Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
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 power when you push the accelerator pedal actually makes it feel quicker than its fossil-fuelled stablemate, especially as that car is only available with a measly 59bhp. It pulls away speedily from junctions and traffic lights and is really easy to drive, building speed smoothly, with 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’ll have no problem quickly jumping into a roundabout gap. Top speed is limited to 82mph to preserve the car’s electric range, though, and acceleration at motorway speeds is rather more gradual.
You can knock the gear shifter into ‘B’ mode to maximise the effect of the e-Up’s regenerative braking system. This takes energy that would otherwise be wasted when you lift off the accelerator and uses it to top up the battery. This means you can essentially drive just using one pedal – it takes a few miles to master but you’ll soon find that you barely need to touch the brakes unless you want to come to a complete stop.
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 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. 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 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.