Volkswagen Up Review
The cute yet capable Volkswagen Up is an excellent city car with a premium badge
Strengths & weaknesses
- Spacious inside
- Low starting price
- Owners report good reliability
- Jerky automatic gearbox
- Leans a bit too much in corners
- Steering wheel is only adjustable up and down
Volkswagen Up prices from £8,295 Finance from £158.13 per month
Proving that city cars are not obliged to feel cheap and nasty, the Volkswagen Up is a surprisingly spacious runaround that’s been updated with a modern interior and more powerful engine.
Despite a low official price, starting at £10,080, it can seat four adults without making them feel too squeezed - on short trips at least. Access to the rear seats is easier if you buy the five-door version rather than the three-door Up. You'll have to make do with pop-out windows in the back, which only open a fraction, no matter which Up you buy
Short town journeys are where the little VW is best. It’s light, agile and fun to drive - particularly with the new 1-litre turbocharged engine, which is lively and zippy. The short bonnet and vertical rear bootlid make it easy to park, even without any sensors while the 251-litre boot is big enough for most shopping trips or school bags, and considerably larger than most rivals, such as the 168-litre Toyota Aygo.
The Up is also the best city car for motorway journeys. It’s stable and powerful enough for 70mph speeds, and your teeth won't be chattering over potholes thanks to comfortable suspension. This can’t be said about cheaper rivals like the Suzuki Celerio, Vauxhall Viva and Kia Picanto.
However, it's no match for a larger car on the motorway. If you cover high mileages, you’re better off spending a bit more on a quieter and more comfortable small such as a VW Polo, Ford Fiesta or Seat Ibiza, which are larger than city cars like the Up.
Inside, the Up is well-built and designed but a little bare because most models rely on you to supply the technology. Connect your iPhone or Android phone wirelessly with Bluetooth and it becomes your music player and - it almost goes without saying - hands-free phone. Rather stingily, you have to pay more for a USB port - to keep your phone charged - on the cheapest Take Up model.
An optional phone holder, which is included as standard on more expensive Up models, takes the idea of providing your own hardware a step further. Cars equipped with this holder will allow your phone to run a special VW app when it's connected to the car. Your phone screen then becomes a sat-nav and radio station selector. You can enter names, addresses and music tracks by drawing letters on the screen.
However, reviews of the app are poor, and you're probably better off using a different navigation app that allows you to download maps to avoid data charges (like Google maps), or a dedicated sat-nav app.
This technology has also been introduced to the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii, which share the same mechanical parts and virtually the same design as the VW. The Skoda and Seat are typically a little cheaper to buy but finance costs tend to be virtually the same. Yu'll only get the most powerful turbocharged engine with 90hp - which is best suited to motorway driving - on the Up, though.
A special edition Up beats (beats Up sounded too aggressive) comes with a 300-watt Beats audio stereo. An electric version, called the e-Up , is smooth and silent to drive, but a good deal more expensive, which makes it uncompetitive, compared with larger alternatives including the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf.
The Up was given a full five stars when independently crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2011. Since then the tests have been made tougher, so it’s not necessarily safer than some of the latest cars with four stars. it's also worth remembering that the scoring is adjusted for different sizes of car. So a five-star family hatchback, such as the VW Golf will generally be safer than a five-star city car like the Up
|Warranty||Three years/60,000 miles|
|Boot size||251 litres|
|Road Tax (min to max)||£0 to £140 in first year, £140 thereafter / Pre-April 2017 cars: £0 to £20|
Best Volkswagen Up for...
Best for Performance – Volkswagen Up GTI
There's no question the Up GTI offers the best performance in the range. With 115hp proving more than enough to turn this small city car into a bundle of joy. Even with the boost in power, it's still only a turbo-charged 1.0-litre engine, so fuel economy is still strong, meaning you're getting the best of both worlds with this car.
- October 2011 Order books open for the Volkswagen Up in the UK
- August 2012 ASG automatic gearbox added to range
- May 2013 Recall of 6,395 Jan-Mar 2013 cars for airbag fault warning issue
- January 2014 Electric version of the Up, called the e-Up, goes on sale
- January 2015 Street Up and Club Up trim versions join range
- February 2015 Recall of 526 VW Polo and e-Up cars for airbag problem
- July 2016 Updated VW Up goes on sale with a tweaked design and new higher-tech interior. The Up beats edition with 300W stereo joins the range.
- 2020 Updated trim levels go on sale. Mid-range 75hp engine option is no longer available.
Understanding Volkswagen Up names
Each trim level offers a different amount of standard equipment. The cheapest version with the least kit is called the Up, followed by the White Edition and Black Edition. Beats adds more speakers, R-Line adds styling tweaks while the Up GTI brings more power.
Engine 1.0 TSI 115hp
All VW Up engines are the same size - 1.0-litres, but their power output varies and is given in horsepower (hp). The TSI label indicates that the engine is turbocharged for more power without too much extra fuel consumption.
