Volkswagen Up

A small German delight that's fit for a real-life Italian job

Price: £7,995
Engine capacity: 1.0 litre (60ps)
Top speed (mph): 99
0-62 mph (seconds): 14.4
Fuel economy (mpg): 62.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 105

The new Volkswagen Up is a great little car, but it's a lot more than that. Smaller than any other model in VW's range, it slots in below the Polo and can be seen as a long-delayed successor to the Lupo, which bowed out in 2005. First, the "great little car" part. I tested the Up mainly in the cut-and-thrust of Rome's hectic rush-hour and it was just about perfect for the job. An eager new three-cylinder engine, and smooth, light, quick-acting controls meant I was able to stay out of trouble and hand it back in one piece. Volkswagen chose to introduce the Up to the world's press in Rome as it's the small-car capital of Europe: there are more Smart Fortwos and Toyota iQs there than just about anywhere else. I expect the Up to be a fixture before long.

So what of the Up's wider significance? Above all, it's a return for Volkswagen to the market for truly small and cheap cars, which is where the company started out with the original Beetle. With an entry price of just £7,995, the Up is in the same bracket as the Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and Toyota Aygo, all of which are excellent cars that offer a bit more space and are also available with four doors (a four-door Up will be available later). But the Up hits back with what may be a killer advantage at this end of the market – it's a proper Volkswagen. That means it not only looks like a VW but also has the sort of fit, quality and finish (although not the equipment levels) you'd expect to find in a Polo or a Golf. So how has VW done it at the price? Well the Up is being built in Slovakia and in big numbers too, because it will also be sold as the Seat Mii and the Škoda CitiGo. That should give it an advantage over the Lupo, which was manufactured in high-cost Germany and offered only under two brands, VW and Seat, not three.

And the Up contains a lot of parts that will appear in other VW group models too. When the production Up arrived, it turned out to have front-wheel drive rather than the rear-engined layout of the original displayed at Frankfurt in 2007. The switch means that components developed for the Up can now be used more widely, driving down costs – that's especially the case now that VW is moving beyond straightforward platform-sharing between cars of similar size to a modular system that allows wider sharing between cars of different sizes. Expect, in particular, that impressive new three-cylinder engine, which incorporates a lot of energy-saving cleverness, and is available in 60 and 75 horsepower forms, to turn up elsewhere.

Finally, the Up represents a big challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy when it comes to the way small cars look. Minis and Fiat 500s both rely on retro designs that cash in on affection for bygone days. The Up dispenses with all that in favour of a scaled-down version of the clean, functional, modern Volkswagen look and still manages, because of its small size and cute touches, to look just as cute. I suspect that the Up is already prompting BMW and Fiat to reconsider their retro approach as they try to work out how to update their big-selling small cars.

The competition: The Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10 and Toyota Aygo offer more space, but the Up has more polish.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

    Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

    Day In a Page

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US