This year, the Irish market was introduced to the latest facelift of the Volkswagen Up!. The VW Up! sits in the city car segment, which is currently being led by the Hyundai i10. As I've said before when we test drove the all-new KIA Picanto, when it comes to the city car segment, your expectations need to be realistic. When you opt for one of these vehicles, you should know to expect less comfort than larger cars, a smaller boot, a bit of road noise and less space. However, if you're in the market for a city car, you've done your homework, and know what to expect.
The Volkswagen Up!, while it may not come anywhere close in terms of sales in comparison with the Hyundai i10, is what I would consider to be a more refined and more fun city car. Granted - the last time that I drove an i10 was a rental car, and I'm pretty sure the previous driver enjoyed riding the clutch a bit too much.
The Volkswagen Up! presents itself very well. The interior is inviting, but it's perhaps missing a bit of the comfort that you'd find in the KIA Picanto. However, when you get an "Up! Beats" like our test model, the aforementioned road noise becomes less of a concern. Volkswagen has been introducing Beats equipment to a few of their cars - we've listened to the system before in the Volkswagen Polo (for those of you who don't know what Beats is, it's an audio system which now belongs to Apple Inc. Effectively, having Beats in your car means that you have a good sound system). The sound system is a nice touch, and if you like a tune with a good base line, I would recommend it.
Our test vehicle was powered by a 1.0 litre, 3-cylinder, 60hp engine. Personally, I would have preferred driving a more powerful engine, but if I was to put myself in the shoes of somebody who was considering the purchase of a city car, I don't think I'd be too concerned as to its performance. However, there are two higher powered versions available. There is a 75hp version and a 90hp version. The 90hp version is turbocharged and is only available with a 5-speed manual gearbox, while the 60hp and 75hp engines come with a choice of 5-speed automatic or manual transmissions.
People who opt for city cars seem to want something that will be nippy around the city, and while I have never owned one, I can't imagine that this type of vehicle would be doing too many Kerry to Donegal trips. Of course, it is possible to get from Donegal to Kerry in an Up!, but the road noise on motorways would probably get to my ears after a while (well it would be well-muted by the blaring Beats system!). To help you do that Donegal to Kerry trip, Volkswagen claim that the Up! has a fuel economy of 4.4 litres per hundred km with its small 35 litre tank.
One of the things that distinguishes the Volkswagen Up! from other city cars (excluding the SEAT Mii and the Skoda Citigo) is the fact that it offers a nicer ride. Provided you drive sensibly, it soaks up bumps well. It deals well with city streets, country roads and motorways. The steering is precise and is set up nicely to handle tight parking manoeuvres. It is also good at taking corners and the body roll is minimal. We have not driven the automatic version of this car, but the manual offers short shifts between gears and this adds to the playfulness of the vehicle.
In terms of space, the driver's area offers surprisingly good room, as does the front passenger space. The back is okay for two adults, but legroom will be an issue - especially on longer journeys. As is with most city cars, there's nothing special about the back area. Head height is reasonable. The boot offers a capacity of 251 litres.In some ways, the Up! is to the city car segment what the Fiesta is to the supermini segment. It's the most fun, and most engaging to drive. The car has a nicely presented interior, but needs to spruce up a bit in there to be as nice as the Picanto. As already mentioned, the Hyundai i10 is cleaning up the segment. To date in 2017, Hyundai has managed to shift an incredible 945 i10 units, while over the same period, Volkswagen has shifted just 136.
The Irish market sees four trims of the Volkswagen Up. Entry level is "Take Up!" and pricing for it starts from €12,650. The next level up is "Move Up!", then "Up! Beats" which is the model that we were driving. This will set buyers back €15,630. The highest level is the aptly-named "High Up!", which starts from €15,780.