2012 Volkswagen Up ASG review

  • Semi-auto version of VW’s city car
  • £595 more than manual version
  • On sale now; priced from £9675
Volkswagen Up review
Volkswagen Up review
This is the new Volkswagen Up ASG (Automated Shift Gearbox), an automatic version of our 2012 Car of the Year.

The Up ASG uses a five-speed transmission with an electronically controlled clutch. In full auto mode it chooses when to change gear, although you can take control by manually nudging the gearstick.

VW offers the ASG in 59bhp and 74bhp power outputs on Move Up and High Up versions. However, the gearbox isn't available on ultra-efficient Bluemotion Technology cars.

Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are slightly better with the ASG 'box, but not enough to make the Up cheaper to tax.

What’s the 2012 Volkswagen Up ASG like to drive?
The Up ASG is designed for city use, yet it does little to relieve the stresses of urban driving.

The Up ASG chooses when to change gear, although drivers can take control by nudging the gearshifter

The automated clutch is slow to engage and very abrupt when it does, so pulling out from junctions requires both patience and caution.

Occupants will find themselves lunging back and forth during gearchanges, because the ASG’s sloppy shifts and abrupt clutch cause the car's body to lurch and retreat. This becomes significantly worse under hard acceleration.

The gearbox has been engineered to improve fuel efficiency, so it’s keen to change up as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change down quickly enough to assist with escaping those sticky situations, which are all too common in the city.

Volkswagen Up review
The Up ASG fails to impress in its natural environment – the city

Manual mode lets you choose which gear you want to be in most of the time, but the gearbox still changes down of its own accord if you use the lower reaches of the accelerator pedal.

There’s also an alarming delay between you flooring the throttle and making any progress – up to three seconds – so overtaking on faster roads takes some planning.

Thanks to its tiny dimensions and light steering, the Up is easy to manoeuvre. The auto-hold function works well on steep hills, but it doesn’t prevent the car from rolling back on gentler inclines when queuing in traffic. What’s more, the Up ASG has no creep function, so you need to prod at the accelerator pedal to crawl forward in traffic or when parking.

Volkswagen Up review
Overtaking on faster roads will need to be carefully pre-planned

What’s the 2012 Volkswagen Up ASG like inside?
Aside from the ASG gearshift (and the absence of a clutch pedal) the interior is identical to any other Up’s. That means you get a surprisingly spacious cabin, a simple, logical dashboard layout.

Drivers shouldn’t have too much difficulty in finding a comfortable position because seat-height adjustment is standard on all ASG models, however, the steering wheel does not adjust for reach.

The rear doors open wide, so access is easy, and the Up has one of the largest boots in its class, with a split-level floor for additional storage.

Whichever trim you choose, you’ll get plenty of equipment. We tested the five-door High Up, which comes with heated front seats, air-conditioning and Volkswagen's removable sat-nav infotainment system.

Volkswagen Up review
Aside from the ASG gearshift and the absence of a clutch pedal, the interior is identical to any other Up’s

Should I buy one?
The Volkswagen Up is the best city car on the market, which is why it’s our current Car of the Year.

However, unless an automatic gearbox is absolutely essential, we’d avoid the ASG. It’s too jerky and slow-witted to cope with city driving, which is exactly where the Up should shine.

If you need a small automatic car and your budget doesn’t exceed £10,000, we’d recommend a one-year-old VW Polo 1.4 SE DSG.

Read the full Volkswagen Up review >>

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What Car? says…

Dan Alcock

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