A Wheel Thing is a fan of car fun, be it a fun car or fun in a car. Volkswagen provided both with the 3 door up!. No, that’s not a grammatical error, it is called up! It’s a small car, a city car, a fun car. It’s got a small engine, a 1.0L 3 cylinder engine, pumping out small numbers with just 55kW and 95 metres of Mr Newton’s torques. It’s just 3.54 metres in length and weighs less than a soaked rag (well, 880kg…..) so small numbers aren’t hugely important….more of less. It’s a buzzy, rorty, energetic sounding little engine, whizzing around the tacho in an eyeblink once revs build; it’s initially slow off the mark, understandably needing some rowing with the five speed manual (deity bless VW for NOT offering a boring auto) however it pootles along nicely once under way. On a wet road and sometimes on a dry one, a change from first to second (with appropriate revs) even has a chirp from the front and the traction control light flashing! The gear shift is slightly notchy but positive in feel, with a short throw and an understandably light clutch.
Handing for such a small beast is surprising in its grippiness. 14 inch wheels, an anachronism in todays 16/18 inch world, with handsbreadth wide tyres, combine with the short wheelbase, track and stiffly sprung suspension to hold on like a limpet to a rock through turns. Small suspension travel, however, is a big, big yuck. Over speedhumps, the aforementioned short wheelbase combines with the short length of the front struts to sound as if the caps are being ripped out of the chassis. It’s uncomfortable and disconcerting plus potentially, structurally, an issue.
The design of the up! is also fun; a full glass tailgate bracketed by a pair of funky tail lights, with a distinctive kick on the rear window leading into it; comparatively huge doors (there is a five door version) making them the biggest part of this pocket rocket; a spacious glasshouse before it all kicks off with a smiling bumper design (mirroring the rear’s pert and cute bum), adding to the cheekiness and appeal of this wonderfully spunky little car. The headlights frame the handkerchief sized bonnet and emit a good light spread, controlled by a simple dial near the driver’s right knee.
The interior design harkens back to the up!’s great grandfather, the Beetle; a simple yet subtly elegant dash with minimal instrumentation. HVAC controls are reminiscent of yesteryear(dial and slide), the radio is a simple dot matrix display (with good sound) while the dials are basically this: speedo, tacho, fuel. All other information you need is fed to the driver’s brain via the backside. Call it seat of the pants driving. Perched high above the centre aircon vents is a GPS unit, wired in to the engine computer to allow a display of the tacho and engine temperature. The seats are comfy enough, with a distinctive and unique pattern to the fabric’s print. With a small car, interior space is a reverse TARDIS; rear leg room is non existent for anyone larger than a gnat. For the driver, plastic and steel pedals with no garnish greet the feet. The boot space is 250L with seats up and expands to over 900 with seats down, plus there’s a hidden storage space underneath. Economy, as expected, is tiny as well, with around 5.5L/100kmh the average for A Wheel Thing’s week.
There’s a couple of quirks in the interior list; no curtain airbags, rear windows that pop open (not roll down) and driver’s only(not passenger as well) electric window switch with the GPS style unit accepting Bluetooth phone/streaming music but not a USB input.
The up! is a fun car; never mind the fact it’s a manual only, THAT’S why it’s fun. From $13990 the up! re-engages what driving a car is all about; a human interfacing with a basic and engaging mode of transport. It’s a car that redefines what a driver is. Thank you Volkswagen. Go here to get up!: http://volkswagenup.com.au/#