Turbo charged boost ups Volkswagen city car's fun factor
The old adage that all the best things come in little packages sums up the new turbo Volkswagen up! Motoring editor Andy Russell finds it huge fun.
People regularly ask what cars I most enjoy driving, expecting some exotic supercar – highly impractical, unaffordable and fantasy not reality.
With so much to choose from, cars slip from your mind, so let me put it on record that the facelifted Volkswagen up! city car is huge fun. Always good to drive, it’s been crying out for more power and it’s got it now with a turbo version of the 1.0-litre petrol engine.
Looks and image
A mid-life makeover sees a subtle restyle with new bumpers, grille, lights, door mirrors, more dramatic rear diffuser and LED running lights added.
The dashboard has been revised and it gets more equipment, new seat trims, upgraded media system and a new USB port for added connectivity and convenience.
There are also more paint colours, the option of a contrasting black, white or grey roof and door mirrors and darker back windows while colour packs enhance alloy wheels, mirrors and styling decals.
Under the bonnet
The new 90PS engine, which joins the non-turbo, three-cylinder 60 and 75PS units, in a car that weighs a tonne gives performance on a par with the original Golf GTI hot-hatch pioneer 40 years ago with a more powerful 115PS GTI up! to come.
A useful 160Nm of torque from 1,500 to 3,500rpm gives brisk pick-up, especially when you make use of the snappy, five-speed manual gearbox. You can hit 70mph in third without thrashing it, and the little triple sounds throaty, but it’s equally happy trickling along at low revs.
Even with spirited driving, it returned 45 to 50mpg.
How it drives
With a compact footprint and wheels pushed out to the corners, the up! is enormous fun to drive.
Its squat styling adds to the feeling of how well planted it is on the road, flicking through corners with superb stability and steering feel – I would have like a smaller, sportier steering wheel – yet it has the absorbent ride quality of a bigger car even with optional, bigger 16in alloys. It’s also eerily quiet for a small car.
Space and comfort
Given its dinky dimensions, the cabin is remarkably roomy – six-footers were amazed to find enough head and legroom in the back of this four-seater for a decent journey, although the three-door’s small, tapering side windows make it feel smaller.
If you regularly carry passengers in the back, pay £400 more for the five-door model because getting in and out of the back of the three-door is tricky.
The 251-litre boot doesn’t go back a long way but it’s deep and you can pack small items beneath the sill-level removable floor panel and stow bigger things on top to protect delicate items. Rear seats split 60/40 and fold flat level with the boot panel to give a flat-floored 959-litre load bay.
At the wheel
There’s a lot of hard plastic, but it’s decent quality, and body colour door cappings and a coloured dashpad across the fascia brighten up the cabin.
The dash is dominated by a large speedo with information display flanked by a smaller rev counter and fuel gauge. A smartphone docking station on top, with USB charging and connecting port, allows it to be used for navigation and music streaming. There’s a lot of storage too with a decent glovebox, doorbins and four drink-holders.
Steering adjusts only for height but the snug front seats in the High up! have good adjustment.
I love the little up!, especially this new TSI, and if I was in the market for small car it would be up there at the top of my list.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Volkswagen High up! 1.0 TSI 90PS £12,055 (range £8,995 to £12,880)
Engine: 999cc, 90PS, three-cylinder, turbo petrol
Performance: 0-62mph 9.9 seconds; top speed 114mph
MPG: Urban 46.3; extra urban 72.4; combined 60.1
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 20% (2017-18)
Insurance group: 10E (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 3,600mm; W (including door mirrors) 1,910mm; H 1,504mm