A proper Volkswagen - just a smaller one. The up! has enabled the German brand to regain the initiative in the important citycar sector and this improved version sets a high standard for contenders in this class, adding in turbo 1.0-litre power at the top of the range. Frugal, fun, clever and competitively priced, the up! is a key model to consider, not only for those in the market's smallest segment but also for people buying a compact car of any kind.
Under the bonnet, the main news for up! buyers is the addition of an extra three cylinder petrol engine to the range, a pokier 1.0-litre TSI turbo unit with 90PS on tap. This sells alongside the existing normally aspirated 1.0-litre powerplants most customers will continue to want, these generating either 60 or 75PS. The 1.0 TSI unit in its ultimate 115PS form powers the fun GTI hot hatch version.
Not too much has changed with the looks of this car. There are re-styled bumpers, a sleeker rear diffuser, door mirrors with integrated indicator lights, revised headlights with LED daytime running lights and smarter rear lights. Otherwise, it's as you were, so a length of around 3.5-metres, yet a wheelbase that takes up nearly 2.5-metres of that. Which is why, though an up! is no longer than a Fiat 500, it offers far more room inside, space in fact for the four fully-sized adults who could never comfortably fit in the apparently space-efficient Italian car.
How has this been done? By shortening the front and rear overhangs as much as the designers dared, something only possible at the front by mounting the radiator alongside rather than in front of the very compact engine. The result is a tardis-like interior just as big as that of Volkswagen's far pricier Polo supermini. Take luggage space as an example; as long as you can lump your stuff over the rather high sill, you'll find 251-litres of space or 951-litres with the seats folded.
The changes made to this revised model inside are even more subtle than those made to the exterior. There's classier background lighting, while plusher models get a redesigned 'Climatronic with Pure Air' air conditioning system and the option of a 'beats with a 300W' sound set-up. Otherwise, it's all very recognisable from before, the cool dished three-spoke steering wheel fashioned from light magnesium and framing an instrument cluster of refreshing simplicity. A pity though that it's still only adjustable for height, not for reach. The interior design with its large speedometer is clean and easy to get to grips with, featuring high gloss back trim and a compact centre pod for many of the minor controls. True, there's no shortage of hard plastics, but this doesn't feel like a car that's been ruthlessly built down to a price. It just feels agreeably minimalist.
Any citycar stands or falls on its ongoing costs and here, the up! Looks to have all its bases covered. Thanks in part to a low kerb weight of well under a tonne, even the 75PS 1.0-litre models will return a combined fuel economy figure of 60.1mpg with emissions pegged at 108g/km. Opt, as most people will, for the 60PS engine and the figures are better again, at 62.8mpg and 105g/km. Those looking for better economy still will be drawn inexorably to the BlueMotion Technology model which features low rolling resistance tyres, a battery regeneration system and a stop start system that cuts the engine when you don't need it in traffic or at the lights. As a result, it can return an impressive 68.9mpg on the combined cycle and emit just 96g/km of carbon dioxide. With a 35-litre fuel tank, this means that this variant has a theoretical driving range of as much as 530 miles. With this kind of showing, it's obvious why diesel versions of this car aren't offered. Even the 1.0 TSI will give you a tax-friendly 102g/km CO2 reading.
If you really want to minimise your running costs, then you'll want to look at the e-up! Full electric version. A standard full charge will give you 93 miles of range and takes less than nine hours from a standard 230-Volt, 2.3 kW household socket. On top of this, all e-up!s have a DC fast-charging circuit as standard. Using the Combined Charging System (CCS), this enables a flat battery to be charged to 80 per cent in 30 minutes, at levels of up to 40 kW using a DC supply.
Overall, the up! Remains the very essence of a small, affordable Volkswagen, a high quality class-less car very much in the mould of the original Beetle. One of the lightest small runabouts you can buy, it still manages to feel solid, a triumph of packaging and design that's streets ahead of any citycar the brand has yet brought us.Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen up! range