The tiny quality
Have you ever been stung by a bee, charged by a Yorkie or kept awake all night thanks to a mosquito? There are many other examples that dynamite often comes in small packages; first you laughed, then you may have regretted it. This scenario happened a few times during my test of a Volkswagen up!
Among the first utterances people made when they laid eyes on our Tornado Red up! were “Ag shampies, that’s oulik” or “Jinne Ma, it’s tiny!” Their powers of observation are certainly beyond question as a fully-grown Volkswagen up! measures only 3,54m (length) and 1,64m (width) by 1,49m (height).
While that spells excellent maneuverability around a crowded city, it’s the up!’s interior dimensions which give critical observers the first blow right between their eyes. Although the steering wheel is only height-adjustable, even tall folk will find preposterous amounts of head- and leg-room in both front seats.
Passenger space (and access) of the rear seats isn’t as impressive but for shorter journeys the up! will transport four adults without fuss. More power and doors, as available overseas, would do wonders for the minuscule car but VW is justly trying to protect the nerves and wallets of its four-door Polo Vivo clients.
The next unexpected hand across the face of cynics is the up!’s boot and cargo capacity. Open the rear glass hatch and you’re greeted by a decent aperture, two gas struts, a removable parcel tray and 251L of space. In plain English that’s about six shopping bags, four school satchels or two small suitcases.
While the skeptics were chewing on that, I always took great pleasure in continuing the up!’s cargo demonstration by flattening the rear seat backs to offer 951L of room. Still not impressed? The up! also has a fake boot floor which either builds a flat plateau with the folded seats or helps to hide valuables.
You can remove this second shelf completely or store it upwards, at which point the up! delivers its final knock-out blow. Lift the very bottom boot floor and there’ll be a full-size spare wheel with molded tool kit smiling back at you. For interior packaging and space, the VW up! writes a whole new set of rules.
Volkswagen also brings two more welcome attributes to the tiny car market: unassuming, sober design and that desirable German build quality. Bar the spare wheel surrounds and simple bonnet support strut, paint / build quality is exceptional and the interior’s various materials are joined together exquisitely.
Once I’d pointed out all these features, most detractors were converted. Those who asked nicely even got to ride along on a test drive where they discovered that the up!’s minuscule 999cc three-cylinder petrol engine stems up to 55kW (75hp) or 95Nm against an unladen weight of just 819kg to produce acceptable performance.
0-100km/h takes 13.2 seconds and top speed is 171km/h, although this car’s rev limiter in neutral and permanent traction control hindered our acceleration runs to a best time of 13.88 seconds. Other fastidious safety items include four airbags, ABS brakes, ISOFIX anchors, immobilizer and remote central locking.
Volkswagen claims average fuel consumption of 4.7L/100km from the 35L tank and average CO2 emissions of just 108g/km. Read: no CO2 tax payable. Our average for a week of mixed driving was just above 6L/100km while careful cruising will quickly yield five and less. We even saw 4.3 once.
Jinne Ma, maybe it’s not just another tiny car.
Drive goes to the front wheels via a crisp five-speed manual gearbox and beautifully weighted pedals while the thin-rimmed steering wheel gives surprisingly solid feedback. The wheel even has a flat bottom section, perhaps as a nod to its Lamborghini brethren, but unfortunately doesn’t feature satellite audio buttons.
Handling and grip levels are predictable and adequate for this class of car but it’s the up!’s outstanding ride comfort which will certainly sway potential customers. Road imperfections and speed bumps need not be feared in this car and its highway manners are akin to those of much bigger vehicles.
Side winds and high-speed bursts of acceleration unmask its city car credentials although surprisingly, a trodden-on accelerator does call on a few power reserves; even in top gear. Switch off the A/C or select a lower ratio for more response and that trademark gruff three-cylinder thrum.
Prices start at N$133,500 for a Take up! (no radio, seat height adjustment or power windows and mirrors) while this Move up! costs N$140,500. All cars feature a 3-year/120,000km manufacturer’s warranty, 15,000km service intervals and optional maintenance plans starting at N$5,643.
Our press vehicle had most available optional extras like a panoramic sunroof (N$8,000), winter package (front heated seats and fog lights for N$3,200), sound “plus” package (N$800), Waffle 15-inch alloys (N$3,000) and driver package (cruise control, rear park sensors and a brilliant multi-mode trip computer for N$3,500).
I highly recommend the last three or four options, if just for their agreeable prices, and keep in mind that although you can add powered glass, a sound system and various VW accessories to the cheaper (“Take”) up!, you won’t be able to specify some of the above-mentioned, rather tasty extras from the factory.
Now; before you accuse me of being a shameless up! lover, I did pick a good fight with the aftermarket “Touch Phone kit Music 2” Bluetooth apparatus on our test car. Phoning is ok-ish – no better than other BT systems – but streamed music quality is worse than that of a wind-up plastic radio.
I guess the new Volkswagen up! just couldn’t be completely perfect; but that makes it more endearing to me and certainly any haters out there. What nobody can deny is that this is an amazing combination of packaging, quality and price. Jinne Ma, maybe it’s not just another tiny car.
0-10km/h: 0.57 seconds
0-20km/h: 1.50 seconds
0-30km/h: 2.39 seconds
0-40km/h: 3.33 seconds
0-50km/h: 4.69 seconds
0-60km/h: 6.10 seconds
0-70km/h: 7.58 seconds
0-80km/h: 9.10 seconds
0-90km/h: 11.33 seconds
0-100km/h: 13.88 seconds
0-110km/h: 16.65 seconds
0-120km/h: 19.66 seconds
0-130km/h: 24.84 seconds
0-100m: 8.36 seconds @ 74.70km/h
0-200m: 12.60 seconds @ 93.94km/h
0-300m: 16.18 seconds @ 106.90km/h
0-400m: 19.38 seconds @ 117.62km/h
Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.53G
All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box