Gearbox 5-speed manual
A five-speed gearbox has five forward gears and a reverse gear. The Volkswagen Up is also available with a six-speed gearbox in GTI form.
Volkswagen Up Engines
Petrol: 1.0 60hp, 1.0 115hp Electric: e-Up
The Volkswagen Up is fitted with a 1-litre petrol engine, which is available with two power outputs, fuel economy and performance figures. A 60hp version powers the majority of the range. Coupled with a five-speed manual gearbox, this small yet economical engine will manage over 50mpg according to laboratory tests, although a lack of power is evident, even in a car this size, with 0-62mph taking 14.9 seconds.
It's worth saying that you won't be buying a Volkswagen Up for motorway cruising, so take that performance with a pinch of salt, as you will rarely be pushing acceleration beyond 30mph in the Up's natural habitat around city centres.
The other option available is the 115hp version exclusively available in the Up GTI. This engine is turbocharged to boost power without a big increase in fuel consumption, meaning it's much faster - 0-62mph takes 8.8 seconds - but fuel economy is still claimed to be over 50mph. The Up GTI zips round town with an energy that continues all of the way up to motorway speeds, although we again question whether you'd want to drive a car like this on the motorway.
Finally, there’s the electric-powered e-Up, which is actually quite fast and nippy. It does face the same limitations as other electric cars, though, chief among them a relatively short range (no more than 100 miles) before the battery needs recharging. It's expensive too.
|Fuel||Official fuel economy||Power||Acceleration (0-62mph)||Top speed|
|1.0 115hp TSI||Petrol||53.0mpg||115hp||8.8sec||116mph|
Volkswagen Up Trims
Up, White Edition, Black Edition, Beats, R-Line, GTI
Volkswagen introduced a whole new range of trim levels in 2020, bringing updates to the technology on offer. At the entry-level, the plain and simple Up comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, a five-inch digital display with Bluetooth, digital radio and smartphone connectivity, and air conditioning. The Up is predominantly available as a five door, although there are three door versions of the base level Up and the Up GTI.
Beyond the entry-level, you have the choice of either White Edition or Black Edition. The main differences here between these models and the basic Up are to be seen on the outside. Several parts of the car's exterior can be coloured either white or black depending on the model you choose. These include the 16-inch alloy wheels, the wing mirrors and the roof. There's also a white or black insert on the dashboard.
Beats models meanwhile are targeted at the music connoisseurs among us. Featuring a six-speaker sound system complete with a subwoofer, along with several styling motifs both inside and out to let everyone know this is the Beats model.
R-Line trim is where the equipment stakes really start to rise. Firstly, things become a little more performance focused, with stiffer and lower suspension, but then there's also more comfort on offer, with heated front seats.
Going a step further on the performance front is the Up GTI. This is the only model available with the most powerful engine in the range, and that is coupled with sports suspension, a sports exhaust and a sporty body kit. The interior is decked out with a red dashboard insert and more upmarket upholstery.
Volkswagen Up Reliability and warranty
Throughout its life, the Volkswagen Up has had a reasonable reputation for reliability that's no worse than average. Volkswagen owners have also recently been finding that their experience is increasingly matching up to the company's claims about its superior build quality: it was ranked 6 out of 26 manufacturers for reliability in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
The car's straightforward design and mechanical parts help to reduce repair costs if anything does break. The warranty is fairly standard, covering the car for three years or 60,000 miles if you cover that distance sooner. There’s better news when it comes to the e-Up – its battery is separately guaranteed for eight years or 100,000 miles.
Used Volkswagen Up
If you're looking for a used model, then don't simply restrict yourself to the VW Up. Until 2016, the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii were as near as identical cars, apart from the different badging. This gives you a greater chance of finding your ideal car with the perfect specification at the right price, particularly as the Up tends to holds its value a little better than the other two cars, making it a more expensive buy.
There's a bit more of a difference with brand new cars, since the Up has been updated with a new interior, as well as trim and engine options, but these won't be very commonplace as used cars until next year at the earliest.
A popular choice among new and used buyers is the VW Move Up which has combined a good level of equipment - including air conditioning and split-folding rear seat - with an affordable price for years. But if you're looking at cars that are more than two years old, then you could buy a better-equipped High Up for a few hundred pounds more that has heated door mirrors and the now-discontinued portable sat-nav, which clips in to the top of the dashboard. It's not the most elegant solution and the screen is small, but it works well. It's also available on the Skoda and Seat cars.
Also better value than when they were new, are the long line of special edition cars that tended to come with unique paint colours, special alloy wheels and jazzed-up seat cloth. They were more expensive when new but tend to fall to the price of the rest of the range on the used market. For example, Rock Up edition cars, complete with fetching racing stripe, are currently available for sub £7,000 if you don't mind having a year old car.
If you’re considering the electric-powered e-Up as a second car or urban runaround, then you can save around half on the new car price by buying a two-year-old example. The only caveat is that this car hasn’t sold in big numbers so you may not have many examples to choose from at any given time.