Economical and fun to drive
The Volkswagen up! is one of the best city cars that you can currently buy, and the latest version ensures that it remains relevant in what has become an incredibly competitive market segment. A subtle facelift differentiates the new car from its predecessor, and a brilliant new 1.0-litre turbocharged engine is now available, too.
A revised front bumper, slightly different taillights and new alloys mark out the new up!, and help lend the tiny car a more grown up appearance than a good deal of its rivals. That's not to say the little up! is a boring car to look at, however, as it still retains that rather charming character that it has become known for.
Inside, buyers will be treated to a cabin that has been put together in accordance with Volkswagen's famous high standards. Everything feels well laid out, and although there are a few cheaper-looking materials adorning the lower reaches of the cabin, it feels solid and more than capable of standing up to the test of time.
Powering the up! is a range of economical petrol engines, all of which are supposedly capable of returning more than 60mpg on the combined cycle. This will certainly go a long way when it comes to keeping running costs down. CO2 emissions are also fairly low, with none of the engines emitting more than 109g/km.
Behind the wheel, the up! is a fun little go-kart. It is by no means quick, but thanks to its small size and lightweight frame, it eagerly darts into corners. The chassis comes with a fairly stiff set up, making for great body control through the bends. While this might often lead to compromised ride comfort, the up! copes well with uneven surfaces.
Thanks to a number of small changes, Volkswagen has ensured that the up! will remain one of the best city cars money can buy. The only reason why you might opt to not purchase one of these new is if you go for the slightly cheaper, yet just as capable Seat Mii or Skoda Citigo, which share almost everything with the up!.
Thanks to a range of small, economical engines, the up! will hardly be expensive to keep topped up with fuel. The star of the range in terms of efficiency is the 1.0-litre BlueMotion Petrol with 74bhp, which manages a combined fuel consumption figure of 67.3mpg. All up!s produce less than 110g/km of CO2 as well, meaning that vehicle excise duty won't be too expensive either. A new up! in the most basic Take specification will cost from GBP8,995.
Considering the car's small proportions, the cabin feels like a rather spacious place to sit. There is plenty of headroom up front and in the back, and rear legroom isn't horrible. That said, adult passengers will likely find that sitting in the back seats on longer journeys quickly becomes uncomfortable. The Up comes with a 251-litre boot, which is more than enough room for a couple of bags of shopping. Fold the rear seats down and this is increased to 959 litres.
As you would expect from a Volkswagen, all of the important buttons and switchgear are laid out in a sensible and easy-to-use fashion. All of the controls are within short reach of the driver, and the five-inch colour screen infotainment system display is clear and easy to read.
The up! is a comfortable car to drive, even on those slightly longer journeys. While it is designed to be a zippy urban commuter, it still manages to cope fairly well on the motorway as well. The driving position is excellent, and the seats provide a good amount of support. At motorway cruising speeds, the engine does make a fair amount of noise, but this is far from exhausting.
While the Volkswagen up can hardly be described as a fortress, there are more than enough security features to keep thieves out. This includes remote central locking, and an electronic engine immobilser. As the up! doesn't carry the same amount of desirability as say, a Range Rover, it shouldn't prove to be too much of a target for car thieves.
The Volkswagen up! was last crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2011. At the time it achieved the full five-star safety rating, with respective scores of 89 per cent and 80 per cent for adult occupant protection and child occupant protection. It is likely that the new up! will only improve on these scores. Standard safety features include Isofix child seat mounts, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and tyre pressure loss indicators to name but a few.
While the up! is rather sluggish when you put your foot down – it only has a tiny, 1.0-litre engine after all – it is by no means a boring car to drive. It darts into corners eagerly, and the front end provides a good amount of grip through the bends. The steering has a good weight to it, as do the pedals. The gear change is also pleasing, and while the chassis is fairly taught in its set up, the up! rides well over bumps and uneven surfaces.
As a car to sit alongside a larger primary family vehicle, the up! makes a lot of sense. It would be ideal for carting children to and from school, and for those shorter urban drives. However, as a car to take the family on holiday in, you will quickly find that space is rather limited – hence the need for another, bigger car in the garage. Past this though, the up! would make a welcome addition to any family car pool.
The Volkswagen up! would make for an ideal first car. It is small, easy to drive and park, economical, has a desirable badge and is relatively affordable. In short, it ticks all the right boxes. That said, though, rivals such as the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo – which share the same platform as the up! – are cheaper yet, and would also be worth looking at as options.
As you would expect from a Volkswagen, build quality on the little up! is excellent. Despite its small size, it feels like a sturdy car, and the cabin is incredibly well put together. Sure, there are a couple of cheap-looking materials dotted around the cabin, but overall it is a nice place to sit. Thanks to that Volkswagen badge, it is also one of the more premium city cars available on the market. If you need a small city runabout, the up! is a properly desirable little car.
Opt for the five-door variant of the up!, and getting in and out will never be too much of a problem. Older passengers may find it a bit more difficult to embark the three-door car, but thanks to a decent amount of adjustability from the front seats the process of getting in the car is made that much easier.
Unlike a lot of cars these days, the up! does not feature a fancy touchscreen infotainment system, but a more traditional, button-operated one. This still incorporates features such as Bluetooth and DAB radio. There is also a smartphone holder with USB charging ports mounted on top of the dash, which comes as standard on up!s in High trim, and is a GBP210 option on the more basic cars. The stereo is by no means the most powerful on the market, but still offers excellent sound quality.
As is often the trend with small city cars, the new Volkswagen up! is offered with a vast array of different colours, so that buyers can better stamp their own personality onto the dinky little runabout. Of course, you can still specify the more sober shades of silver, white, grey and black, but for those looking for something that's a bit more out there, there are also colours such as bright orange and gold. There are four trims: Take, Move, Beats, and High.
The up! does not come with parking sensors or a review camera as standard, but thanks to its small size and decent amount of visibility out of the cabin, parking remains incredibly easy. If you would like to have the added peace of mind that these features can offer, they can be specified as options. A rear view camera will cost you GBP160, while the cruise and park pack – which features parking sensors – costs GBP295. You will likely find them unnecessary, however.
Space-saver wheel supplied as standard.
Petrol engine options – 1.0-litre TSI (59bhp, 74bhp, 89bhp); 1.0-litre BlueMotion (59bhp, 74bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox depending on model, plus five-speed automatic gearbox depending on model. Trim levels: Take, Move, High, Beats.