Thumbs up! for mini Volkswagen

by Michael Moroney

Volkswagen refreshed the up! mini car during the middle of 2016 by boosting its engine power options and adding more styling features. For the up! its unusual name becomes the first talking point about the car. As soon as you get comfortable with its identity its performance will already have impressed you.

I took the four-door up! on tour recently and brought it on some drives that the car was probably not really designed for. This is a city type car that’s compact and nippy and designed for city driving flexibility and agility to be parked in tight spaces.

The overall length of the up! at 3.6 metres confirms that is compact and with minimal overhangs. This means that the wheels are placed almost at each corner, so it’s easy to see where you’re driving, especially in tight spaces. The overall shape indicates height as much as length and the rear passengers get a reasonable deal, as long as it’s not a long journey drive.

The car left me with a lasting impression in terms of its driveability. Importantly, this new up! has been given an engine transplant or perhaps a boosted pacemaker as Volkswagen has upped (excuse the pun) its performance by adding a turbo-charger to the neat three cylinder petrol engine.

The upgraded engine with Volkswagen’s TSI format means that the new up! is a lively car to drive. The High version that I drove was fitted with 17in alloy wheels and that combination with Goodyear 195/40 R17 tyres gave the car great performance and stability over a 1013km weekly test run.

The petrol engine comes with a relatively efficient fuel rating. The official figures are rated at 21m/litre (4.7/100km or 60mpg) and my driving performance came in about 25% below that rating. That meant that while Volkswagen data claims that the car can cover up to 800km on a full 35 litre fuel tank, my driving experience was closer to 700km, which is reasonable given the extent of my varied test drive.

There are some minor re-style features to the new generation up! that the existing owners will spot instantly. The new up! comes with new bumpers, a new rear diffuser, door mirrors with integrated indicator lights, new headlights with LED daytime running lights, as well as new rear lights.

More importantly the new up! comes with a host of styling and colour choice options so that you can totally personalise the car to your taste. The range is vast, 13 body colours, nine exterior decals, 10 new dash pad designs, three roof colours, three design packs, two colour packs and two basic colours for the interior trim, coloured alloy wheels and individualised-colour ambient light available for the top-of-the-range models.

I liked the neat smart phone holder on the dash to make simple the Volkswagen integration system. You just connect the smart phone above the dash pad, pair easily via Bluetooth and it becomes an infotainment system with navigation system and on-board computer functions, by using the downloaded Volkswagen app.

The up! comes with an impressive Euro NCAP five-star safety rating putting it in top of the class position in the small city car segment. There are four airbags included along with Volkswagen’s city emergency braking system.

The boot is reasonable in capacity at 251 litres and can be split using a simple shelf system. I liked the fact that Volkswagen fits a steel spare wheel in the boot and given that it’s a small city car, and I found it interesting that some of the larger cars that are expected to be used for longer drive, don’t get that option.

Volkswagen claims that this new 90bhp engine has a performance that is on a par with that of the first Golf GTI, but with a more impressive fuel consumption figure. That was certainly how the car felt under my control and that road holding was solid throughout.

I took the up! for a mix of runs, some lengthy across the country and always felt that it was up to the task. While motorway speeds pushed the rev counter into the less efficient zone, the overall driving impression was that of a solid small car that I would have no hesitation in recommending for cost-effective commuting.

With a list price range from €12,650 for the base model to €17,840 for the High up! that I drove there are three engine power options from the same three-cylinder petrol engine. My ownership cost calculations give me a running cost figure of close to €0.29 per kilometre, given a reasonable depreciation rate of almost 30% based on current used car values. That’s reasonably cost-effective motoring with good performance.

For shorter commutes the new generation electric cars are now proving a real challenge; these are the new competition for city cars such as the up!. Volkswagen has responded to that challenge and now offers a new e-up! with full electric but it’s not year shown on the Irish price lists. It’s the one to watch for the future for city drivers for those with a longer drive the 90bhp performance of the High up! gives a solid driving experience.

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