The sub-£10,000 car market tends to be dominated by less well-known brands such as Dacia, so the presence of Volkswagen’s Up! in this sector, with a starting price of £8,675 is intriguing. We were therefore pleased to have an opportunity to sample VW’s tiddler recently, to discover whether it retained the traditional VW virtues of perceived quality & solidity. The model selected was a manual transmission 5 door Move Up!, one step up from the base Take Up! Model, retailing at £10,185.
First impressions were favourable. The Up! looks pretty decent from all angles, with typical VW clean and functional styling, and sits well on the road with its wheel in each corner stance providing best use of the available space. The Night Blue metallic blue paint (a £505 option) appeared smooth and well-applied, unlike the “orange-peel” effect seen on some bargain basement motors.
Opening the apparently all-glass hatchback – which in fact has a reassuringly solid steel frame) revealed a surprisingly large boot, made more useful on this Move Up! model – one up from the base model – by the fitment of a simple but effective two-level boot floor. The boot proved easily capable of dealing with a large grocery shopping expedition, although squeezing in most of todays mammoth pushchairs would be impossible…………whatever happened to that clever Maclaren buggy which folded up into a tiny package? One minor area of cost-cutting was noted in that the parcels shelf, although hinged to ease access to the boot, did not lift with the tailgate so had to be raised manually, fortunately then remaining in the raised position without needing to be held. No great hardship, you may say, however on a couple of occasions lowering it again was forgotten, obscuring the vision through the rear view mirror!
The doors felt reassuringly solid: OK, maybe not quite up to Golf levels, but nevertheless closing robustly. One nice touch, invaluable on a car which will inevitably spend much of its time nipping in & out of parking bays was that all four doors featured not one but two intermediate opening positions. It might be a minor point, but it certainly made hopping in & out in tight spaces a lot easier than many cars.
Still on the doors, another minor but visible cost-cut is that the rear door windows are hinged rather than winding, not a major hardship but maybe a little vulnerable to car park knocks. In compensation, the front windows on this model are electric, with remote central locking, The base model however makes do with manually-wound windows and no remote locking.
Once inside the car, it gives a good impression of being a close relative of the Tardis. Though small in external dimensions, it certainly does not feel so inside, with plenty of leg and headroom, and with the chairs spaced far enough apart to feel like a bigger car altogether. Whilst rear seat legroom was extremely limited with the front seats pushed fully back, it was entirely acceptable with the front seats in a more normal position.
The rear seats are split-folding, and unlike some bargain basement cars include adjustable headrests.
Whilst most of the interior trim is hard plastic, this does not feel particularly low-rent and should certainly be functional. The facia was clad in piano black plastic, which appeared to be pretty robust and hopefully not as easy to scratch as some similar trims.
Instrumentation is simple and traditional, with a large clear circular speedometer in front of the driver, flanked on one side by a small circular fuel gauge and on the other by the smallest rev-counter I have ever seen. I’m not sure why VW bothered to fit this to be honest, as it will be blithely ignored by most of the model’s target drivers. Beneath the speedo sits the optional but now almost obligatory digital multi-function display for fuel consumption etc. although the red graphics were very reminiscent of the original Sinclair calculators………if you remember them! This display forms part of the “Sensor Pack” which retails at £370.
Once started, the Up! settled into a pleasingly quiet idle, with just a hint of vibration giving a clue to presence of a little 3-pot 1-litre engine tucked under the tiny bonnet. Such an engine – 60hp in this model – is never going to win races, however once on the move it pulled well, and the only time it drew attention to its limited power was when hill climbing, where good use needed to be made of the five speed gearbox.
The controls were reassuringly light & easy to use, and perfectly suited to the target market, although pedantic petrolheads might feel the steering to be a little short of sensitivity.
Noise levels were suprisingly subdued when cruising at anything up to the legal limit; although the little engine can certainly be heard when working hard, it was not intrusive and indeed sounded quite sporty.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, was the ride. With such a short car, only 3.5 metres long, the expectation was for a harsh, choppy experience. Not a bit of it – the Up! tackled all manner of road surfaces serenely, cosseting the occupants with a smoothness which would not have been out of place in a much bigger car, assisted by seats which, although appearing flat & unsupportive, worked with the suspension to give a very acceptable ride.
One of the main reasons for buying a small car, of course is to minimise running costs, and the Up! does not disappoint here either. We achieved around 50mpg on mixed running, and this could have doubtlessly been improved with a bit more driving decorum! Road tax starts at only £20 per year, whilst insurance starts at the lowest group 1.
So there you have it – a bargain basement tiddler backed by the reassurance of the VW brand. Would I buy one? Indeed I would, in fact my better half has really taken a shine to the model, and has commented that it feels like a much bigger & more solid car to drive.
As with most cars, though, just watch the pricing. Whilst the base model may be just a bit too no-frills for most folk, with its manual windows, no central locking and the like, the Move Up! Went just far enough upmarket to provide reasonable creature comforts without pushing the price too far upwards. And that’s all too easy to do – the top-of-the range models retails at up to £13,465 before you start dipping into the options list. Still not unreasonable for a car with lots of toys such as sat nav, but certainly edging into the price band of bigger cars.
Whatever model you choose, though, the Up! Should give you very civilised and refined motoring without breaking the bank.
Interested? Find out more at VW’s website here: