Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Making an electric car based on an existing conventionally powered one can sometimes play havoc with weight balance and handling, but that’s not the case with the Volkswagen e-Up.
True, the addition of a big battery pack means it's around 250kg heavier than the petrol Volkswagen Up, but the instant availability of power when you push the accelerator pedal actually makes it feel quicker than its fossil-fuelled stablemate. It pulls away speedily from junctions and traffic lights, and is really easy to drive, building speed smoothly, with no gears to worry about.
There are three different driving modes to choose from to help make the most of your battery range: Normal, Eco and Eco Plus. Eco Plus limits acceleration, lowers the top speed and concentrates the climate control’s efforts on just the driver to conserve energy. Eco does a similar job, but with a less noticeable impact on performance.
The e-Up does well when it comes to ride quality. Bumps are dealt with better than in many much more expensive cars, and even potholes don’t unsettle it too badly, so it’s a comfortable car to scoot around town in. It’s a considerably more enjoyable ride than you’ll experience in the firm (and expensive) Mini Electric. The e-Up is actually good fun to drive, too, thanks to accurate steering that gives reasonable feedback and well-controlled body movements, although the standard energy-saving tyres aren’t the grippiest.
The latest e-Up’s electric driving range is far longer than on earlier models, but it’s not class-leading. Volkswagen quotes 160 miles in optimum conditions, beating the pricier Honda E, but we’re yet to put it through our real-world range test. While that range will be plenty for a lot of city-dwellers, there are rivals with better official ranges, including the Fiat 500 (199 miles) and the slightly more expensive Renault Zoe (239 miles).