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Volkswagen Up! manual 2012 review


Marketers are always on the lookout for new ways of grabbing the attention of the buying public and those at VW have come up with the name of Up! – the exclamation mark is an integral part of the name, we’re told – for this cute and affordable little city hatch. Also likely to rate a mention is the fact that Up! is the reigning World Car of the Year.


Volkswagen has launched its all-new light car onto the Australian market with a price tag starting at a surprisingly low figure of just $13,990 for the three-door and $14,990 for the five-door. Of course, on-road costs have to be added to that. The Up! is available with just one equipment level but there are a number of option packages.

There are three option packages available with the Up!. The biggest seller will almost certainly be the Maps + More Package, a portable infotainment system displayed on a five-inch touch screen monitor mounted onto a bracket above the centre console. Features include satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, trip computer with a fuel-saving trainer and media player. At $500 we would expect a large take-up rate.

The Comfort Drive Package ($600) provides cruise control, multi-function display and rear parking sensors while the $2500 Comfort Style Package includes 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, leather trimmed steering wheel, parking brake lever and gearshift knob, heated front seats and carpet floor mats.

A panoramic powered sunroof is also available for $1400, a pretty reasonable price for this popular option. There are a number of cost-saving cues in the Up! including sealed side windows in the rear of the three-door version and pop-out windows (only to about 10 degrees) in the five-door.


First up, and of vital importance in this market segment, it looks the part with a distinctive frontal styling with more than a hint of the iconic Beetle about it. No such likeness at the rear with its functional, near-vertical black-glass tailgate. At 3.54 metres in length the Up! is pipped by a mere 40 mm by the Suzuki Alto as the shortest four-seat car on the Australian market.

While such a compact length doesn’t make much of a difference in the Australian suburbs, in tight city areas it can allow access to a parking spot nothing else with four wheels can fit into. Importantly the Up!’s wheelbase is almost half a metre longer than that of the Alto with short overhangs and extra interior space.

There is seating for four, although rear seat adult passengers will need to impose on those in the front seat to get comfortable legroom. If you’re buying an Up! as a small family car make sure the kids are aware that they won’t be able to wind down the rear windows. There are no headroom problems in any seat and just the occasional elbow bumping between the two front seat occupants.

Maximising the size of the passenger cabin inevitably reduces storage space and, at 251 litres maximum, the boot is relatively small. However it is quite deep and can take a single large suitcase with several soft bags squeezed in around it. The rear seatbacks fold down to greatly increase carrying capacity.


Power for the Up! comes from a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine. Peak power is 55 kW at 6200 rpm and 95 Nm of torque between 3000 and 4300 rpm. For the time being, there is no automatic transmission on offer. But for those who prefer to do their own gear changing then this smallest of all Vee Dubs could be just the car for you, as it’s sold with a five-speed manual gearbox.

We were a little disappointed with the fuel consumption number during our test which we found well above the combined city/highway published figure of 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres. Having said that, it was a small engine working hard with a reasonable load on board so even consumption around 7.0 L/100km is quite acceptable.


There are no curtain airbags to protect rear-seat occupants. Volkswagen expects the Up! to achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating in its upcoming is test. It already does have a European NCAP five-star rating. In a logical compromise the Up! doesn’t come with cruise control as standard but does have City Emergency Braking (CEM).

This uses a laser sensor mounted at the top of the windscreen to scan a space in front of the car, detect the risk of imminent collision and selectively apply the brakes depending upon the force required. It will reduce the impact of a collision at speeds up to 30 km/h.


We spent about three hours driving in and around Melbourne and found that it performed above our expectations. There were few hills in our drive route but those that we did encounter didn’t offer any serious challenge to the Up! despite it carrying a couple of non-anorexic occupants.

By their nature lower-powered cars do require a bit more thought and planning in the driving technique needed to get best out of them. We did encounter the occasional bump and pothole but the Up!’s suspension absorbed the impact surprisingly well.


With its combination of European branding, neat styling, a reasonable array of features and that sub-$14,000 starting price Volkswagen Up! should be a sure-fire winner with the Generation Y female market.

Volkswagen Up

Price: from $13,990
Engine: 1-litre 3-cyl petrol, 55kW/95Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Thirst: 4.5L/100km

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Range and Specs

(base) 1.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $5,990 – 8,990 2012 Volkswagen Up! 2012 (base) Pricing and Specs