The new Volkswagen e-Up is a pure electric version of our favourite city car. It gets 80bhp from its electric motor, all of which is sent through the single-speed automatic gearbox to the front wheels. It comes as standard with two charging cables – one for the standard three-point domestic sockets, which will deliver a full charge in less than nine hours. The fast-charger cable will deliver a full charge in six hours from a 3.6kW charger (which is common in public charging points), or if you have access to a DC rapid charger, the e-Up can be charged to 80% in 30 minutes.
There is no monthly payment required to lease the battery – as is the case with the Renault Zoe. Instead VW has opted to sell the battery with the e-Up, resulting in a higher list price. Volkswagen offers an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the battery, and the usual three-year, 60,000-mile warranty on the car.
What's the 2013 VW e-Up like to drive?
Making an electric version of an existing car can sometimes play havoc with weight balance and handling, but not so in the e-Up.
True, the addition of a battery pack makes the e-Up around 200kg heavier than a petrol Up but with 80bhp, it's also more powerful. A 0-62mph time of 12.4 seconds means the e-Up is quicker than its petrol-powered siblings, too.
Instant availability of torque means the e-Up also feels more rapid than those figures suggest; pulling away smoothly and swiftly from junctions is a breeze.
Ride quality is a touch firmer than in the standard Up, but it’s still good and there’s less body movement in the e-Up thanks to the extra weight, which actually makes it feel a bit more comfortable and settled over undulating roads. The only drawback is the lower grip offered by the e-Up's energy-saving tyres. These are fitted as standard but do compromise the braking in wet conditions; at least the brake pedal response is predictable and easy to modulate. Ultimately, by any relevant standards the e-Up is fun and relaxing to drive.
Maximum range is comparable with other electric cars'. VW quotes a possible 93 miles in optimum, summer conditions, or 50-75 miles in winter.
On longer journeys, the electric range can be extended by using the Eco or Eco+ settings to reduce the power output, to either 67bhp or 54bhp respectively.
Five regenerative braking modes for the transmission also help to recharge the battery when slowing down. Many will enjoy the default drive mode, when the e-Up coasts quite freely (like a standard combustion-engined car) if you’re not on the throttle, rather than defaulting to heavy regenerative braking force as most electric cars do.
What's the 2013 VW e-Up like inside?
The VW e-Up is only available as a five-door, and the cabin is the same size as that in the well-packaged standard car. The electric motor sits under the bonnet and the battery pack fits under the floor and rear seats.
This means the e-Up has the same 250-litre boot as the petrol car, and enough room in the back to seat two average-sized adults.
The e-Up doesn't shout about its zero-emission credentials inside. You can set the touch-screen display to show an electric mode readout, and there's some unique blue stitching around the cabin – but that's about it.
Based on the range-topping High Up, but with even more standard kit thrown in, the electric Up comes with big-car equipment. The only available options are the exterior and interior colours. Otherwise, the e-Up gets heated seats, climate control, removable touch-screen sat-nav system, Bluetooth, digital radio, alloy wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors and City Emergency Brake system, which stops the car automatically at low speeds if it senses an imminent collision.
Should I buy one?
It’s a tricky one. The VW e-Up is one of the best small electric cars out there to drive; it feels almost entirely uncompromised by its electric motor, while still benefiting from the outstanding refinement and punchy, linear acceleration of all electric cars. However, Volkswagen wants £19,250 after the £5000 Government grant has been applied. That’s £7875 over a 74bhp, 1.0-litre petrol High Up. Even considering the extra kit that the e-Up gets over the High Up – including digital radio and emergency stop – it would take many thousands more miles of driving than any electric car owner is likely to do, to get that premium back in fuel savings.
For this reason, those who are taken with the Up are better off in the petrol model, or if you really want electric power, look to the Renault Zoe, which is bigger, very nearly as nice to drive and costs from £13,995 with a £70 monthly payment.
Ed Callow/Vicky Parrott
What Car? says…
Price £19,250 (after £5000 government grant)
Engine size n/a (electric motor)
Torque 155lb ft
0-62mph 12.4 seconds
Top speed 81mph
Maximum range 93 miles