Motoring | Test Drives

Volkswagen on the Up!

The VW Up! is a superb bangs-per-buck car. But what happens when you throw a not-strictly-necessary personalisation option into the mix? Matt Joy finds out

  • By Matt Joy, wheels
  • Published: 10:12 August 23, 2012
  • Wheels

The Volkswagen Up!
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • The Volkswagen Up!
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It would be quite easy to imagine that the life of a motoring journalist revolves around laughably powerful supercars with 20 cylinders that run on Bambi tears — conspicuous consumption in other words. And while there may be a grain of truth in that, (apart from the Bambi tears) what excites more than a 300kph manhood compensator, is a genuine, real-world car that moves the game forward. Largely because it’s the kind of car that most of us could potentially afford.

That’s where the Up! comes in. It slots under the mental barrier of 3.5 metres in length, and yet it doesn’t look at all flimsy or delicate — the Up! is a small car with a genuine toughness about it.

The Up! Black is one in a series of models, that brings its own style to the range — personalisation helps with that all-important charm factor. So it has black body-coloured bumpers, black detailing on the wheel covers... you can see where the theme is going.
The Up! Black is one of the highest spec models available, so you can expect to get 16in alloy wheels, pearl effect paint, air con and the clever touchscreen nav. The rear window is a single black pane, so it blends into the black bodywork to create an extremely slick and smart look indeed.

The result is a car that starts to win you over from the first time you clap eyes on it; a small car with a personality, and not one that has been manufactured by slapping a load of coloured plastic on it.

The charm offensive continues on the inside. Don’t expect any compromises here. All the controls are grouped into the centre of the dash, but the quality is there: the Up! Black has a gloss black finish across the width of the car, the buttons are illuminated and feel good to touch.

Perhaps more crucially, the Up! is also very space efficient. From the front seats you won’t have any doubt that you are at least sat in a normally-sized supermini. All this would be effectively pointless if the Up! didn’t function on the road, but there is no problem in that department.

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There is a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit up front, and while it is small in capacity, it is big on heart and character. It has a delightful thrum and a keenness to rev that suits the Up!’s youthful appeal. The gearbox is super-slick and easy to use, and all the pedals have that oiled efficiency you expect from a Volkswagen.

And it drives like a bigger car too. The steering, although electrically assisted, isn’t overly light and responds with accuracy. The ride is surprisingly grown up, and it knows how to have fun too, tracking through bends with great poise and confidence. Living with a small car has never been so easy.

Specs and ratings

Model: Up! Black

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder

Transmission: Five-speed manual, FWD

Max power: 74bhp @ 6,200rpm

Max torque: 95Nm @ 3,000rpm

Top speed: 170kph

0-100kph: 13.2sec

Price: NA

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