Road test: Bargain-prices Volkswagen up! impresses

Volkswagen's up! city car.
Volkswagen's up! city car.

THAT'S right, you can get into a new Volkswagen for well under $20,000.

Introduced late last year, the up! city car has arrived with intentions of ruffling some feathers in the bargain basement.

There is nothing imposing about the up!. Measuring just over 3.5m it has been developed as the ultimate metro machine.

It has been lauded the world over for its functional design and sincere performance.

But best of all, drive-away pricing for the cheeky pint-sizer is $15,990 for the three-door and only $1000 more for the five-door we sampled.


While it wears the Volkswagen badge, the price point hits home when you climb inside the up!.

There are no lavish appointments or an array of buttons, it is simple and inoffensive. Glossy finishes across the dash add an element of class.

All seats offer reasonable support in the right spots, although the driver must make do with only height adjustment of the steering wheel.

Four adults can be accommodated, yet like all small cars the leg and knee room in the back is dependent on the size and generosity of those sitting up front.

We managed a family road trip, two kids and two adults, with ease and no complaints.

There are a lot of hard plastics, but they are hard wearing as is the cloth trim. There are only two cup holders, one at the front and one in the rear, but the front doors can carry a larger water or soft drink bottle.

On the road

Statistics on paper don't inspire much excitement. Although in the real world, the up! is a surprisingly good performer.

Powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder, the up! has a youthful enthusiasm and feels quicker than the figures indicate. It sits at highway speeds about 3000rpm, and the only time you need to really push it hard is up steep suburban hills where second gear is the best choice of ascent.

Reasonable handling with a good feel through the direct steering doesn't deliver sports car-like prowess, but it's commendably sharp. Bumps and ruts are soaked up well.

The up! is in its element in tight spaces, making easy work of car parks with a brilliant turning circle and good all-round vision.

What do you get?

Given the up! sits at the price sensitive end of the market, there aren't a swag of options to increase the bottom line but there are some good packages available to throw in some bells and whistles. The basic car includes a CD stereo with six speakers, glossy panels on the dash, air-conditioning and power front windows.

Safety is well looked after, gaining a five-star rating through ANCAP courtesy of stability control, anti-lock brakes, as well as a City Emergency Braking function. The emergency function works at speeds of between 5-30kmh and can detect an impending collision and automatically apply brakes to lessen or avoid a crash.

The most appealing item on the options list is the Maps + More Portable Infotainment Device, which provides sat nav and Bluetooth phone/audio streaming for $500.

Two comfort packages are available (the style pack costs $2500 and adds leather trim plus a heap of other bits and pieces) - we would opt for the $600 drive version, which adds cruise control, a multi-function display and rear parking sensors.

Other options

There aren't too many offerings around in this size, but also worth considering are the Suzuki Alto ($12,490 drive-away), Hyundai i20 ($13,990 drive-away), Mazda2 ($15,990 drive-away), Holden Barina Spark 5D ($13,990 drive-away) and the Nissan Micra ST ($13,490).

Running costs

Capped price servicing average is a little more than $300 every 12 months over six years, while insurance should not put a big dent in the bank balance.

Fuel consumption is extremely good - and our test was close to the official figure of 4.9 litres for every 100km. VW recommends the up! should run on premium, but it can run on regular unleaded or up to 10% ethanol blend.

Given the tank is just 35 litres, it's probably worth going with the more expensive juice for the economy gains.


The five-door is the most sensible choice, although those who rarely carry passengers could easily live with the three-door. Boot space is small, but like we have seen in the Suzuki Swift, the dual-level trunk helps house the weekly grocery shop. Rear seats also split-fold.

Funky factor

It's compact and cute. The up! won't inspire desirable looks but it will cause envy as it slots into the smallest of car parks effortlessly.


What matters most

The good stuff: Zesty performance, turning circle, economy.

What we'd like to see: Moveable central air vents, automatic transmission option, cruise control as standard.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months, and capped price servicing for six years or 90,000km (whichever comes first).


Model: Volkswagen up!

Details: Five-door four-seat light-size front-wheel-drive hatchback.

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 55kW @ 6200rpm and peak torque of 95Nm @ 3000-4300rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual.

Consumption: 4.9 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 114g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 13.2 seconds.

Bottom line: $16,990 drive- away.

Topics:  motoring road test vw

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