When the ‘VW up!’ arrived in the UK in 2011, it proved just how good a small city car can be. It was smart, spacious and funky, and this meant I was able to overcome my dislike for the rather unnecessary exclamation mark VW has used to market it.
The German firm was obviously very excited about its bizarre combination of lowercase characters and a punctuation mark. In fact, it thought the up! would become its biggest-selling model globally, outselling the mighty Golf. That hasn’t happened, but the up! has been far from a sales flop and VW has updated the car for 2017.
It still comes as standard with its very own exclamation mark, and today’s model is still great to drive, practical and surprisingly spacious for such a tiny car. It still looks great too, which is to be expected as it was originally styled by Walkter de Silva, the former Alfa Romeo design master. The biggest change is a new three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine, which is frankly a terrific unit.
Engine capacity: 1.0-litre petrol
Power output (PS @ RPM): 90 @ 6,200
Top speed (MPH): 106
Fuel economy (MPG): 68.9
C02 emissions (g/km): 108
It boasts plenty of low-down torque that make it feel really nippy at low speed, but doesn’t feel uncomfortable on the motorway. To be clear, this is no B-road blaster, but there’s a real sense of fun to be had playing with the revs.
All that low-down torque comes at a price though and as always, on paper the three-cylinder unit’s fruity performance doesn’t come at the cost of economy. But in practice drivers will need to be extremely careful with their right feet and gear selection if they want to squeeze a respectable economy figure from this engine.
Careful drivers will be rewarded with around 60 miles per gallon, though. That’s the nature of small petrol turbos, and the cynic in me will wonder how many drivers will do this instead of just hoofing around enjoying it’s delightful rasp and racing-car feel.
Another moan about the three cylinder engine is that its CO2 emissions are higher than expected. Sub-100 scores are the norm for city cars these days but the up! can only manage 108 g/km. VW presumably isn’t too concerned as the way we pay road tax will change next month. Crucially, and to the dismay of many environmentalists, it’s those buying cars with lower CO2 emissions who will face the highest relative rises in tax.
Nonetheless, the emissions numbers and gap between claimed and real world fuel economy of the VW up! pale in comparison to the continuing swamp of accusations facing diesel engines. The latest report, released this week by Which?, found that that many diesels emit nine times the level of dangerous pollutants allowed in official tests.
Moans aside, the VW up! is a relatively clean and fuel efficient offering, and as the diesel scandal continues to brew, it’s smaller petrol-engined vehicles like this that are bound to benefit in the sales charts. Let’s just hope that the numbers add up and a three-cylinder scandal isn’t set to follow the diesel scandal.