Making an electric version of an existing car 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 Up, but the instant availability of maximum torque (or pulling power) whenever you push the accelerator pedal actually makes it feel quicker than its fossil-fuelled stablemate. It pulls away swiftly from junctions and traffic lights and is really easy to drive smoothly, because it builds speed predictably and there are no gears to worry about.
Around town, the e-Up certainly feels a lot quicker than its official 0-62mph time of 11.9sec suggests; you won’t have much trouble beating other traffic away from the lights should you wish to. Top speed is limited to 82mph to preserve the car’s electric range, though, and acceleration at motorway speeds is rather more gradual.
Five regenerative braking modes help to recharge the battery when slowing down, and we recommend using the most severe setting. It takes a few miles to master but you’ll soon find that you barely need to touch the brakes unless coming to a complete stop. As well as the braking modes, there are three different driving modes to choose from: Normal, Eco and Eco Plus. Eco Plus limits the acceleration, lowers the top speed and concentrates the climate control’s efforts on just the driver in a bid 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. 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. It’s true, though, that there’s more fun to be had in a petrol-powered Up; mainly because its lighter weight makes for nimbler responses.
The latest e-Up’s electric driving range is far greater than was the case in earlier models, but it’s not class leading. Volkswagen quotes 161miles in optimum conditions, 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, rivals such as the slightly more expensive Renault Zoe promise up to 240miles.