The first rule of the Volkswagen up! is to understand that its name must be spelt with an exclamation mark at the end. "Up" just doesn't sound as fun as "up!" Understanding this helps you see the up! as Volkswagen wants you to see it as a fun, funky, youthful companion to help you enjoy driving.
It was first launched in 2012 as a more exciting replacement for the Fox and was facelifted in 2016. It remains a popular choice among city car buyers due to its fun image and compact but practical size. It is now attracting a cult following through recent additions to the range, including the iconic GTI badge. If the idea of the up! appeals to you, read on to find out more.
The most significant appeal of the up! is that it strikes the perfect balance between high quality and reliability, and sheer enjoyment. One seems not come at the expense of the other, unlike many other city cars on the market today, which are either dull or impractical. Even seeing it parked up before driving it, the up! raises a greater smile than its sister cars, the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo.
While it would be unfair to expect the up! to be Tardis-like inside, its cabin is surprisingly roomy through being a dedicated four-seater and its wheels being pushed to the far corners. This also makes it feel like a go-kart to drive, with hilarious agility and poise. Its 1.0-litre engine will not set the world alight with performance (see the GTI if you want that), but it is revvy enough to feel nippy around town. Once it reaches motorway speeds, it is surprisingly well behaved and refined. There is enough boot space for some shopping, and the seats in most models will fold down if you need to transport something bigger. And its flat boot lid and small dimensions make it a doddle to park.
In terms of safety, clearly, its small size means that it is not invincible. It achieved three stars on its most recent Euro NCAP crash test, but it does offer several airbags and a range of safety systems to help keep its occupants safe, including ASB and lane-keeping assist.
VW's reputation for high build quality extends to the up!, because even though it is the cheapest car of the range, buyers will still expect a solid product. The cabin is an excellent place to sit, and the switchgear is typically VW, with chunky buttons and some soft plastics.
It rides well on the road, and although it's small size means that it feels bumps more than a larger car, its suspension system deals with them very well, meaning that you can travel in good comfort.
The name up! makes a little more sense when you see the names of the trim levels. There are too many to mention in details, but we will look at some of the most common ones.
Take up! is the entry-level model, with steel wheels and a CD player. If you want any toys at all, then it is worth making the Move up! your starting point, which offers features including air conditioning, alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, remote locking and electric windows. The more luxurious High up! offers electric heated mirrors, heated seats, front fog lights and sat nav. Special editions such as the up! Beats offer colourful features and an upgraded stereo. And not forgetting the up! GTI, with features including 17" alloy wheels, a body kit and plenty of GTI badges.
The up! uses a 1.0 three-cylinder TSI engine for all models, starting with a 60bhp version which achieves 62mph in a leisurely 14.4 seconds. You can also get a 75bhp image, which shaves over a second off this time, or a turbocharged 90bhp model, which manages the sprint in 9.9 seconds. Unless you literally only drive in the city, it's probably worth looking for one of the quicker versions for a better all-round experience. The GTI uses the same engine but tuned to 115bhp and hustling along to 62mph in 8.8 seconds. The diminutive size of the up! makes the GTI in particular feel nippy enough for most situations.
If you're keen to make the switch to electric then there is also a recently-launched E-up!, offering 82bhp and up to 99 miles range from a single charge.
The up! has been a strong seller since its launch, so there is plenty of choices available, meaning you have the luxury of being a bit picky.
Hunt down better-specified versions and those with the more powerful engines, which will prove easier to live with, especially on longer journeys. Look out for scuffs and dings that give away a city car lifestyle. The up! doesn't hide any nasty surprises, so just make sure it is serviced and maintained correctly, and you should have a reliable and happy car on your hands.