Driving up! to the country
VW up! as tested
Move up! BlueMotion Technology 1.0-litre 60PS 5spd manual
Price £9,440 on the road
Engine 1.0-litre (999cc) 3-cylinder
Power output 60PS @ 5000-6000rpm
Max torque 70lb ft (95 NM) @ 3000-4300rpm
Top speed 100mph
CO2 Emissions 96g/km
Insurance group 1E
Warranty 3 years/60,000 miles; 3 years paint; 12 years body protection
Breakdown assistance 1 year Volkswagen Assistance (UK & Europe)
Please forgive the punctuation in the following story. The VW up! Has joined the recent trend for uncapitalised letters and random punctuation that drives both me and my computer spelling and grammar check crazy. Every time I write up! It capitalizes the next word. Like that.
I’ve read a lot of things about the VW up! being good at things a city car shouldn’t be, so I decided to take it right out of its comfort zone - to the country.
Richard and I were heading for Cardigan Bay to sit and stare at the sea. It was a three-ish hour journey, taking in chunks of unlovely motorway and some truly twisty lanes. So I booked an up! from the VW press office.
It arrived, and looked very cute sitting outside. The paint was black, but it was a mid-range Move up!, not a special edition Black up! I’m quite glad about that. (Which marketing genius thought that was a good idea?)
Its on the road price was quoted as £9,440, including all that stuff dealers shove on when you buy a new car (delivery, number plates, VAT and £55 registration fee). Because it’s so green, emitting just 96g/km of carbon dioxide, it pays no road tax (vehicle excise duty) at all.
That price would buy a Ford Ka, Peugeot 107, Citroen C1, Hyundai i10, or Kia Picanto, but the up! has a magic VW badge on the nose. The brand’s reputation of reliability and the raft of prizes this baby has collected in its short life mean it will hold on to more of that value over the years than just about any competitor.
Under the test car’s very short bonnet was a BlueMotion Technology 1.0-litre 60PS petrol engine. I hoped that meant we wouldn’t visit a petrol station at all, but I considered stashing some ear plugs in the glovebox for the M4.
As I eased myself behind the wheel, I was struck by the length of the door – and only a swift lunge and grab stopped my neighbour’s car being struck by it too. It makes it very easy to get in and out, but I had to be careful in car parks and services to make sure it didn’t whap the car parked next to it.
Before setting out, I was able to load our week’s shopping easily into the 251-litre load compartment. The luggage for our trip would have fitted in there, too. But we were self-catering in a vintage railway carriage some distance from the nearest mega-low-mart. So we had to flip down the backs of the rear seats to accommodate two large boxes of provisions. (This increases the capacity to 951 litres).
Unfortunately stopping off for a wander was now out of the question for paranoid travellers like us, because we’d be constantly fretting about leaving all our stuff on show in the car.
Our first challenge, as always, was to program the sat-nav. Husband came out with some carefully chosen words about technology that’s not as easy to use as his beloved iPhone. We sussed it, but a few more words were chosen when we tried to plug in new destinations over the next few days.
Our instructions were delivered in a polite gentleman’s voice straight out of a 1950s’ information film. I expecting him to add; “If the alarm sounds, take shelter under the kitchen table”. Occasionally his colleague, who seemed to be a sports commentator on his day off, cut in to give us a distance.
The main man always said please, which makes a difference these days.
On the motorway
The up!’s first challenge was the M4. Reviewers generally reckon it’s much better than it should be on the motorway, and we thought so, too. It’s louder than our 120,000-mile Mazda6, but not much. We could hear the stereo and I didn’t need to break out the earplugs.
With the seats down, we could hear more noise from the rear wheels, though, including a hiss from the tyres swishing over the rain-covered surface.
Towards the end, I did wish the seat had more lumber support, and I had to have the steering wheel higher than I like in order to see the speedo. (What's the point of the flat bottom? It works on racing cars because you never have to turn the wheel upside down. You do in an up!.) Nonetheless, we bowled along at a good speed for a couple of hours, though, in much more comfort than I’d expected in such a tiddler.
On the back roads
Next came a series of twisting up and down hill A- and B-roads. When I could see a distance ahead, the up! was great fun, especially if I took it by the scruff of the neck, used the gears and revved it hard. The sporty growl emitted by its tiny engine is fun.
The knack was keeping up the momentum, like riding a bike, but on these roads it was a challenge. Driving with caution around blind bends, or dithering about which way to go as the road dipped, resulted in a serious lack of forward motion until I slipped it down into second, and sometimes first.
During our day trips later in the week, I was glad of the compact dimensions. We got stuck behind a Jag, lumbering around the tiny one-lane roads, and having to get into a hedge to pass a van coming the other way. The up! Could grab tiny parking spaces, too, its excellent visibility made it easy to place in the spot.
We did achieve our target of avoiding a single petrol station, but the light had been on a while by the time we go home. VW quotes 56.5mpg urban, 78.5mpg extra-urban (meaning outside the urban area, not even more urban) and 68.9mpg combined. We hadn’t expected to come close to the combined, and we didn’t. The trip computer had recorded 52mpg over 458 miles, worse even than the official city figure. All that thrashing up hills had, no doubt, knocked it down.
Plus, one of the BlueMotion system’s tricks is to switch off the engine at traffic lights or in a jam, waking it up! (sorry, my slip) almost instantly, with just a slight shudder of complaint. This saves a lot of fuel in the city environment, but in the rolling Welsh countryside, we barely used it.
We enjoyed driving the up! and for life at home in Wiltshire, it would be good-value transport. More than that, I think I would grow fond of it. I’d prefer the peppier 75PS version if I could afford it, though. I’d have a serious look at its cousins, the Seat Mii from £7,845 and the Skoda Citygo from £7,630, too.
Overall this mini VW takes city cars a step forward – sorry, up!.
A colony of 250 dolphins live around Cardigan Bay. We went on the Dolphin Survey boat trip from New Quay, fees go to further conservation work. We saw dolphins, seals and some amazing sea birds. See www.cbmwc.org