Test driving and reviewing cars means that I regularly have the opportunity to drive some of the finest cars on the roads. You get into larger cars or SUV’s on day one with certain expectations. What is different about the small city cars is that you don’t have these same expectations. You know that it is designed to get you from A to B and back to A again. You know that there will be a certain level of comfort but you aren’t expecting it to have any little extras or gadgets. The Volkswagen up! throws this all out the window.

I have previously driven the up! and if I am completely honest I found it to be one of the most fun city cars I had driven at the time. What was intriguing me with regards to the new up! was the increased horsepower from an already fun filled car. From the moment I sat into the up! I knew that it was going to be a good week. It has this fun feel to it that makes you want to drive it all the time, similar to the feeling you get when you are testing a high-powered sports car or a comfortable executive brand.

The subject of my review is the 5-door model which came in a vibrant Honey Yellow colour. Three trim levels are available in the up! starting from “Take up!” followed by “Move up!” and the range topping “High up!” which is what my test model was kitted out with. Standard spec in the “High up!” trim includes a leather trimmed multifunctional steering wheel, fabric “Beam” seat coverings, black headliner, interior ambient lighting, 16-inch “Triangle” alloy wheels, cruise control, tinted rear windows and park distance control as well as all of the standard specification available across the range. My test model also included the 171 pack, the styling pack and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Where the previous model utilised a clip on sat-nav like touchscreen for accessing all the driving information and infotainment the new up! now utilises your smart phone which slips into the cradle on the dash along with the up! maps + more app which is available for all smart phones. Through this you can view all live driving data including fuel consumption, fuel range, journey times, speed, mileage, rpm and coolant temp as well as accessing music on your smartphone along with sat-nav and the Think Blue trainer which helps you to drive the up! more efficiently.

The interior of the up! isn’t huge by any account but what else would you expect from a small city car. It is however very practical with a low seating position which maximises the headroom whether you are sitting in the front or rear seats. You can also customise your interior by choosing from a range of different colours and design for your dash pads making every new up! unique to its buyer. Given the overall size of the up! the boot space is on the small side but that is to be expected in a city car. You still get 251 litres of space with the rear seats in place and this expands up to 959 litres with the rear seats folded down. The dash layout is simplistic yet very functional and you can do everything you need to do without all the fanfare of additional lights or buttons.

The up! is powered by a nippy little 1 litre TSI, turbo charged three-cylinder engine which punches out 90hp and delivers 160 Nm of torque at 1,500 rpm. This engine is coupled with a 5 speed manual gearbox. Having had the opportunity to drive the 75hp up! a couple of years back I was excited to see just what the new 90hp engine would be able to do. Whilst the interior of the up! is fun and simple, it is only when you get it on the road that you realise how much the Volkswagen group has done with their city cars. It’s nippy, agile and responsive. There have been no corners cut when it comes to setup either. At slower speeds around towns and cities it behaves as you would expect. Parking is a doddle given its size and fuel economy is respectable. On the faster moving regional routes the up! definitely holds its own. Whilst there is a light feel from the steering it still offers good feedback on corners and the suspension absorbs even the harshest of road surfaces. One criticism that I would have however is the road noise that you experience as a result of the low profile tyres once you go over 80 km/hr.

The up! is without doubt one of the most fun filled city cars I’ve driven in a long time. The joy of having no expectations is that you can’t be disappointed but you can be surprised. It offers everything that is required of it from any city car customer but then it throws in the fun factor which makes you want to drive it all day long.

The up! is available from €12,650 on the road for the three-door 60hp model and from €13,150 on the road for the five-door 60hp model. Road tax will set you back €190 per year. 

Technical Specification

Engine Size – 1.0 TSI

Fuel Type – Petrol

Power – 90hp

Torque – 160Nm

Acceleration (0-100km/h) – 9.9 seconds

Top Speed –  185 km/h

Consumption (Combined) – 4.7L/100km

CO2 Emissions – 108g/km

Road Tax – €190

Pricing on the 90hp five-door model starts from €17,840

Price – model tested €18,292