You can choose from a trio of 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines: one with 59bhp, another with 74bhp and a turbocharged version with 89bhp. The two lower-powered engines are a little weedy, so we'd recommend paying for the more powerful car. It brings much punchier acceleration, particularly from low revs, making the Up far more relaxing to drive and a much more competent motorway car.
Both non-turbocharged engines are available in regular or Bluemotion Technology form, the latter of which improves fuel economy and cuts CO2 emissions by switching off the engine whenever you come to a stop. The turbocharged 89bhp engine gets this stop-start system as standard.
There’s also an all-electric version, called the e-Up; it actually accelerates more quickly than all but the most powerful of the conventionally propelled models and feels genuinely nippy around town.
Volkswagen Up ride comfort
One of the VW Up’s main virtues is its supple ride. For such a small car, it does a brilliant job of staying controlled over speed bumps at low speeds, and deals well with the sort of broken asphalt and potholes you’re likely to find on your local high street.
The ride remains comfortable at high speeds on the motorway and A-roads, where the Up effectively damps expansion joints and stays settled instead of letting them shudder through its body. Put simply, it rides in a much more sophisticated fashion than most of its city car rivals.
It's best to stick with 14 or 15in wheels, though. Upgrading to 16s brings a noticeably firmer ride, while the largest 17in alloys cause the Up to crash and bang over severe bumps.
Volkswagen Up handling
This is where the VW Up puts rival city cars to shame. It handles in a much more sophisticated and grown-up fashion than all of its peers, including the Hyundai i10 and Renault Twingo.
The precise steering is light enough to make low-speed manoeuvres easy work, but weights up enough as you turn the wheel to give you lots of confidence along faster, twisting roads. Throw in a decent amount of grip and surprisingly tidy body control (the Up doesn't tip over onto its door handles through tight corners like some rivals) and you end up with a car that’s genuinely fun to drive.
Having said that, the Up isn't blessed with the microscopic turning circle of the Renault Twingo and Smart Forfour.
Volkswagen Up refinement
Three-cylinder engines are sometimes buzzy and unrefined – but not in the Up. True, none of the three petrol engines is quite as smooth as a four-cylinder engine, like the one in the Hyundai i10 1.2, so you notice a few more vibrations through the soles of your feet when accelerating. Still, all three engines are relatively hushed – particularly the 89bhp, purely because it doesn't need working as hard.
The Up’s feelsome clutch pedal and light-but-precise manual gearchange also impress, although we'd avoid the optional automatic ASG gearbox; it's very jerky and slow to respond when you ask for a quick spurt of acceleration. There’s also a mite too much wind and road noise at motorway speeds. A Hyundai i10, for example, is a slightly quieter cruiser.
The lower-powered of the two 1.0-litre petrol engines is officially slightly more economical than the 75 (74bhp) version, but it makes the Up feel very sluggish on the open road. It’s available with a manual or automatic gearbox, and in economy-boosting Bluemotion Technology form.
This 74bhp engine feels a bit gutsier than the 60 (59bhp) engine. However, it still struggles to keep up with fast-moving traffic, especially when hills are thrown into the mix. It be had with a manual or automatic gearbox, and in High Up or Up Beats trim.
Our pick 1.0 TSI 90
This turbocharged three-cylinder engine delivers much punchier acceleration than either of the non-turbo petrols – particuarly from low revs. It makes the Up far more relaxing to drive and much more competent motorway car. Available only in High Up or Up Beats trim.
The electric motor in the e-Up has 81bhp, and delivers nippy acceleration around town. However, it's very pricey and has a maximum range of 99 miles between charges. In the real-world, you'll be lucky to get 70.