I've said it many times - I love driving these little A-segment (or is that A00?) cars. They're getting better and better and the segment is so hotly contested that the specs and features are making them great value for money for the budget conscious out there. Volkswagen's foray into this segment includes the newly released Up! that will make die-hard fans of the brand happy with many opting to make it a first car for their youngsters when it comes time to get themselves to school, college or university on their own. Also, the Up! could potentially be a first car acting as an introduction to the brand and spawning a lifelong dedication moving up through the brand's other segment offerings.
The Up! is a small car, the smallest we've seen from Volkswagen in SA, it even makes the old Golf 1 look chunky in comparison. While it's new to SA, the Volkswagen Up! has actually been in production since 2011. As usual we ended up being the last on the list to get these cars in, but at least it's here now, unlike the VW Lupo that I still maintain would have been a really good seller in SA. Now the average Joe out there may have never heard of a Lupo, but coming from the enthusiast side of things and having always been a Volkswagen fan, myself and many I know made sure to be informed about everything VW happening in Europe. Hordes of Golf 1 fanatics were hoping the Lupo would come here as a replacement, but as you know, the Polo took up that spot for VW.
I've seen lots of online talk about the Up! being a replacement to the Lupo and I guess that makes sense, even though the Lupo went out of production in 2006, to enthusiasts that 5-year gap never happened. It's not hard to see why, both cars are are small 3-door hatchbacks with small capacity motors. The dimensions are very close: the Lupo measures 3527mm in length and the Up! measures in at 3540mm; the Lupo is 2mm narrower at 1639mm and is 30mm lower at 1459mm. Yes, I know this is all about the Up! but I managed to source a local Lupo top show you as a comparison, because that's just how I roll. John Coetzer is the lucky owner of a legally imported and SA-registered 1.4TDi Lupo, and yeah, I'm more than slightly jealous. Being a true VW nut his Lupo has recently seen fitment of coilovers and has been lowered to a much better ride height, so the height measurements mentioned above won't look quite right. I'd love to see the Up! on coilovers too, and the way the aftermarket guys work, especially the VW fans, I'm sure I'll see a slammed one very soon.
Of course, the size is where the similarities come to an end. The Up! is full of new tech and features, especially under the hood. John's Lupo has the 1.4 TDi powering it, a 3-cylinder turbo assisted setup that makes 55kW and has a typically high diesel turbo torque figure of 195Nm. It can get the Lupo to 170km/h on top end was claimed to use just 5.6 litres of the devil's concoction per 100km. The Up! shows the progression of technology with it's normally aspirated, petrol driven 3-cylinder that's down in size by a full 400cc yet is capable of making the same 55kW of power (with 95Nm) which is enough to get it to a higher top end than the Lupo, even if it is just by just 1km/h. It's also more frugal, claimed to use just 4.7l/100km - which I'll get into later.
We're here for the new Up! though, so let's get on with it shall we? Right, as I said, it's Volkswagen's latest A-segment competitor and after a week behind the wheel, I can tell you that it really is a good little car. Of course, you need to look at it for what it is, an entry level car for the budget conscious. That doesn't mean there are no frills, on the contrary, it's got a decent spec list. There are two models on offer, the Take Up! and the Move Up!, the latter being what I had on test. Firstly, it looks great, I know taste and style is subjective but I do think this could be the best looking car it's it's class now, and I don't think that's the VW enthusiast in me talking. Ok, well it might be. It's got and a young and funky vibe going on while being modern and stylish and it manages to use it's dimensions well, everything is in proportion.
I really like the Up! in Tornado Red, the black accents are a great contrast to it. That "smile" grille looks cool and the black section under the heated, electric wing mirrors is a nice break in the colour. This one also has the panoramic sunroof which is black tinted glass that also breaks up the red just right. The same goes for the hatch lid, it's got a metal frame underneath but from the outside looks looks to be made up purely of glass, tinted black. It runs on a nice set of optional 15-inch Waffle wheels that I'm positive will be seen on many other small VWs very soon. If they had an anthracite finish they'd be even better - that's all that I'd change if it were my daily runaround.
