Volkswagen up! hatchback - Engines, drive & performance
For such a small car, the Volkswagen up! is surprisingly good fun to drive
Few cars are as well suited to urban life as the Volkswagen up! – its small dimensions make it easy to park and simple to control while negotiating narrow city streets. The car’s accurate steering and tight turning circle also means you can easily take advantage of gaps in traffic.
The engine’s charismatic thrum means the noise it makes is never too annoying – it’s quite noisy when accelerating, 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.
Volkswagen up! petrol engines
Most city cars are offered exclusively with small petrol engines, because diesels aren’t really suited to the kind of short start-stop journeys cars like the up! are expected to regularly make. In 2020 Volkswagen cut down the engine choices, so now only the 59bhp petrol engine is offered in the main up! range.
Previously you could get 74 and 89bhp versions, and the latter turned the up! into a pretty sprightly machine, dropping the 0-62mph time to 9.9 seconds.
The 59bhp engine is markedly slower when pulling away from a standing start: 0-62mph takes 14.9 seconds. Because of its lack of get-up-and-go, we suggest the 59bhp car only be chosen if you rarely venture outside city limits. Carrying passengers has a marked effect on the way non-turbocharged up! models feel, too.
The five-speed manual gearbox in the up! is smooth and has a pleasant action, matching well with the most powerful engine. The fact that the up! is such a small package and has its wheels at each corner means it’s very easy to manoeuvre in traffic and you can be quite accurate when turning into corners on a twisty road. VW no longer offers an automatic gearbox, but gearchanges were far from smooth when they did, so it’s no great loss unless you really need one.