have to have raised it's game several notches to match it, good enough to give the entire city car class a real shake up.
4.0 / 5
It's German attention to detail that makes the Up a potential winner, though; the short front overhang, which maximise cabin space, and the refined three-pot mill that dispenses with a friction-inducing Lanchester balance shaft and relies on careful matching of parts and good balancing to keep it smooth. Even the five-speed gearbox is a new design, weighing just 55lb with a litre of oil inside.
Last updated 
4 Aug 2014

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