The Volkswagen Up! has the longest wheelbase in it's class and this helps make the interior bigger than you'd expect, so even though it's a small car, four adults will fit comfortably. Those up front will be the most comfortable of course. The seats are in that old Porsche 'tombstone' style that a few cars in this segment have and they do their job right, they don't look bad at all. I actually like the no headrest look. In this car the Winter Pack was installed, which means they're heated and that just made my week with the Up! that much better - this Cape cold front can leave now. The dash and door cards are mainly white which I thought was odd at first, but it did grow on me quickly. I'd keep small kids away from it though, but then again they should be easy to clean thanks to the plastic material used.
The heated seats I mentioned are part of the optional Winter Package that also includes heated and electronically adjustable side mirrors and fog lights. Another added option for the cabin is the Driver Package and this includes cruise control, rear park distance control and the multi-function display. I liked flipping through the different readings on the display but mainly left it on the fuel consumption setting because it kept on surprising me. The last option added to this car was the Sound Plus Package, a 6-speaker system with 4 in front and 2 in the rear. It plays well and streaming my own music through the Bluetooth system (yeah, it has that too) from my smartphone meant the volume level was usually set quite. The Bluetooth/handsfree system looks like an aftermarket kit, the screen is mounted on the dash to the right of the driver and the microphone is by the interior light. It works well and when you park the car up (see what I did there) for the night the screen clips off and can be stored in the cubby hole or indoors. The steering wheel looks like a stripped down version of one from a VW higher up in the rungs. It has the space for steering controls on either side and a space for a badge on the lower section one of the middle spoke. Still, it does it's job.
The motor in the Up! is a fuel efficient little thing but it has more than enough go to get you around town in a hurry. On the highways I found myself either in the fast lane or the one next to it, just cruising along. Some of the bigger hills required a change back to 4th, but overall I was the one doing the overtaking. The ratios of the 5-speed 'box are good, it never feels like the car is screaming or close to hitting redline to overtake. That said, you can push it hard and have some fun swapping cogs. A stretch to Pretoria and back saw the thing barely using any fuel, it recorded a low 4.4l/100km for that trip. That was on a Saturday morning and traffic was at a minimum. Then I took it to Boksburg on a Tuesday at lunchtime where traffic was at it's usual Jo'burg best. The little thing was showing a figure of 4.1l/100km, and when I got back to Randburg it changed to just 4.3. That's better than the claimed figures, and at altitude too.
One thing I've heard people comment on is the safety of a car this size. The Volkswagen Up! is as safe as they come. The body structure consists of 8.1% ‘hot-formed’ steel content, which means those parts exhibit extreme toughness, this includes the floor and B-pillars. There are driver and passenger airbags as well as front side head/thorax airbags in case things go south. It's almost over braked, the Up! is fitted with 14-inch discs and has ABS anti-lock brakes with Hydraulic Brake Assist. It stops on a dime as they say. There is a warning buzzer and light in the speedo to remind you to buckle up and there's also ISOFIX fixtures and top-tether fittings for mounting suitable child seats in the rear.
All in all the Volkswagen Up! is a really good little car and even though you're going to shell out a little more for it, especially if you start adding on options like the test car has, it's still going to be a good seller. It is after all a Volkswagen and that alone is an advantage that it has over it's competitors, the trust South Africans have in the brand is never ending. It runs great, has enough features to keep you happy, is safe and as said, fuel efficient. There are a few choices on the market for buyers in this segment and I like them all except that one with the dodgy safety reputation. A few of them can definitely give the Up! a run for it's (your) money but as said, it's a Volkswagen and that alone will mean the brand-loyal will happily fork out a little extra.
1.0 MPI Take up! (55kW) R135 900*
1.0 MPI Move up! (55kW) R143 000**
The Volkswagen Up! comes standard with a 3-year/ 120 000km manufacturer warranty, a 12 year anti-corrosion warranty and 15 000km service intervals. For more info head on over to www.vw.co.za
*Retail Prices (VAT and emissions tax included)
**Price as tested - R161500
Panoramic Sunroof - R8000
Sound Plus Package - R800
Waffle 15-inch wheels - R3000
Driver Package - Cruise control, rear PDC & multi-function display - R3500
Winter Package - Heated front seats, electronically adjustable mirrors & front fog lights - R3200