Up2What is it?
The cheapest Volkswagen of all.

What’s in it?
A 55-kilowatt one-litre three cylinder with a five-speed manual.

Is it thirsty?
I used 5.7 litres per 100 km in the city, 4.3 in the country. The official combined figure is 4.9.

Drive away

Thumbs up
Fuel economy, fun to drive and it’s a Volkswagen.

Thumbs down
Basic interior, no centre air vents and it’s spartan for the price.

Der neue Volkswagen up! (Vier-Tuerer)The Up is a surprising car. The best surprise is the economy, it’s brilliant. But the biggest surprise is that the Up doesn’t know it’s such a small car.

Cars of this size can get a little wayward at freeway speeds, and quite noisy. Generally they’re not nice once out of the city. But at 100 kmh the Up is solid and no noisier than plenty of big cars. At 120 however noise rises. You don’t want to go any faster.

It rides surprisingly well for something of this size but chuck it into a challenging corner and you quickly find its limits. It’s not as solid as VW’s Golf or even the Polo, and it’s easy to get understeer, where the front wheels skate ahead, something to think about if the road’s wet.

The little three-cylinder is a valiant trier and ever enthusiastic, but its promises are beyond its abilities. You think you’re going hard until you realise all the other cars are still with you. And on the highway you need to be in the right gear to overtake, and have a generous length of clear road. Decent hills require a down-shift.

Not surprisingly there’s no auto transmission available. Anyway the Up is from Europe where 80 per cent of buyers choose manual.

But it’s this very lack of power that makes the car such fun. You can wring its neck and not break any laws. Note however the motor’s severe lack of torque which leaves you high and dry when you need solid go and the revs aren’t right.

It will appeal to people who enjoy driving. For everyone else it doesn’t make a lot of sense; it’s expensive and basic both in equipment and finish. There’s a lot of bare metal in the cabin and few little niceties. By far the most annoying thing to me was the lack of centre console ventilation outlets.

The seats are thin but not bad, the rear is for kids. The boot is very narrow but quite deep – maybe one mid-size suitcase inserted vertically. But there’s a full-size spare under the floor.

I enjoyed my time in the car immensely, but then I enjoy driving. If you buy a car to get from A to B and nothing more, there are better deals to be found among Mazdas, Hyundais and Mitsubishis.

Published April 2013